Category Archives: Food

Sunset Celebration Weekend at Cornerstone! May 20-21

This is a fun event for all ages!  For those that missed the news, Sunset Magazine purchased Cornerstone in Sonoma, so we are lucky that they now use the gardens for their annual celebration.  Lots of great activities including Wine & Spirits seminars, Iced Tea Sampling, Succulent Potting, Cocktail Garden, Music Stage as well as a great line-up of star chefs and talent; Chef Ryan Scott, Chef Perry Hoffman, Chef Ari Weiswasser, Tyler Malek, many of Sunset‘s own editors, and more!

Sunset Celebration Weekend @Cornerstone
May 20 & 21, 11am to 5pm
Purchase tickets HERE!

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Delightful Spring Dishes to Make & Try!

With the onset of spring weather (mostly!) the palate begins to savor the delicacies of the season. Lovely ingredients tantalize our thoughts until we can just get a few tastes to carry on until they meet again!  For instance this recipe for Garlic Prawns with Warm Cucumber and Ginger Salad shared by the Wine Institute of California:  Easy to make for a light weekend meal.

Then there are the easy-to-make wine paired treats like this Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Vinaigrette that is best served with Kunde Family Winery Chardonnay, Wildwood Vineyard.

Or if you don’t feel like making anything, just go try this decadent Vegan White Bean & Vegetable Puree with Sebastopol Mushrooms and Pesto being served at the Gravenstein Grill:  Simply pair it with Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards Blanc de Noirs from my specialty wine list.

Enjoy! Christopher

Try out my new Wine List at Gravenstein Grill!

The amazing halibut dish!  See more food porn below.
The amazing halibut dish! See more food porn below.

If you find your way out to Sebastopol, then be sure to stop by The Gravenstein Grill, located at 8050 Bodega Avenue in Sebastopol!  It recently opened with food by star chef Bob Simontacchi of Brick & Bottle fame.

My family and I have already sampled their menu a few times with of course fabulous wines, but there is a spacious bar with hand-crafted cocktails, and Sonoma County’s famous micro-brews to experience as well.  Looking forward to finer weather to enjoy cool sips at the outdoor patio.

Check out the Menu & make your reservation!  Restaurant opens at 5pm, the bar at 4pm; Both close at 9:30, and until 10pm Friday & Saturday (closed Tuesday).  (707) 634-6142

Hope to see you there! Christopher

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Astoria, Oregon Crab & Wine Fest! April 28-30

If only I could be in two places . . . why my obscure obsession with the coast of Oregon? Because I lived there of course! In Astoria to be exact, for two years of my High School career. A place that is still warm to my heart as well as the memories of delicious sea food. While I will be returning this summer for the many-year HS reunion, perhaps there are others that can be there this weekend for the official 35th Annual Astoria Warrenton Crab, Sea Food & Wine Festival. Running Friday April 28 through Sunday April 30th, swing by and enjoy if you happen to be in north west Oregon!

The friendly representation of Sweet Cheeks Winery at the 2015 festival!
The friendly representation of Sweet Cheeks Winery at the 2015 festival!

Laird Family Estate – Wine Train Dinner! Saturday April 22nd

Ready to ride the rails? I will be there to enjoy this exquisite four-course gourmet dinner of seasonal offerings by Chef Donald Young.  The Laird Family Estate portfolio will be tasted and discussed with Consulting Winemaker Brian Mox.

This 3 hour adventure is on the all new Napa Valley Wine Train, for the Private Reserve Dinner Series, aboard the 36-seat restyled Pullman rail car.  Boarding for the special Laird Family Estate dinner will be on Saturday April 22 at 6:30 PM,  with the train departing the station at 7:00 PM.

Reserve your tickets now!

Tastings to come at Telluride Wine Festival 2017

As I prepare another amazing experience for wineries and guests at the upcoming Telluride Wine Festival on June 22-25, thought I would share some pictures from last summer, with more to come.

Also, a reminder for wineries, this Friday April 15th is the deadline for early-bird pricing to register for our Grand Tasting event.  REGISTER HERE or please send me an email if you have any questions. Cheers! Christopher

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5 Flavor! Napa Valley Events You Don’t Want To Miss

I am reposting this informative article from Legendary Napa Valley to better reach your inboxes!

