The highlight of day number 6 was to be the Executive Luncheon at Far Niente Winery in Napa. They hold the lunch once a week and host guests from all over the World, all traveling to Napa for different reasons. Some are owners of retails shops and restaurants, others are long time winery customers who are from another country. Once you attend the lunch, they ask you allow others to experience the event – this is a one time deal.
We were greeted in the main house at Far Niente by Larry Maguire, owner and President of the winery. He showed us around the property. We went through some of the vineyards. We saw the grapes coming into the winery and run through the sorting table. The place was in full swing.
We toured the main house and checked out some awesome big bottles of wine and up the spiral staircase to the upper level that looks out over the entire property.
We were shown the garage which housed a dozen or so awesome automobiles – collectables of the Nickel family.
We were shown down towards their small pond on property and the large table at which we would enjoy lunch.
It was an incredible setup. Set for about sixteen or so people, there were multiples glasses, and silverware for everyone. Little did I realize, this was to be an awesome multi-course meal! Yes!
Again, the table setup was absolutely exquisite. Tasteful, glasses glistening in the sun. We were literally twenty feet away from the beginning of their vineyards under a large tree that provided the perfect shade upon our dining table.
The amuse bouche was brought shortly after we were seated and Larry gave his welcoming toast to all of us, his guests. Prosciutto, a candy stripe fig, a small dollop of blue cheese and pickled blackberries. A gorgeous one bite consisting of numerous pronounced flavors. Smoky, funky, bright and acidic with the perfect crisp of the prosciutto. The course was served with Far Niente’s sweet wine – Dolce 2006. What an excellent beginning.
Next, one of the most gorgeous dishes I have EVER seen. King Salmon tartare, avocado mousse, crisp capers, with greens from their garden as well as marinated cherry tomatoes, radish salad and a crispy sesame crisp. There have only been two times I have not wanted to eat a dish because of its stunning beauty – here and the garden course at Alinea.
Once I did break the perfect plating, I was whisked away to a fresh, vibrant, slightly creamy and extremely delicious world of delight. One of the highlights of the meal for me, the salmon was gorgeous and the flavors and textures played on each other perfectly. This dish was served with Far Niente Chardonnay Cave Collection 2009.
We were then presented with a gorgeous slow roasted beef tenderloin. Accompanied by chantrelles, fava beans, sunburst squash, cauliflower-horseradish puree as well as a gorgeously rich red wine reduction, the beef course exemplified why grass fed beef is delicious when prepared in the proper manner.
Cooked to perfection, the beef was flavorful, extremely tender. I COULD cut it with a butter knife – but I didn’t. The veggies and sauces that were served alongside the beef were clearly picked that morning. The sauces were made with excellent technique and complemented each other well.
The creamy horseradish cut through the slightly tangy red wine reduction. Not often are two sauces in such harmony. The beef was paired with Far Niente 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Cave Collection. Two stellar reds – the ’05 showing particularly well.
The final course, dessert, was a brioche bread pudding – one of Chef Trevor Eliason’s specialties according to Larry. With candied pecans and sea salt caramel, it was absolutely one of the best bread puddings we had tasted. A very close call between that and Chef Michael Gottlieb’s Pretzel Bread Pudding at 2nd Street Bistro in Highland Park – check it. The dessert arrived with 1998 Dolce. Still a baby but drinking oh so beautifully – should live another couple decades with ease.
What a fantastic meal. Afterwards, we checked out the grounds a bit more and were also given a quick private tour of their garden by Mary from the winery. All sorts of fruits and vegetables, including kiwi vines, obviously not native to California. What an incredible experience we will never forget at Far Niente. Thank you to all involved.
We said our goodbyes and headed over the mountain to Pride Mountain Vineyards. The property itself is located in both Napa and Sonoma counties! Really cool. In fact, there’s a line in the stonework in the driveway to their caves that marks the divide between the two counties – you can see it at my feet in the picture below.
