Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend, Wine and Weather

Over the weekend, we decided to see if I could weather a relaxing trip to wine country. I haven’t felt well enough to get out much lately, but my immunotherapy is complete and my energy level is beginning to recover. Originally Larry had signed up for a wood-fired oven cooking class at Kendall Jackson Winery, but it was cancelled at the last minute. So we had no specific plans and I could take it nice and easy. Since we had already made hotel reservations, etc, KJ offered us a complimentary food and wine pairing to make up for the inconvenience of the class being cancelled. Do I need to keep saying how well they treat their wine club members? 

We’ve enjoyed the food pairing several times, but the menu changes seasonally, depending on what's growing in their extensive garden there at the wine center. We always enjoy a stroll in the gardens whatever the season, checking out the flowers, vegetables and herbs. They also offer tours if you're interested.

It was an extremely busy day for the pairings. I counted at least 30 people; far more than any other time we’ve been there. We told Matthew, the chef we’ve come to know and appreciate, to take his time with us as we had no commitments. As usual, they served us several wines to sample while setting up for our tasting.

The menu mixed new selections and old favorites. All pairings were excellent. You can always tell they put a lot of effort into these pairing menus:

Grilled Baby Fava Bean Pods sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice paired with 2009 Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect.
Potato Leek Soup with a drizzle of olive oil and a Crab Cake with lemon aioli paired with 2008 Jackson Hills ChardonnayPerfect so far say my notes from the tasting.

Buckwheat Crepe with Smoked Ham Hocks and Bellwether Farms Carmody Cheese with 2006 Highland Estates Seco Highlands Pinot Noir. I should just stop repeating Perfect. The smoky ham with the earthy pinot – perfect.
Here’s where I’m in heaven – Sweet Tea Brined Niman Ranch Pork Belly Slider with Syrah BBQ Sauce with 2006 Highland Estates Alisos Hills Syrah. This is so exquisite I always save it for last. And if we’re doing the cheese or dessert pairing, I always beg Matthew for a pork belly slider on the side. Divine.
Cabernet Braised Short Ribs and Creamy Grits with 2005 Highland Estates Trace Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a new one for me and has a great story. I usually hate grits, but these were delicious. These come from the Old Mill of Guilford outside Greensboro, NC. I couldn’t believe it! Almost everything else KJ uses is local, but Matthew said this is the only place to get grits this good. When I was a child, I lived near this historic mill, but it wasn’t operational then. It was a relic on the side of the road that you could visit as a historic site. I think I went there with my Girl Scout Troop. But we used to drive by it all the time. Now they are back in production and making the best grits in the world!

Buttermilk Pecan Tart with Ruthie’s Meyer Lemon Curd with 2008 Late Harvest Reisling. The apricots in the tart are soaked in verjus, but are not too sweet. And neither is the wine. Perfect.
Mama Frischkorn’s Caramel Corn and 2006 Late Harvest Chardonnay. This is the sweet one. Makes your teeth sweat as my friend Cali would say. I don’t love this caramel corn, but it’s addicting. I always eat it anyway. No photo of the caramel corn. You know what it looks like - caramel corn.

And of course, they always bring us an extra treat - a big glass of port and a chocolate truffle to finish off the tasting. Matthew is very good to us. And although we only meant to pick up our shipment. We bought four more bottles of wine – our port supply was depleted. After our 2 ½ hour tasting and a walk in the garden, we headed to our hotel where I slept all afternoon. I woke up just in time to go eat again – at one of our favorite restaurants in Healdsburg, Willie’s Seafood and Raw Bar.

More to come on our weekend – Willie’s, WEATHER, more wine and a cheese adventure.


  1. Glad you are feeling better and are able to enjoy all that great food and wine, the best medicine!

  2. So glad you are feeling better, sounds like my kind of afternoon. I would have probably begged for another slider too. I love that area need to go there more often. Luckily I'm not leaving the Bay Area, just move back to where my parents are. Just moving in general, I forgot how much there is to do. Can't wait to read more.

  3. Judy, I'm so glad you are feeling better!! What a wonderful day it looks like you had, and you got some absolutely gorgeous photos to go with it!! I'll take some of that butter milk tart!!!

  4. You were well cared for indeed.

    I am glad to hear you are feeling better. As I have been preparing for our Relay For Life I have been thinking of those who I fight for and have been hoping that you would continue to be winning your battle with cancer.