Flavor! Napa Valley, the food and wine festival benefiting the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), celebrates both Napa Valley and CIA graduate chefs and winemakers with five days of exclusive experiences that bring out the best flavors of the legendary Napa Valley. Come join us during these five wonderful days of wine classes, chef demos, elegant dinners and more.

Be sure these five Flavor! Napa Valley events are on your schedule:

  1. First Taste – A Downtown Socialpresented by the Downtown Napa Association, Wednesday March 22, 6 – 8:30 p.m.; price is $95 per person. Celebrate under the stars at the brand new CIA at Copia in downtown Napa, with more than 15 of Napa’s best restaurants and more than 40 Napa Valley wineries. The evening will also include live entertainment and the opportunity to bid on Magnum editions of rare wines during a silent auction.
  2. From Vineyard to Bottle – Exploring Napa Valley with Iconic Winemaker Heidi Barrett at the CIA at Copia, Thursday March 232:30 – 4 p.m.; $95 per person. Moderated by wine, food and television star Leslie Hartley-Sbrocco of KQED’s “Check, Please!”, this exclusive seminar and tasting is focused on Heidi’s secrets behind how she captures the deep and complex flavors of the fruit in the wines.
  3. Napa Valley Icons Dinner, Tuesday March 23, 6 – 10 p.m.; $295 per person. Guests will celebrate the food and wine icons of the Napa Valley at the Silverado Resort and Spa while honoring legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett. Participating chefs include Host Chef Jeffrey Jake from Silverado Resort and Spa; Matthew Accarrino from SPQR; Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski from State Bird Provisions and The Progress; Ken Frank from La Toque; Michael Schulson from Schulson Collective; and esteemed CIA graduate Waldy Malouf.
  4. Legendary Napa Valley, The Grand Tasting, VIP admission is Saturday March 25, 6 – 7 p.m. and tickets are $225 per person; general admission is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $175 per person.  The sixth annual Grand Tasting at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena allows guests to taste their way through the Napa Valley with a selection of sweet and savory bites from more than 25 Napa Valley restaurants, paired with wine from more than 80 Napa Valley wineries.
  5. Bubbles and BrunchSunday March 26, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.; $135 per person. Flavor! Napa Valley concludes with a brunch at one of Napa Valley’s most renowned sparkling wine houses, Domaine Chandon. Guests will enjoy dishes from Host Chef Brian Whitmer from VINeleven, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars and Owner, Trail Blais Inc., Richard Blais, and nationally acclaimed Vegas restaurateur Rick Moonen, RM Seafood. Brunch will be accompanied by a selection of Domaine Chandon’s still and sparkling wines.

The Blending Experience at Paraduxx: Friday March 24th

This is a special Terroir to Table event happening at Flavor! Napa Valley.  An enjoyable opportunity to be winemaker by making your own blend with the amazing Paraduxx Wine crew.  During this hands-on experience, you will be guided through a component tasting of the three core varietals that make up Paraduxx while enjoying seasonally paired bites from local chefs, Natalie and Jonathan Niksa, of La Saison, Napa Valley.

Get your tickets!
The Blending Experience
at Paraduxx

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

 

Dinner with legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett – March 23rd

Known for her love of Cabernet, Heidi Barrett will be honored at a special Winemaker Dinner next month for Flavor! Napa Valley.  Since the 1980s, she has created some of the Napa Valley’s most famous wines, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Paradigm, and many others. She started La Sirena, in 1994, and began her collaboration brand, Barrett & Barrett, with her husband, Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, in 2010.

Icons Dinner honoring legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett
Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM

Don’t miss this opportunity to taste her amazing collection of Muscat, Grenache, Pirate’s Treasure and Cabernet Sauvignon paired with amazing dishes made by star chefs from across the nation; Host Chef Jeffrey Jake (Silverado Resort and Spa), Matthew Accarrino (SPQR), Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions and The Progress), Waldy Malouf (CIA), Ken Frank (La Toque) and Michael Schulson (Schulson Collective)

Limited seating – get tickets while they last!

Valentine Delights: Pairing sexy food and wine with Chef Domenica Catelli

When it comes to fine cuisine, the love of food goes deeper than most people think. That’s especially true around Valentine’s Day when the subject of aphrodisiac ingredients takes center stage.

Traced back to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, an expert in the fields of sexuality and love, the term “aphrodisiac” refers to edible bites that can stimulate the heart, brain and body, seduce the senses, and inspire lovers to have intimate encounters—particularly if they use the right ingredients.

