Tickets are now available for the 38th annual Auction Napa Valley, the American Wine Classic. Hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) nonprofit association to raise funds for community health and children’s education, this year’s Auction Napa Valley takes place May 31-June 2, 2018. Details, including ticket package options, can be found at auctionnapavalley.org.
Auction Napa Valley offers unparalleled wine and food experiences, including:
Friday: The Napa Valley Barrel Auction to be held at the historic Charles Krug estate, where guests have the unique experience of tasting and bidding on 100 different wines—directly from the barrel— with the winemakers who’ve made them. Outside on the tree-shaded grounds, guests will stroll a food and wine pathway depicting the charming villages of Napa Valley.
Friday evening: Vintner-Hosted Dinners in intimate settings with noted Napa Valley winery owners opening their homes and private cellars for elegant dinners crafted by some of the country’s most regarded chefs.
Saturday afternoon and evening: The crescendo of the weekend, the Live Auction Celebration at Meadowood Napa Valley. This is the big show under the big tent where bidders vie for Napa Valley’s finest wines, far-flung adventures and treasures of the rarest kind.
Just the 2nd release, the 2014 Cornell Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is already a standout. Made up of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. It was aged for 19 months in 70% new French barrels. The wine itself has an intensity rarely found in a wine this young.
Spring Mountain Vineyard, home of Miravalle, is located on the west side of Napa Valley towards St. Helena. I am in the vicinity weaving down quiet little neighborhoods. Taking in the diverse composition of homes and the vibe of the area. It’s off of Highway 29. It is the most well-traveled road leading to the busiest wineries in Napa Valley. I’m thankful to be at a leisurely pace on side roads away from the hubbub.
As I arrive I stop at the entrance, protected by a black metal gate. I push the button to the speaker and announce myself and wait. During this time I look for a camera (can’t see one), look at the speaker box and wonder who is on the other side. The area is so quiet, the loudest noise is the wind ruffling the pine needles overhead. A scratchy voice from the box greets me and gives me a quick welcome as the gate magically opens and I drive on.
The visits at Spring Mountain Vineyard are by appointment. What sometimes strikes a spontaneous visitor as inconvenient should truly be seen as an opportunity to engage with intriguing wineries off the well-traveled road.
The Wine-Soaked Adventures of Napa Valley's Kelly Mitchell. Food | Wine | Fab!
Two Sommelier's, One Delicious New Restaurant: Compline - YouTube
In the Heart of Downtown Napa: Compline Wine Bar & Restaurant
Walking into a wine bar, I often feel a bit of a thrill. It’s like treasure hunting. Occasionally blind-sided by bad taste, poor concept or even worse, uninspiring wine. You see a variety of different takes on what a wine bar should be. From dark dank and empty to packed establishments, they run the gamut. But when you have a winner, one that checks all the boxes and delivers on a multitude of levels, it’s a different ball game. Napa’s latest addition to the downtown restaurant scene next to the new Archer Hotel. This promising wine bar (I hesitate to call it such because it is much more) has a wonderul proposition for locals and tourists alike.
Compline is about the organic experience of enjoying food and wine together. Ryan Stetins, Co-Founder
Compline (pronounced kom-plin) is the creation of two Sommeliers. The meaning behind it? Prayers at the end of the day. Originating in the 6th century the word was first used by St. Benedict. Co-founder Matt Stamp is a Master Sommelier, one of just 236 in the world. Stamp has already left his mark as a Master Sommelier. He finished first in the inaugural Top Somm competition in 2014. He further honed his Somm skills at Yountville’s French Laundry and Redd. His business partner, Ryan Stetins worked for the famed chef Charlie Trotter. Compline is a nod to the history of wine.
The retail side of wine at Compline
Often people focus on the aromatics and not the experience of tasting the wine. Matt Stamp, MS, Co-Founder
The Compline concept includes four key ingredients. A dive into education. An opportunity to meet your urge to splurge. A talented & innovative chef. And finally, one interesting, globally-diverse wine list. You can buy the wines you are tasting. The wines priced at or below $35.00 a bottle are a match for most budgets. Hand-curated by Stamp & Stetins, the wines on the Compline list are not available at your local grocery store. You can also buy interesting books on the topic of wine here.
