All signs point to Lodi Wine Country this weekend! So, pack your bags or call the babysitter because Lodi Wine is hosting a Tour of Albariño. Beginning today, August 10 through Sunday, August 12, nine participating Lodi wineries will pour Albariño and offer a unique […]
There are wineries…and there are destination wineries. Daou Vineyards, perched atop the highest peak overlooking Paso Robles Wine Country is both.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit and I was overwhelmed by the incredible views, wines and cuisine. If you haven’t visited, I can tell you Daou Vineyards rests at an elevation of 2,200 feet in the heart of the Adelaida District, a sub AVA of Paso Robles. Upon arrival, the Grand Villa awaits, begging for visitors to experience panoramic views of the entire valley below.
On our visit, the weather was uncharacteristically chilly with intermittent showers, but we made the best of our day at one of Paso’s premier wine destinations. This wasn’t a challenge given that the Daou staff provided us with plush branded blankets and turned on the fireside table to warm us up (and to be clear, we could have sat inside, but I had to experience the views).
Micah, our hospitality host, graciously led us through our tasting and offered us up the option to try some of their food pairings. Daou offers a Mezzo Platter, Cheese and Charcuterie Board and up to 5 entrée options to pair with their wines.
We decided on the Cheese and Charcuterie Board to begin. I can confidently say that I have never had a more cerebral Cheese and Charcuterie Platter. This board was boss! Every detail and accompaniment served a purpose…and a dutiful one. It featured four distinctly diverse cheeses: Central Coast Creamery’s Seascape, Bishop’s Peak, Big Rock Blue and Brillat Savarin. The charcuterie showcased Jamón Serrano, Smoked Pancetta, Iberico Chorizo, Duck Rilletes and Cider Braised Chorizo. The brininess of the estate grown Daou olives were a perfect addition to the board, along with the raw honeycomb, walnuts, fig jam, pepper dew peppers and rustic baguette. I thought the stone ground mustard was especially delightful with the wine pairing…but wait we ordered more!
The Mezzo Platter was equally impressive. Featuring a pomegranate garnished hummus, Mahummara Baba Ganoush, Labneh Cheese with Za’atar, Olive Tapenade and Boozy Medjool Dates…With the Mezzo platter, Daou pays homage to their Lebanese ancestry. The pairing stood up to the bodacious Daou wines and instantly left me asking, “Why don’t more wineries offer this detailed of an experience?”
We were also given a tour of the property, including a trip up to the bell tower. Lucky for us Micah is also a burgeoning photographer, who snapped a few photos for us!
And on to the wine. We tasted too many to write about all of them, but I want to share with you my favorites of the day.
The Daou 2016 Reserve Chardonnay was delightful. With essence of butterscotch and hints of minerality, the Chardonnay was aged in 50 percent new French oak and 50 percent neutral oak. This is a departure for Daou, as previous vintages had heavier oak influence. The result…a Chardonnay that can be enjoyed with a myriad of summertime foods, shellfish and cheeses.
I was excited to try the 2014 Daou Reserve Zinfandel. Living in Lodi, we drink a lot of Zin, but I haven’t tried a ton from Paso Robles. This was not the fruit bomb I was expecting. Aged for 18 months in 50 percent new French oak, with medium tannins and a peppery finish, I enjoyed this Zinfandel from Daou. Sadly, this is the last vintage of this wine as the vineyard is being replanted to Malbec.
The Daou Estate 2015 Soul of a Lion is a blend of 76 percen Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Cabernet Franc and 11 percent Petit Verdot. This is a big wine, capable of aging for years to come. I look forward to revisiting it in another decade, which is great, because I bought a couple of magnums and 750ml to try again over the years.
The last wine we tasted through was the Daou 2013 Aux, Reserve. The Aux is a GSM Blend, a signature red Blend of Paso Robles. With 71 percent Syrah, 24 percent Grenache and 5 percent Mourvèdre, this wine was fruit forward, inky, with a solid tannin structure and a smooth finish.
Sadly, after two and a half hours, we had to wrap up our tasting and gear up for our next stop along the trail. Our experience at Daou was unparalleled.
So, the next time you are planning a getaway to Paso Robles Wine Country, be sure to make an appointment at Daou Vineyards. As a foodie with a discerning wine palate, I challenge you to get there soon…you won’t be disappointed!
The Fine Foodie Philanthropist
Towne House Restaurant Kicks off the New Year with McCay Cellars Dinner If you have read my blog, you know I’m a big fan of Towne House Restaurant in Lodi and their running series of wine dinners. Or, if this is your first time here, […]
Lodi’s Food, Wine and Beer Gift Guide Yesterday, the hubby and I spent the afternoon Christmas shopping for our almost-five-year-old son, Chase. After stopping for a celebratory drink at our favorite local spot, Towne House Restaurant and slightly exhausted (after a week of the flu […]
With harvest in Lodi Wine Country winding down, I finally have a some time to share some of my most recent food and wine adventures with all of you! A few weeks back I joined a few dozen foodies for an over-the-top Harvest Winemaker Dinner at Fē•nix featuring Lodi’s premier Spanish varietal producer Bokisch Vineyards.
