Celebrate in Wine Style
Ever wondered how the Napa Valley parties? With wine of course! Most of the time Napa is a casual place, but when they decide to celebrate they pull out all of the stops. I was lucky enough to attend a couple of high profile events to see for myself what goes on after the tourists go home.
Napa Gras, in celebration of Mardi Gras, was held at Raymond Vineyards. I was greeted by masked and costumed staff and given a choice of feather-adorned masks. Owner Jean Charles Boissett greeted me and posed for a photo, in addition to all of his other duties. As I wandered through the winery I found each room contained a distinct wine offering as well as tasty appetizers.
My favorite, the Red Room, is of course red and elegant with velvet, chandeliers, and leopard print. They were pouring JCB No. 21, a favorite bubbly that suited the glamour of the room. Seated on comfortable sofas, this was a great people watching venue, as well as a nice place for a conversation and a glass of wine.
In the Crystal Cellar, music pulsed while scantily clad dancers in sequins and feathers sambaed on stage. A bountiful selection of seafood and sushi, cheese and charcuterie, and a myriad of other tasty treats awaited, including more JCB No. 21. During the evening a beautiful acrobat performed Cirque du Soleil feats while suspended from a dangling cloth. In her second act, she poured champagne for guests while suspended upside down—wow! Guests were encouraged to wander the winery among the barrel room, tasting areas, and outdoor grounds. The end of the evening came all too soon, as I retrieved my car and drove the short distance to my hotel.
Now, imagine a four-course, gourmet meal held in a Tuscan castle and you have the Royal Hearts Gala at Castello di Amorosa, a medieval castle. As we drove up the long driveway we glimpsed the castle perched on the hilltop, with dramatic lighting creating an impressive silhouette. When we stepped from our coach, we were greeted by tuxedoed owner Dario Sattui and handed a glass of sparkling wine.
Candles lighted the labyrinthian pathway through the castle past bottles of wine until we arrived in the tasting room. We tasted through the entire selection while enjoying passed hors d’oeuvres that paired exceptionally well with the wine.
Then it was time to be seated for our feast. The barrel room was adorned with beautifully clad tables. We joined other elegantly attired dinner companions and discussed our favorite wines while we awaited the special evening. The meal was designed by chef Alejandra Schrader in cooperation with Elaine Bell Catering. Our first course was seared sea scallop poached in white wine with wilted watercress, Brentwood corn, green mango, celery root, and basil salad with a blood orange vinaigrette and blood orange confit. The 2011 Los Carneros Pinot Blanco made an excellent complement to the food.
Between courses, we enjoyed entertainment from Shakespeare on the Vine, performing romantic love scenes and regaling us with humor and wit. The second course was grilled ancho chile-marinated quail with red quinoa risotto, woodland mushroom ragout, and roasted root vegetables drizzled with red wine syrup paired with the 2011 Los Carneros Pinot Noir.
Cocoa-rubbed filet of beef with dried plum demi celery root puree, sauteed Brussels sprout leaves, olive oil-braised baby red and yellow beets, and baby carrots left us satisfied especially since it was accompanied by the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert was either tiramisu or strawberry panna cotta, which were rich and delicious paired with 2012 Fantasia. Leaving the winery to find our coach, I felt very much like Cinderella, sad to return to my real life.
Accommodations: I chose to stay in Calistoga, just minutes away, for its proximity to 50 wineries, great restaurants, and natural hot springs. Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort offers comfortable, nicely appointed rooms and access to three mineral pools. The spa offers mud baths, a Calistoga specialty, along with massages. I love to soak in the mineral waters after a rigorous day of wine tasting or a late night party for its restorative properties discovered by Native Americans who once inhabited the area.
Details: Raymond Vineyards was named 2012 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. Located in St. Helena, it offers a variety of tasting experiences. Make a reservation by calling (707) 963-6929 or by going online.
Castello di Amorosa is open for tours and tastings of the 120,000-square-foot, eight-level winery castle. Read about a recent visit to Castello that included a tour, tasting, and romantic, horse-drawn vineyard tour.