Only a 10-minute walk from The Inn On First, a luxury Bed and Breakfast in Napa, is Carpe Diem, one of our favorite wine bars and restaurants in downtown Napa. Recently they provided two nights of a Winemaker’s Dinner where they pair the food with the wine from one particular winery. They selected Melka Winery for this event, and paired their wines with 5 different courses of food created by Executive Chef Scott Kendall.
We began with a grilled peach and housemade burrata on a crispy wonton that was paired with their Barrel Sample Mekerra Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($not priced yet). The appetizer was delicious on its own, but when paired with the wine, it went from great to “wow!”. This was followed by a warm goat cheese medallion crusted with walnuts and chamomile, paired with Metisse Mekerra Vineyard (2008) ($125), equal parts cabernet franc and merlot. Bold nose, heavy dark fruit flavors with deep spice. A nice contrast with the goat cheese.
Our next course was housemade paparedelle with braised lamb, paired with CJ Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) ($52), with soft fruit flavors in the traditional Napa cabernet style. We kept trying to not eat everything as there was so much food, but with each bite and sip you knew you needed to taste more.
Our main course was Grilled Uruguayan Filet Mignon with a crispy Camargue red rice cake, paired with Metisse Jumping Goat Vineyard (2009) ($155), a delicious Bordeaux Blend with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot. What a perfect pairing with the beef, soft and luscious mouth feel against the savory beef flavor.
Dessert came and we finally did slow down…a little. It was a black forest truffle with bing cherries, chantilly cream, and toffee brittle. Paired with Metisse Le Chatelet Vineyard- Saint Emilion Grand Cru, with chocolate notes and black cherry, again enhancing the great combination of flavors in dessert.
Now some might think that $125/pp is steep for dinner here in Napa, but actually that is the norm, if not more, especially if you do wine pairing with your meal. The added value of this meal is that they keep pouring you more wine if you want it, as well as the interaction with the winemakers, Phillipe and Cherie Melka. Lastly, when you meet Stephanie and Scott Kendall, and Steve Distler, the owners of the restaurant, and encounter their fabulous staff, you will make Carpe Diem one of your favorite dining spots in Napa Valley.
As we left for the day from The Inn On First, a luxury Napa Bed and Breakfast, we knew we were in for a real treat with our upcoming vineyard lunch. You enjoy as much wine as you want from each bottle they open for you to try. You eat to your heart’s content with incredible food from Ken Frank of La Toque. You look down upon the beauty of Napa Valley and think: “Oh my! I’m so lucky to be in Napa!” You are one of the few who have discovered and enjoyed the uniqueness of Napa Valley at its best.
Chateau Patel-VGS. Vineyard Lunch. It began with a drive up Mt. Veeder and down a long, dusty road to a gated vineyard. We met Tony, an affable man with a great smile, and he opened the gates and invited us to follow him. We traversed the rows of cabernet grapes, and when we spotted the pink flag on one of the stakes he proudly proclaimed: “Pick a row! Climb the mountain.” We did. It wasn’t a long climb, about 50 yards, through the vines ripe with fruit, purple and luscious, hanging, waiting for you to enjoy their bounty. I can see why tennis shoes or good hiking shoes are a must.
We found a dirt road on top and followed that up another 50 yards until we found the arbor, built specifically for this purpose. A table, white linen table cloth and napkins, with wine glasses, silverware, and plates awaiting the diner. As well as a gorgeous view of Napa Valley and the surrounding vineyards.
We started with a salmon spread and toast points served with their VGS Explorer Sauvignon Blanc ($25). A crisp wine with smells of lightly buttered toast and hints of lemon went well with the salmon. We followed this with a lovely green salad, blue cheese, candied pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette served with the VGS Chardonnay ($45), with notes of pear, green apple, and honeydew. A beautiful combination of food and wine. We also paired this and the next course with their cabernet-zinfandel blend called “Illegitimate” (2009) ($37). Fruity, with flavors of tart cherries and spice, very fruit forward and big fruit flavors.
Our main course was beef carpaccio, potato salad, and marinated vegetables served with the Illegitimate and their VGS Syrah (2009) ($75) with big fruit flavors, lightly spiced, and extremely delicious. Of course there was still the cheese course with cranberry nut bread, nuts, and three beautiful cheeses. All that could be paired with what we already had open. But then Tony opened a bottle of their late harvest zinfandel, called “Zinie” (2010) ($28). Low in residual sugar and not at all like many of the dessert wines we’ve had elsewhere, it was an incredible pairing with the cheese and bread.
I have to admit that it wasn’t just the food and the wine and the view that made our day special. Tony is an incredible host, funny, and willing to engage you in conversation about many things. He makes you feel comfortable, even about the fact that there are no restrooms: “Just find a nice spot around the bend in the road,” he encouraged as we each took turns finding our private hideaway. Rustic, yes, but with the views of vineyards and mountains, it didn’t matter. For $80/pp you would be hard pressed to enjoy such a wonderful experience at any restaurant in the valley with this caliber pairing of wines for anything less. And remember, you also get all those views on your way down the mountain! Oh, and don’t forget to ask him: “What does VGS stand for anyway?”