The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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Page 93 of 100

{ }  93 Meat 1. Welcome Dinner at Charles Krug Winery Margo Culcasi, Owner of Altra Wines, brought her 2010 Mountainside Cabernet Lisa Augustine, Director of Sales and Marketing at Broman Cellars, had a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. Stephanie DeMasi, Partner and General Manager at Juslyn Vineyards, offered a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. Lisa Warner, Winemaker at Leto Cellars, had a 2013 Old Vine Chardonnay. David Tate, owner/winemaker at Tate Wines, brought his 2012 Joan Ellen Vineyard Merlot. Jean-Noel Fourmeaux, Proprietor, VGS Chateau Potelle, poured the VGS Chateau Potelle 2010 Zinfandel from Mount Veeder. Technical Director Hélène Mingot gave the somms a tour of the Eisele Vineyard at Araujo Estate Wines in Calistoga. Gilian Handelman of Jackson Family Wines conducted the program that paired various cuts of steaks with representative Napa Shelby Peterson, GM, Boulevard Steakhouse, Oklahoma City, chats with Jean-Noël Fourmeaux of VGS Chateau Potelle on the way into the welcoming dinner at the Charles Krug estate. The sun hadn't yet made its way much above the horizon when a busload of somms pulled away from the Napa River Inn, headed for the upper reaches of Napa Valley and a multi-day dive into the diversity and variety that the region offers. Peter Mondavi, Jr. had welcomed the group the previous evening on the sprawling lawn of the Charles Krug estate with wine, words and a not-so-fierce bocce competition. This was another ambitious enterprise of Napa Valley Vintners, who brought together 23 somms from as far away as Shanghai for their Steakhouse Summit. The point of the endeavor was to show the steakhouse somms that when a patron says they'd like a steak and a Napa Cab, that's just the beginning of the conversation, not the end. The welcome dinner at Charles Krug had featured presentations from widely dispersed Napa vintners that foreshadowed the diver- sity that was to come (see sidebar 1). And there was more to taste than just big, bold Cabs. "When you go the symphony," said Jean-Noël Fourmeaux of VGS Chateau Potelle in his elegantly accented English, "you don't just want to hear the drummer. It's the layers and layers that make up the symphony." The somms also learned about the unique geological history of the region, and the powerful volcanic forces that forged the valley starting 150 million years ago, forces that left it a kaleidoscope of topography, and with a Mediterranean climate with some of the most diverse soils in the world. "Napa is our bread and butter," said Chris Clark, from Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House in Washington, D.C. "We've got about 1,500 selections by the bottle, and of that, about 700 are from Napa, with vin- tages back to 1969. From our consumer standpoint, it can hit all aspects of what they're looking for: rarity, quality, entry level." With the Valley already so well-represented at his restaurant, what did he hope to take away from his visit? "Any more understanding can help you, and you can kind of weave that into the consumer's frame of thought of Napa, and help them understand. Maybe it's the terroir, maybe the family history … that's what I hope to take away every time I go anywhere." So off the somms went the next morning on the bus, maybe a little sleepy-eyed, looking out through deeply tinted windows at the vineyards glowing luminously in the golden morning light. There's never really a BAD time to be in Napa, but being there as spring arrives may be the most hopeful. The vines are feathered with light green leaves, and the air is scented with expectation. The somms started their tour in the far north of the Valley with a visit and tasting at Araujo Estate Wines in Calistoga, and then they headed southward to Quintessa in Rutherford.

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