The bar & restaurant at Compline
Speaking of learning about wine, the education piece is fascinating. You have three great learning verticals. “Jump Start” is a primer course designed to get you comfortable with wine tasting. Designed for those who love wine culture or are new to the Valley. You will get salient points behind the wine including structure & acidity. You’ll learn the important aromatics and textures of wine. It even goes into detail about the influences of external finishes. For example, how putting wine in a barrel might transform the taste of wine. Want to get a better handle on the intricacies of terroir of Napa Valley and the varietals? Take the Saturday course called Gateway Napa Valley with Ryan Stetins.
For wine afficianados who want to plunge into wine on a global level Compline offers a course called, “World Tour”. Classes are 1.5 hours long and include a tasting of eight wines. Some of the featured topics are the Dry Wines of Germany, Wines of Madeira, and even Santorini. Tickets are available online individually or in a set of 3 or 6.
What pairs better with wine than fantastic food? Chef Yancy Windsperger has created a wine inspired menu. He’s worked with in top restaurants from Morimoto’s to Jose Andres’ The Bazaar (most recently at Napa’s own La Taberna). The menu changes on a regularly based on season and the wine selection.
No better pairing than champagne and duck fat fries.
Mushroom Confit Salad, with frisee salad, confit kind trumpet mushroons and a sunny side up egg.
Duck fat fries served with house-made Aioli (the best I’ve had to date in the Valley)
Devil’s Gulch Pork with roasted & well seasoned delicata squash, onion and champagne bread sauce. The pork literally melts in your mouth.
Burger The meat is high quality beef ground to perfection. Model Bakery Bun with aged white cheddar. It was perfectly cooked and a solid example of what a great burger should be.
Compline’s Devil’s Gulch Pork
The food at Compline is high quality and well prepared. The wine list is tantalizing. There is something for everyone and if you like variety and quality, its there. The vibe is energetic and casual. It’s comfortable. The service is solid. The sommeliers who provide the in-house service come from all over the world. Sommeliers take pride in their service and their knowledge. You couldn’t be in better hands.
What to look for when evaluating a wine bar.
Wine Lists: A familiar and unfamiliar side to the by the glass wine list. I love to try new wines, new varietals and different vintages of the same wine. Choices. They are critical. A well-vetted wine list gives people a chance to explore their palate. It should also open the door to a variety of new wines. This is a global industry, representing it well is not always an easy task. For success I believe it’s a necessary one.
Concept: It should be intriguing. There should have enough going on within including specials or seasonal updates on the menus. Whether it’s the comfort factor, vibe factor, or food & wine factor, all need to work well together.
Staff: A well-trained staff is critical. They should have a working knowledge of the wines they serve and beyond. Knowledge about the regions & other comparable wines is critical. They don’t have to have to all be Somms but being well educated on what the menus and wine lists is a must. There is nothing like asking what kind of wine an establishment has and told “We have white and red”. Or asking about the types of varietals and getting a blank stare.
Fun Factor: This is a tough crowd to cater to. Making guests feel welcome, cared for and provided for in the way of food and wine keeps them coming back. Learning experiences help break down barriers. They make the wine industry a better place. It also creates an aura of devotion. The goal is to create a solid flow of returning footprints.
Food: It needs to pair well with the wine on the menu. A variety of textures, flavors and a focus on freshness. Much in the same way of a great wine, allow the food do most of the talking without burying it with ingredients. The menu should have something for everyone. Tantalizing the palate, and creating mouthwatering pairings. When food and wine is this good you hardly have to think about pairing them.
The lounge is deliciously relaxing and opens to outdoor seating.
Compline quite simply, meets and in some cases exceeds the 5 Key Ingredients in a Wine Bar. In closing, I recently traveled to a wine destination I’d never heard of before. Bierzo, Spain. I went to Compline shortly after the trip, one of the wines on the list was from Bierzo. Compline is not going to give you an everyday experience. It gives an experience you often have to hunt for and this time it’s right in downtown Napa.
As the head of winemaking at Atelier Phillipe Melka, winemaker Maayan Koschitzky knows how to make exceptional wine. He’s worked with top winemakers in the most coveted regions of the world.
My main focus here is Atelier Melka. What we do is make great wines and truly enjoy this valley.
When Vintners from one of the first wine interviews you did refers their winemaker for a sit-down you move. That brand is Brilliant Mistake, which produces a riveting small lot, ultra premium Cabernet Sauvignon. Stacy & John Reinert rely on their consulting winemaker, Maayan Koschitzky heavily to produce their Napa Valley brand. So I am heading up Napa Valley to the quaint and somewhat subdued town of St. Helena. Koschitzky’s been in the valley for a little over five years and his impact has definitely been felt. First at Screaming Eagle, and the last three years at Atelier Phillipe Melka. He also has a number of clients he consults for.