A brisk breeze made for the perfect evening for a stroll through downtown Lodi’s brick-lined streets to my dinner destination. Upon arrival, Liz Bokisch greeted me and showed me to my seat at their table. I immediately grabbed my camera from its bag and proceeded to the hors d’oeuvres. Chef Richard Hyman had prepared Hamachi Crudo with a Yuzu Kosho and delectable Duck Confít Spring Rolls with a Thai Chili dipping sauce. The bites were matched with the 2015 Bokisch Albariño from the Terra Alta Vineyard.I eagerly grabbed one of each to taste. I tried both dishes independently with the Albariño and rolled my eyes in satisfaction. I’m a sucker for Duck Confít, so I helped myself to one more spring roll. I knew I was in for a treat and snapped a few more pictures of guests mingling!As we headed to our seats, the staff began to deliver the first course, a Suzuki Sashimi with watermelon, herb emulsion and Spanish olive oil powder. This dish was almost too pretty to eat. ALMOST. Seriously, the brininess of the fish partnered with watermelon made for the perfect bite. My favorite element of this dish was the herb emulsion. It was bright, well balanced and grassy. Chef paired the sashimi with Bokisch Vineyards 2015 Garnacha Blanca. Chef Hyman clearly knows how to marry flavors.The second plate to come out of the kitchen was life changing. Chef Hyman prepared seared Foíe Gras with a caramelized pineapple and spiced orange gel. Hyman partnered this course with the 2014 Bokisch Garnacha. I can tell you definitively…this was my favorite dish of the evening, and my favorite pairing too! The clove and spice brought out flavors I had never tasted before in Bokisch’s Garnacha.The wine was flowing when the third course came out of the kitchen. We were presented with a coffee rubbed prime filet of beef with a porcini cauliflower risotto. The tender beef was cooked to perfection, but what I really loved about this dish was the cauliflower risotto. There is something to be appreciated about a chef who can think outside of the proverbial steak and potatoes box, while delivering a delicious dish sans starch! Hyman teamed the beef with the 2014 Bokisch Tempranillo. Inky and ripe with dark berries, the Tempranillo stood up to the filet with fortitude.At this point, I’m pretty much stuffed, but I had to try the house-made pappardelle pasta with Superior Farms Lamb Sugo and finished with shaved Pecorino. The pasta was executed al denté and the lamb sugo paired well with the 2014 Bokisch Graciano. I’ve discovered that this is one of my favorite Lodi wines. Apparently I’m in good company, because rumor has it the graciano is Markus Bokisch’s favorite wine, as well. I will admit up front that I am a chocolate lover, so I was hesitant to give the dessert course a chance at fulfilling my sweet tooth. But I was so wrong! Chef turned out a perfect blueberry and strawberry shortcake with spiced Chantilly crème. I loved the generous sprinkling of sea salt on the crust of the shortcake and the crème was the perfect accompaniment to the 2015 Bokisch Tizona Late Harvest Graciano.The evening was so much fun, gathering with friends for an evening of fine food and wine! Chef Richard Hyman’s skills were on full display for this wine dinner, and I was so impressed! The food did NOT disappoint and I can’t wait to get back for another visit. I would also be remiss if I didn’t talk about Markus and Liz Bokisch! They are the most hospitable folks and they make such incredible Spanish wines in the Lodi region. Their award-winning wines have played a huge role in putting Lodi Wine on the map. If you live in Lodi or are planning a visit to Lodi Wine Country, make sure you stop into Fē•nix for fine dining with a flair in downtown Lodi.
Fine Foodie Philanthropist
Watch out…two new trendsetters are making waves in Lodi Wine Country: Riaza Wines and Lodi native Chef Nick Guantone are both scoring high marks for elevating the food and wine scene in a MAJOR way! A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of […]
Winegrape Growers Treated to an Afternoon of Fine Food and Wine Francis Ford Coppola has it all…exceptional wines, amazing architecture, an on-site restaurant, unique gift items, expansive pool, and multiple tasting bars. I rarely head to the Healdsburg area without making a pit stop, or an […]
Fresno Food Expo Partners with Simon Majundar to Highlight the Valley’s Culinary Credentials
A few weeks ago I was afforded an incredible opportunity from a childhood friend. She runs the Fresno Food Expo, the largest regional food show in America, and she had big news. Author, Broadcaster, and Food Network personality, Simon Majundar, would be attending the Fresno Food Expo for the second year in a row. And even more impressive, were his plans to sit down with owners, restaurateurs and the chef’s behind the culinary gems of the Central Valley for a round table discussion.
On June 20th, these folks, an intimate crowd of thirty, gathered at the Annex Kitchen in Fresno. The goal; to serve as a catalyst in highlighting the region’s bounty of agriculture and how to build stronger food communities.