We toured their caves and tasted some of their wines along the way. We had the opportunity to taste their more limited in production, Cabernet Franc from barrel. Pulled directly from the barrel itself in the caves, the wine was supple and smooth. Big blue fruit, rich milk chocolate and gorgeous oak. So awesome to see the wine come right out of the barrel and into my mouth.
They use a special device with which the user sucks up some wine and plugs a hole in the end of the tube before it reaches his lips to hold the liquid in the vessel. When he releases his finger, wine is released. A simple but genius and pretty device. Delish.
We stopped by Auberge du Soleil for a quick wine flight to check out the remarkable view. It was pretty awesome. A tasty white wine flight with some assorted olives was just right on a gorgeous day. We weren’t there long, but we were glad we scored a table right on the railing. A perfect way to kill an hour or so before more substantial food.
Terra is a World Class restaurant featuring delicious cuisine in a rustic setting. We weren’t down to spend too much on this evening, and we heard a great way to experience Terra without breaking the bank is to check out their more casual concept next door – Bar Terra.
We went early and ordered their “Japanese poutine” to start. We love poutine and we adore Japanese food and its flavors. How couldn’t this be absolutely delicious? The poutine seemed to be sliced and roasted fingerling potatoes with a duo of sauces on top.
An aioli of sorts and a sweet and tangy sweet barbecue option as well. The dish was finished with bonito flakes and it was really really tasty. Unique and unlike anything I’d tasted before, the flavors were familiar but just presented in a more spuddy form.
We also ordered the ramen. Well done and traditional, the protein was pork cheek. The soft boiled egg was delicious and the broth was pretty darn complex though it didn’t have the richer mouth feel we both enjoy in the soup. In the end, it wasn’t as good as Wasabi’s in Chicago, but their version was fantastic and had excellent umami qualities – required in great ramen.
Lastly, we opted for the crispy Bacalao fritters. Salted cod was lightly battered and fried. Deliciously fishy, a little salty, and expertly fried, we loved every bite of this appetizer. The little golden brown pillows were served in a light saffron broth. Just right. Now onto the main course – Cindy’s Backstreet for dinner.
We had obviously been eating all day long, so we chose wisely at dinner – we planned to keep it lighter so we wouldn’t completely burst. We sat down in a cozy back dining room of the restaurant and ordered crispy calamari to start. Their version was served with similarly fried garden beans, jalapenos and baby zucchini. A lighter lemon aioli was served alongside the appetizer which wasn’t too thick or creamy. Offering the veggies alongside the calamari was excellent. Different flavors and textures as opposed to only the squid ensured you didn’t get bored with the dish.
We went with a Caesar salad as our second course. Served with whole leaf romaine – something both Jill and I like to see – the dressing wasn’t too heavy or cloying. Nice anchovy flavor accompanied by super high quality Parmesan and ingredients proved to be successful in this adaptation of a classic.
We shared their Chinatown Duck Burger as our entree. Ground duck and seasoning were formed into a nice sized patty. It was cooked through but served extremely moist and juicy on a home made roll and simply topped with some house made shiitake mushroom ketchup – served with fries.
The burger was delicious. Completely different from any of the other (dozen or so) burgers we’d had on our trip. Great Asian spice combined with rich meaty flavors won us over immediately.
To finish the meal we had to go with their famous Campfire S’mores Pie. An extravagantly decadent pie of graham cracker with a creamy chocolate cream topped with flambeed marshmallow. It was everything you could want in a slice of cream pie. The char of the marshmallow was unique and worked well with the airy but strong flavored chocolate cream. A winner.
What a long fantastic day in wine country. And with just one more to go, we have to go out with a bang…sayin’?
Scott, Thanks for the really nice words about your experience at Far Niente. It was a particularly beautiful day. I look forward to our Far Niente dinner at Chicago Cut on November 8th. See you then!