While expensive delights like oysters, caviar and wild mushrooms fall into this category, most of the basic items are things we eat quite often, including: arugula, fennel, onions, radishes, carrots, figs, lemon and other citrus, olives, pine nuts, coconut, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate.

Studies have also found that complex wines made with pinot noir and other red grapes typically contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before and during physical intimacy.

The topic of aphrodisiacs is also a great subject to bring up with star chefs, many of whom have a fun time crafting a mixture of sexy bites around the Valentine’s Day theme.

With these thoughts in mind, earlier this week I teamed up with my longtime friend Chef Domenica Catelli of Catelli’s Restaurant in Geyserville to test some of these love-inspiring ingredients on a special group of eager diners, my fellow wine judges from the East Meets West Wine Challenge 2017, which was held at the Santa Rosa Fairground earlier that day.

A native of Sonoma County, the roots of Domenica’s love for food started when her grandparents, Italian immigrants Santi and Virginia Catelli, founded the original Catelli’s restaurant in the historic downtown district of Geyserville in 1936. Thus, Domenica’s early years in Sonoma County were filled with memories of fresh, seasonal foods.

As a result, after creating a series of magnificent menus at several restaurants in Laguna Beach and the Stanford Inn on the Mendocino Coast in the 1990s, she began working on her first cookbook, Mom-a-licious: Fresh, Fast Family Food for the Hot Mama in You!, which hit bookstores in September 2007.

Thanks to ongoing success of the book, coupled with her unique style of working with healthy products in the kitchen and her cool appearances on Iron Chef America, CBS News, and Oprah and Friends on XM radio, Domenica became the national spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association and brand ambassador for Safeway’s O Organic line. Before and after she reopened the family restaurant with her brother Nicholas in 2010, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Julia Roberts, John Travola and Lady Gaga have enjoyed her food.

From a sommelier’s standpoint, having watched Domenica become one of the star chefs of Sonoma County, it was a joy to once again work with her on this special aphrodisiac-themed dinner and the fun romantic movie-themed names we gave to each course. Here is a summary of the ingredients and wine pairings we worked with that evening:

Appetizer: Love Bites

Domenica’s Romantic Delight: Artichoke Hearts & Burrata with Crispy Prosciutto. For starters, artichoke hearts are naturally high in vitamins and antioxidants, which helps increase blood flow to enliven the senses. However, the rich texture and earthy flavors of this spiny and bulbous vegetable is often quite hard to pair with wines. Thus, Domenica took this factor to heart by softening the texture and adding additional layers of creamy Burrata cheese and salty sensations provided by the prosciutto. These components were presented beautifully at the end of the artichoke skin to resemble the naturally smooth slurping process used to consume a raw oyster on the half-shell.

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: To compliment these flavors, I served the new release of the Gloria Ferrer 2007 Royal Cuvee Brut, Carneros. Highlighted with elegant flavors of crisp apple, lemon, roasted almonds, vibrant acidity, and a long dry finish; this special vintage style of sparkling wine worked wonders with the rich texture, salty components and earthy nature of the appetizer. A fabulous way to start the evening off in style! www.gloriaferrer.com.

(As a fun side note: The Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee would go on to win the Best of Class for all Sparkling Wines from the West Coast and eventually beat the Trump Sparkling Wine by a landslide to win the prestigious honor of the Best Sparkling Wine of the entire competition. For complete results from the East Meets West Wine Challenge, watch for my upcoming SawyerSomm post!

Salad: Eat Drink Man Woman

Domenica’s Romantic Touch: Organic Kale, Blood Orange, Honey Glazed Walnuts. Much like arugula, kale is leafty, minerally, and high in antioxidants—the latter of which helps promote good health and prevents diseases. In the dressing, the blood orange added amino acids to compliment the rich and fatty compounds in the Dry Creek Olive Oil, which is commonly known to help stimulate hormonal activity. For toppings, the natural sweet flavors of the honey provides Vitamin B, estrogen, and helps boost strength, endurance and regenerates sexual energy; while the walnuts (sourced from Lou Preston’s organically farmed orchard in Dry Creek Valley), provided a burst of extra protein to give the sex drive a boost. Granted, while we have no idea what happened amongst the guests later that evening, we can say the complex flavors in this salad stimulated plenty of fun conversations around the two large wooden tables we dined at in the private dining room!

