There are many wonderful ways to taste wine in the Napa Valley.
Raymond E. Signorello, proprietor of the winery that his late-parents established in 1985 on 100 acres of former racehorse-grazing land, wanted to recreate the experience of wine-tasting in Europe. There, wine is often tasted with the winemaker at a table set with food for a more personalized and more relaxed time.
The result is the “Enoteca Signorello” food and wine paired tasting, where guests are seated in a private, light-filled dining room or on the lovely terrace beside the pool overlooking the vineyards, if weather permits. Oliver the dog will probably be on hand to greet you, too.
The special 90-minute tastings are by appointment only, 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. Price is $65 per person. That might seem pricey. But this is no basket of water crackers that we’re talking about. It’s a flight of five wines, paired with seven, good-sized gourmet treats prepared in the winery’s professional kitchen by a chef.
In March, I was invited as a guest to one of these private tastings, which started being offered a year ago and feature menus that change with the seasons.
You’re welcomed with glasses of the 2008 Seta Estate, a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend that had just the right amount of acidity and buttery-ness; and the 2007 Chardonnay Vielles Vignes Chardonnay, made from the fruit from the original 26-year-old vines planted on the estate.
They’re paired with two-bite hors d’oeuvres — a tiny chevre cake topped with julienned salmon cured with star anise and honey; and a crostini of albacore tuna poached in olive oil and dressed with preserved lemons, picholine olives and the fragrant North African ras el hanout spice blend.
Next, the 2006 Estate Syrah, so wonderfully smooth and loamy, was paired with two different small dishes: a complex warm, local rabbit salad tossed with pistachios, wild mushrooms, chorizo and cranberries; and Snake River Farms’ Kurobuta pork wrapped in prosciutto and served with a sour cherry chutney. The smokey and tangy fruit flavors of both dishes were only heightened by the Syrah.
That was followed by pours of the 2005 Estate Cabarnet Sauvignon with pleasing cigar notes; and the 2006 Estate Padrone, which represents the best Cabarnet grapes grown and blended together in honor of Raymond E. Signorello’s father. The Padrone is a wine you can sip and sip, with a powerful richness, deep berry flavors, and a finish that lingers on and on.
They both worked beautifully with the next two dishes: smoked Moulard duck breast with black currants and black olives; and Snake River Farms Kobe beef filet with roasted mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onions and a Cabarnet Sauvignon reduction sauce. The Padrone, especially, was magic with the Kobe.
Finally, Valrhona chocolate truffles spiced with more ras el hanout to nibble with the last of the red wines.
You enjoy the final sip and bite, then leave sated, and thoroughly spoiled for any other wine tasting around.