On Monday, the historical Napa Valley winegrowing elite gathered on the second floor of The Culinary Institute of America to talk, mostly, about people who weren't there.
Ditch the port, anything pink, and don’t even think about pairing something with tuxedo-clad strawberries. Because if “it’s complicated” — and it always is — you’ll need something a little more complex than sweet and simple sap.
“None of the winemaking is going to walk down that Rombauer road,” said Jon Bonné, by way of introducing a tasting and discussion of California Chardonnays at Bluxome Street Winery in SoMa on Monday afternoon. His comment was met with giggles and guffaws from the audience who were mostly wine industry professionals because, well, Rombauer has become the brunt of every California Chardonnay joke; the emblematic “oaky, buttery,” style that had many who considered their palates too refined for residual sugar, begging for “ABC” or “Anything but Chardonnay” for years.
His is a story of a man from a small town who left the family business to find out "what else there was in the world." Only in this case, the small town is Napa Valley and the family business is a winery —the pull of which is a little stronger than, say, if it were a shoe store in Iowa. Armed with a degree in television production and a couple years of Hollywood experience under his belt, Judd Finkelstein returned to Judd's Hill Winery, and has spent his time well. Besides making wine, Finkelstein is showing what can be done with a pirate and a marketing budget.
It's easy to walk right past Restaurant Rudy on Broadway in Sonoma and not think much of it — the understated dining room gives you very little idea about what to expect. But to do so would be a mistake, because it's what is happening in the back of the restaurant that's the real attraction.
Chances are, in 2013 most of us are not going to invest millions of dollars in a winery so we can show up from time and time and ask how “our” wine is doing. But as an angel investor at NakedWines.com, you can invest in up-and-coming winemakers for only $40 a month and reap the benefits.
All that 40 percent new French oak here and 30 percent new French oak there means if there is one thing Wine Country has too much of (besides over-oaked wine) it's old French oak. And there are only so many candle holders, planters and rocking chairs one can make. But used barrels are now answering to an even higher calling: that of barbecue.
Jonathon Bodnar of Smoakville in Napa has found success cooking his ribs and brisket over old barrel staves and now Carlo Cavallo in Sonoma will be employing a similar strategy for his forthcoming restaurant Burgers & Vine.
Don’t be scared if, on a recent hike, you come across fleece and wool cap-clad folks armed with knives and hand-woven baskets wandering about seemingly aimlessly and staring at the ground. They’re not hippie zombies, they are mushroom hunters.
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