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.
It looks like a small Parisian cafe with candlelight throughout the restaurant and outside the small windows can be seen the lights mirroring off the Napa River. It is a small, intimate restaurant that has an inviting, romantic appeal. We began with cocktails (it is only one of 3 or 4 restaurants in historic Napa that serve cocktails)and they brought a lovely white bean dip with crositini as an appetizer. A nice touch to get the meal started. I ordered the leek and potato soup and was not disappointed by the creamy and velvety texture, and I followed it up with the sweetbreads that came with a fragrant, rich sauce on the plate that coated every piece. On my first bite I was a little overwhelmed by the sauce that I scooped up with my first piece, and quickly learned to leave more of the sauce on the plate and let the sweetbreads with a light drizzle of sauce inform my palate. Afterward it left plenty of sauce on the plate to sop up with the bread they served with the meal. Jamie ordered the mixed green salad and followed it up with the sea bass. The fish was cooked perfectly and came with a light sauce and some veggies on the plate that gave it a nice balance.
Our friends ordered the french onion soup (always a treat at Angele with the stringy cheese pulling at the spoon as you lift that first slurp to your mouth), the winter salad with apples and pears and nuts drizzled with a light vinaigrette, the creme fraiche gnocchi (light and airy pillow puffs that melted in your mouth) and the blackened cod (a nice white fish served in a broth). We paired everything with a Saintsbury Pinot that was delightful (Pinot seems to be the one wine that will go with just about everything). My only regret was that we had to run out at the end to get to our show at Silo’s (night club) so we could not fully enjoy the ambience of sipping coffee over dessert at the end. Alas, another time.