Thursday, June 25, 2009

Liquid gold in the Napa Valley

Dwight the Wine Doctor
Napa Valley gold beneath the fog

A thin layer of fog lay between me and my excellent view of the Golden Gate Bridge as my Frontier jet landed over San Francisco Bay. I was on my way to Mill Valley, outside San Francisco, and then to Napa Valley, where I would meet with Chris Hall, winemaker and son of the owner of Long Meadow Ranch. The 650 acre ranch and winery, nestled his atop the Mayacamas Mountains above Napa Valley is an anomaly. In addition to being an award-winning winery, the ranch produces handcrafted extra virgin olive oils, grass-fed beef from rare Scotch Highlands cattle, eggs, heirlooms fruits and vegetables, all using sustainable, organic farming methods.
“We try to remain true to the land,” Chris Hall told me, while standing atop a stone fence, overlooking a pair of Appaloosa horses that roam freely on the property. “Everything we do here is sustainable and somehow a product of the land, from our wine, to our olive oils to our meats and vegetables that we sell in the markets in Rutherford and Oakville and that we supply to restaurants in the area. It’s all true to the land and true to the sustainable and organic philosophy that we live by.”
The wines at Long Meadow are nothing short of extraordinary. I first encountered them at a winemaker dinner in Coral Gables Florida, near Miami, while attending a series of wine conferences at the Biltmore Hotel. Chris Hall presided over a dinner featuring his wines, grass fed beef and olive oil. It was a showcase that proved to be a tour de force, prompting a promise to visit the winery that has now been fulfilled.
“We’re next going to taste our Prato Lungo olive oil which is an intense, flavorful olive oil that is pressed in our Tuscan stone presses from olives grown on trees right here on the estate. My father and I were riding horses out in the forest when we discovered 15 acres of trees that were ancient olive trees that had been growing here, undisturbed on the property. So, we decided to make olive oil with them. Charlie Trotter uses this olive oil at his restaurant in Chicago as finishing oil. I’m sure you’ve had it there.” Tasting the oil in tiny, demitasse glasses, was like tasting liquid gold.
Just a half hour down the road was the tasting studio and vineyards of Folio Wines, the fine wine laboratory of Michael Mondavi, son of legendary Napa Valley winemaker and tastemaker Robert Mondavi and his spectacular collection of Napa Valley growths and imported wines. Taste Gallery Manager and Partner Michael Abernathy and Director of Public Relations and Partner Susanne Bergstrom hosted a spectacular tasting of Folio’s premium wines, ranging from vineyard selections that spanned the spectrum from $29 dollars a bottle to $199 for the superb Oberon and Medusa labels. Seated in the garden terrace overlooking the beautiful expanse of lush vineyards at sunset was a perfect setting to enjoy a summer solstice evening.
“It’s too bad that Michael is traveling abroad today,” Susanne offered. “He would have loved to have hosted you personally.” Tasting the superb Medusa blend, I could feel his presence and his deft hand with a single sip. I lifted a glass in his honor as the sun began its languid retreat.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece. It feels like I'm there. How wonderful it would be if you could arrange travel packages so your many fans could duplicate your adventures.