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My took a trip up to see some dear friends who just so happen to be returning to Los Angeles in a few weeks. As I am continually attempting to plan my entire life around meals and libations I’m always happy when my friends are willing to assist in my gluttony.

Kron (10 of 18)

REDD in Yountville was a great stop for those of us suffering from 17% Triple Oaked Cabernet poisoning. I started to notice here though that Napa is just like a lot of other small towns in America in that it does not have a huge population to draw from. Most of the employees working within it’s boundaries grew up there, and quite frankly don’t plan on leaving. We were sent some fantastic special items, and treated extremely well.

Why would they, when you can get wings that look / taste like this?Kron (11 of 18)

We laughed when one of our brave companions suggested chicken wings, but after ordering a second helping, we weren’t laughing, just eating.

Beau Vigne was a recommendation and a tasting room we hadn’t heard of before. The first thing I noticed was the 800ml tasting glass, which we were informed could hold an entire bottle of wine. The wines here, we were told were high alcohol, and not afraid of it. I hid a cringe while reading the Wall’o’Parker ratings in the beautiful tasting room. We were informed that they were eagerly anticipating Parker’s return to rating California wines. Kron (8 of 18)

The staff here was so cordial and kind, I know that I am in the minority of Americans in not holding the oaky, dense, and alcoholic wines in high regard. The nose on the 2011 ‘Cult’ Cabernet Sauvignon, which we were told sold out almost immediately, was so effusive with loads of fruit – blackberry, blueberry, and fig… it could’ve been a brandy.

The highlight of the day was a walk through the gardens of the French Laundry. Kron (3 of 18)

As I was taking some pictures of giant cardoon stalks, a man who i’m fairly certain was Tucker Taylor, the keeper of gardens walked over to discuss his newest crop of Blue Tomatos (what is sure to overtake Indigo Rose as the hot varietal this year), his experimental herbs, and answer my plethora of questions. Just great.

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Judging from his knowledge of anthocyanins and the vigor of his vines, I was in awe of this master gardener. I have never before seen a garden with it’s own hive of bees for pollination.

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I personally have never seen artichokes growing on their stalks, and we got some great instruction on how they are grown. Right down to the nitrogen and phosphate levels in the soil. The attention to the details is what make these places amazing.

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It just so happened that my friends were throwing themselves a going away party. I immediately suggested I would contribute by ordering as many types of forcemeat as I could find. Duck, Rabbit, Mushroom Mousse, we set up a full spread. My friend made a mean mostarda.

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A few young winemakers attended the party, as well as tasting room folks. The wine was just overflowing, and I will place the blame for burning all of the sausages solely on that excess, rather than my own ineptitude as a pitmaster.

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My friend and party host brought out several bottles of Dave Phinney and Joel Gott’s first collaboration, a wine called Shatter. I LOVED the label design (2010 vintage). 100% Grenache from the town of Maury, in the Languedoc Roussillon.

This wine for me was more evident of heavy winemaking rather than terroir. The concentration of color was an intense and deep purple, with heavy tearing coating the glass. Nothing really floral going on (maybe some sage), but again overpowering black fruit on the nose – also some residual sugar. Heavy new oak on the finish, but medium tannins and acidity. This wine did have a longer finish, but I found the use of oak obtrusive. This wine was kind of like a blueberry pie that stayed in oven too long, burning the crust. At 15% alcohol maybe this wine could age and become something a little more special.

Kron (1 of 1)By this time of night I was thoroughly involved with the crackling of the wine barrel chips on the open fire, The Napa River slowly flowing behind us, and the cool crisp air.

Oh, and the cheese!Kron (14 of 18)