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: To further enhance the experience, my colleague Debra del Fiorentino and I served a wide array of the Best of Class white wines that we judged earlier in the day. My favorite pairing was the Oak Farm Vineyard 2016 Albarino from Lodi, which featured lively flavors of ripe melon, peach, lime and racy acidity that isolated and elevated the dynamic flavors of the kale, citrus, honey and walnuts that made this romantic salad so memorable. www.oakfarmvineyards.com

Entrée: Lady & the Tramp

Domenica’s Romantic Touch: House-made egg Tagliatelli, Domenica’s Organic Tomato Sauce and Catelli’s famous Mini Meatballs  Known for her tasty and healthy approach to cooking, this gorgeous dish was the epitome of Domenica’s style. For starters, the flavors of the mini meatballs, made with free-range beef and house-made pork sausage, were amplified with the natural richness of the sauce. In addition to organic tomatoes and virgin olive oil, other special ingredients included fresh basil, which naturally arouses the senses and boosts blood circulation; garlic, a strongly scented delight that provide the body with a bolt of allicin, which is known to increase blood to the organs, stamina and sexual energy; and celery, a powerful food source of Vitamin E, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and a natural stimulant to the volume of semen. In keeping with the theme, Domenica made the pasta with eggs that provide more protein and sexual energy. In addition to shaved parmesan, the dish was also topped with fresh arugula, an ancient source of Vitamins A and C. Brilliant flavors from first bite to last.

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: In staying with the Italian theme, I chose one of my favorite regional wines from Alexander Valley, the LaStoria 2012 Cuvee 32 Red Wine from Trentadue Winery in Geyserville. Crafted by my fellow wine judge, winemaker Miro Tcholakov, this dazzling, food-friendly Super Tuscan-style blend was made with 54% Sangiovese, 29% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Montepulciano. Layered with lively flavors of ripe blue fruits, wild strawberry, cherry, pomegranate and spicy notes of cinnamon, cocoa and allspice; the wine quickly seduced the senses and helped amplify the fresh and spirited flavors of this fabulous pasta dish. www.trentadue.com.

Dessert: Like Water for Chocolate

Domenica’s Romantic Touch: Chili and Cinnamon Spiced Chocolate Bodino, Maldon Salted Caramel, Banana Mousse  Chocolate. Need we say more? Besides a natural burst of sugar and energy, tasty bites of chocolate have more antioxidants than red wine. Studies also show that women who eat chocolate have sex more often than those that don’t. To make this dessert even more interesting, Domenica added cinnamon, which helps balance blood flow and increase sexual appetite; red chilies, which provide a boost of endorphin, a natural “feel good” stimuli for the brain and libido; and bananas, an easy source of Vitamin B, potassium, and testosterone. Plus, the texture of the caramel and mousse increased the sexy factor tenfold.

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: To finish off the experience, we stimulated the palate with the Wilson 2013 Buzz Reserve Zinfandel, Buzz Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. The ripe and juicy flavors of wild berries, black pepper and clove from this special selection of classic vines planted in 1976 added fresh, fruity and spicy elements to the dessert. A few judges were also enamored by how the Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Brut matched up with the flavors of chocolate, caramel, banana and spice. www.wilsonwinery.com.

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While it’s true that Domenica is in a league of her own, the ultimate intent of this pre-Valentine’s Day menu was to show that putting extra focus on working with aphrodisiac ingredients and wines pairings is an easy way to amplify your love for your soul mate—not only around Valentine’s Day, but all year long.

“Try it, you might like it,” says Domenica, with a smile. “After all, you never know where a natural bounty of flavors might get you!”

Located at 21407 Geyserville Avenue in Geyserville, Calif; Catelli’s is open 7-days a week. For reservations, call 707.857.3471 or visit www.mycatellis.com. For special events, call 707.857.7142 or catellisevents@gmail.com. Moms can also purchase Domenica’s book at local bookstores or on amazon.com.

For further information about eating something sexy and pairing it with wine, read my Valentine’s Day article in the new issue of Valley of the Moon Magazine at www.vommag.com.  And for more stimulating ideas, check out Romancing the Stove: the unabridged guide to aphrodisiac foods, the new book by culinary author Amy Reiley, which is available at www.lifeofreiley.com.