Napa Valley is an amazing place. There’s a lot of diversity in a very small valley.
Drew Barrymore. Girl next door. Producer. Actress. Now you can addVintner.
I’m in Monterey, California by request. An interview with Drew Barrymore. Yes, that Drew Barrymore. I accept this assignment with a rush of excitement, and butterflies. Oh, there was vetting. A list of potential questions. Flirting with the topics we would discuss. I sent samples of questions I might cover in the interview and warned I focused on more organic conversations. We would go where the conversation would take us.
On the day of the interview, I’m attending events at Pebble Beach Food and Wine. Tasting much of the afternoon, I kept my spitting (of wine) in check. About 15 minutes before our appointed time, I begin walking from my hotel to Restaurant 1833. It’s just a few blocks from my home base. I know enough about the public Barrymore to want to avoid talking about her career, family, and kids. To me, this story is a Vintner story. Her Vintner’s story. Granted there are twists and turns of her career & journey. Life does that to all. My focus is not entertainment, it’s my job to cover food, wine, and the tastemakers within.
Not something you often hear people requesting. Many wine books are technical, meant for industry wine geeks. I have several of the aforementioned wine books in my personal library, and they’re quite good from an insider’s perspective. However not always riveting reading. Do you love a can’t put it down read? The kind that reel you in and tell a story. These are three very different books I found perfect for a giant glass of Rosé or Champagne poolside.
Cork Dork: Bianca Bosker is legit. Bosker is the former tech editor for Huffington Post and has contributed to many publications including The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. If there is a 50 Shades of Wine, she’s written it. It’s got the same addictive can’t put it down trait. A delicious insider tale of her venture into the wine space. Based on her real world experience the story opens with her starting as a cellar rat in New York City. In one of the best restaurants. From there she breaks into some of the most elusive wine scenes in the world.
Joe Wagner is no stranger to the wine business. He grew up in it. Grandson of the founder of Caymus Vineyards, he’s watched every aspect of winemaking. From farming to the business of wine since he could walk.
Today I am meeting with Wagner at the Fagiani building. He recently purchased the storied Fagiani building for a $3.7m in Downtown Napa. I’m not sure what to expect when I meet Joe. I make it a practice not to learn too much about an individual when I do an interview. I find the more organic the discussion, the more refreshing and interesting the conversation. I did scan a piece featuring a photo with Wagner in a private jet. There, he appeared every bit the privileged wine scion the piece depicted him. What I encountered in my interview was the complete opposite.
He is the master behind the brand Meiomi. A brand I first encountered in Hawaii as a “buy the glass” brand. You couldn’t get a bottle, only a glass. There was a bit of intrigue in the positioning. So much so I began drinking it at my favorite Thai restaurant in Hawaii Kai, Maile’s Bistro.
Sometimes wishes do come true. In a wine oriented mind, it might be the bottle of your dreams. A visit to a place you’ve never been but can only imagine. The history of a region emblazoned in your memory from books and photos. As it reveals itself to you in real life, wide-eyed wonderment and childlike excitement take over. Eyes glued to every inch of your experience. Savoring each sip, taste, feeling and trying to memorize all of it.
This is my inaugural visit to Champagne. The 2nd time in France. The thrill of heading to Champagne after an evening in Paris is an intense and brilliant blur because the journey is happening so fast. The land is legendary, the quotes innumerable. From Napoleon Bonaparte to Coco Chanel, Champagne as a destination and as a celebratory spirit has captured the imagination of many.
We are one of only two Champagne Houses that have been labeled by the French government for their excellence and know how. Only two. Bollinger and Gosset. ~ Jean-Pierre Cointreau
Romance is in the air and spring is on its way! The birds are chirping, and the mustard is thriving in the Napa vineyards. The theme of love shines with romance & rosé. Romance & rosé act like a temptress, softly seducing the senses like a fervent kiss on the lips. Stepping into pink when it comes to wine and champagne is an adventure into a bright & refreshing taste, full of delightful nuances, and often lower alcohol. Pink is the color of young love, and what better way to embrace it than this amorous time of year.
My heart talks about nothing but you. ~ Albert Camus, The Just
Three rosés designed to take your breath away…
The Kiss:Willm Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé This sparkling wine, created in Alsace, uses the same labor-intensive process used to make champagne. Derived from pinot noir grapes, it’s warm pink hue and well-rounded bubbliness are reminiscent of a first kiss. The taste of red berries and subtle, inviting notes will keep you coming back for more.
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