Home Creamery Event Participants: Out of consideration of shopping lists gone awry and butter muslin sheets not arriving in time, I am extending the first Home Creamery Event ricotta submission deadline to Wednesday night, Janruary 28th. I do, however, welcome and love early submissions. Event details may be found in paragraph three or four of this post, and submissions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most weekends, our excursions involve deciding whether to hike in Oakland's Redwood Hill park or walk down Fruitvale Ave to get a taco. Or pan dulce. This past Saturday, however, my husband and I filled up the gas tank, said farewell to Oak Town, and drove to Napa. Our mission: wine tasting at Domaine Carneros, Etude, and Darioush.
It's been our practice to visit wineries during the winter months when there are less elbows to nudge at the tasting bars and (slightly) fewer swerving cars on the road. Fortunately, one out of any two winter days in Napa is guaranteed to have clear skies, so in addition to seeing sullen clouds cloaking the haunted Domaine Carneros chateau, we spotted yellow wild mustard shining in vineyards. Here's a little piece of our trip.
The Domaine Carneros Chateau.
Sure, the high end Pinots Noirs we sampled from the Domaine were nice, but the sparklings were the big hits. Our favorites were the rosé and "Le Reve," (The dream) sparkling. Good Pinots run rampant all over California, they can be practically found at every rest stop. Good Cali sparklings, on the other hand, are few and far between.
My husband knows we're not allowed to stop the car without a promise of cheese. Domaine Carneros had a plate that went smashingly with their wines that featured Cypress Grove's Mad River Roll goat cheese, Bellwether Carmody (both amazing with everything), and a brie, that while tasty, was overshadowed by the local beauties.
I love Etude, and this is the 1999 Heirloom Merlot that we took home with us. It had raspberry and plummy fruit with smokey tobacco flavors and enough acidity and tannins to last two to five more years. We just happened to visit Etude on a day when they were sharing their Heirloom wine with club members and managed to invite ourselves to the release party. We had party hats in our back pockets. Etude's Heirloom wines are limited edition bottlings available for purchase at the winery that are intended to express the nature of old vines around Carneros. They are, quite simply, gorgeous.
Thalassa Skinner, manager of Oxbow cheese in downtown Napa and part-owner of Culture , a new quarterly cheese magazine just released that has taken on the duty of singing me to sleep at night, selected cheeses to pair with Etude's Heirloom wines with the help of assistant manager Ricardo (not pictured). My husband is the lurker.
Cheeses pictured from Oxbrow market are Abbaye de Belloc, a sheep's milk cheese made by Benedictine monks in the Pyrenees mountains of France, and Beecher's Reserve Cheddar.
Our last stop was Darioush. They make yummy, very expensive wines and their tasting room is modeled after a Persian palace. Enough said.