Upon arriving we were greeted by the gracious staff of the Fresno Food Expo and ushered into the rustic, industrial yet modern dining room of The Annex Kitchen. Guests mingled while tasting wine supplied by CRU Winery Company, beer samplings from Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company, beautiful platters of charcuterie courtesy of Busetto Foods and tasty olive oils from ENZO Olive Oil. I mean…talk about celebrating the foodie fabulousness of our region, right?
As the only blogger in the room, I did my best to introduce myself to many of the restaurateurs. Growing up in Fresno, many of my favorite dining establishments were present for the luncheon, including the iconic Erna’s Elderberry House and Max’s Bistro. I was also thrilled to meet the owners of Trelio and Limón Peruvian Cuisine. There was an invigorating conversation with Simon regarding my new adventure with blogging, and it was inspiring to say the least.
As the program progressed, we were shown a delicious line-up of family style plates showcasing local producers. First up was a salad of ripe local peaches, delicious burratta and pickled onions. There was also a beautiful beef tartare with arugula, parmesan and wild mushrooms. Last on the lineup were two tantalizing pizzas: a Bianca with sausage, sage and ENZO Fresno Chile pepper Olive Oil and a local favorite featuring the fresh corn from the Fresno State University Farm Store.
Chef Majundar then presented his version of the top five food trends around the world and how they are playing out regionally.
- Hyperlocal Sourcing: We live in the food capital of the world. With the most beautiful produce ever created. Folks want to know where their food is grown, or even the name of the farm…think Niman Pork or Mary’s Chicken. I personally see this playing out a lot in Lodi right now. Restaurants are using social media to identify where the produce highlighted in their dishes is coming from and adding meaningful descriptors on menus. Farmers, in turn, are highlighting which restaurants are using their product. It is a win-win for food enthusiasts!
- Food Communities: This is a very important part of the message! The restaurants, owners, chefs, farmers, wine and spirit producers, distributors…all need to band together and build a strong network. For example, on a chef’s one night off a week, he might dine out at another local restaurant and share his experience on social media, essentially giving that restaurant a third party endorsement. It might mean gathering after work once a month for Industry Insider nights where chefs can gather over a few beers and chew the fat over the challenges and opportunities they might share in common. It is SO much more than this…but I’m long-winded as it is.
- Natural Wine: Majundar spoke of the current emphasis to make natural wines and feature them in local restaurants. He recommended that restaurateurs inform guests that their wine menu features natural wines and what the term actually means. Ironically, I was aware of this trend given that here in Lodi, several wineries have launched their own version of natural wines called the Lodi Native project. It has been a huge hit!
- Rediscovering Brandy, Boutique Spirits
If you travel at all, I am guessing you have seen this trend playing out in all its glory. Most of the restaurants in San Francisco or Healdsburg, for example, are only featuring small batch, boutique distilled spirits. The focus, once again, goes back to the local, or even hyper-local emphasis in the food, wine and spirits world. The rise of Brandy is an excellent example.
- Rediscovering Table Side Presentation Does everyone remember the 80’s and 90’s fine dining scenes of servers in tuxedos making Caesar Salad table side? Well it’s back…sort of. Simon suggests that food is entertainment and that we have abandoned the theater of it all! Across the country we are seeing more and more establishments bring back the theater of dining. From shrimp grilled table side, to the classic flombe of Banana Fosters, diners are celebrating the spectacle of eating out again!
He also shared with us a few trends he doesn’t love, including the use of truffle oil, half plate presentations, a chef’s stringent rules regarding substitutions, and the popular trend of serving food on wood cutting boards or platters.
On a side note, I would like to commend Mr. Majundar for his incredibly welcoming demeanor and enthusiasm for conversing with the guests. For me, the greatest part was his genuine affection for the Central Valley, a region that often undermines its own incredible culinary value.
Kudos to the Fresno Food Expo for bringing together the Valley’s food community, to Simon Majundar for championing our cause, and to the restaurateurs who were able to attend. And also a HUGE thank you to the Annex Kitchen and the Pardini Family for hosting this fabulous event! May the valley I was born in, and the region that I live in, find its place to the top of the world’s food destinations as it deserves!
The event that inspires all of this awesomeness is the Fresno Food Expo! The Fresno Food Expo will be held on Wednesday, July 26th and Thursday, July 27, 2017, for tickets and information, please click here! Simon Majundar will be back on Thursday for Expolicious, so do not miss this opportunity to explore the amazing foodie finds of our region, connect with local producers and sample some of the best dishes in the Central Valley.
Fresno Food Expo: The Fresno Food Expo provides a platform that increases the commerce and connectivity of Central California food and beverage related companies, while creating a regional identity centered on the celebration of food production and the experience food inspires.
Fine Foodie Philanthropist
Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to spend a few hours in the kitchen with a world renowned chef right here in Lodi, CA. Over these past couple of weeks I have reflected on what it meant to me and my future with this […]