One comes to wine country to take in the sights, sounds and definitely the tastes and there are literally hundreds of different wine tasting experiences one can have while visiting wine country. Experienced wine lovers know that the best way to taste wine is to pair it with food. Food pairings are able to draw out the certain nuances inherent in both that make them shine. Have you ever had a piece of cheese with a crisp white wine? Or a succulent slice of steak with a heavy red? What about salted potato chips with a glass of bubbles? The perfect complement and sometimes contrast can make the experience of tasting wine unforgettable. Here are some of our favorite wine and food pairing experiences in both Sonoma and Napa Valley.
The Mayo Family Reserve Room – $35
One of the original wine pairing experiences, Mayo Family is located in Kenwood and is almost like a mini café. It’s definitely not a belly up to the bar experience! It is separate from the winery and unlike a lot of experiences, reservations are not required. As close to a Sonoma restaurant without being in one, guests are seated at tables and chairs with views of the Kenwood vineyards. Then commences the seven-course pairing menu paired with Mayo Family Reserve Wines. The current menu runs the gamut from smoked trout and braised short rib to peche de mode and foie gras! Past bites have included sablefish, goat cheese and apple donut as well as a salad of sweet breads and vanilla sweet potato sorbet. The Mayo Family tasting room in Glen Ellen is casual and a great way to get acquainted with their wines. But if you want an exceptionally special experience meander over to the Reserve Room and let Chef J Clayton Lewis lead you on a “tastecation” you won’t want to end!
Open Thursday through Monday 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Final seating at 4:45 p.m.
Mayo Family Winery, 9200 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452
Visit the Mayo Family website here
Kendall Jackson Wine Center – $20+
Want to have a few more options? Try KJ’s wine pairings for a very modest price from Chef Justin Wangler. There are three different pairing experiences one can enjoy when visiting Kendall Jackson’s beautiful estate and gardens. Reserve Wine & Food Pairing ($30), Wine & Cheese Pairing ($25), Wine & Dessert Pairing ($20) are the options that will fit any palate. The Dessert pairing is one of the more special experiences as it is unique to the Kendall Jackson Estate. They have a full staff of chefs with access to the gardens and they make everything in house! Once seated you’re presented with a row of dessert wines ranging from Riesling and Moscato to a sweet Chardonnay and Port paired with delicious little delights such as an Almond Frangipane with Lemon Fennel Mousse and a ridiculously delicious Coconut Macaroon! If dessert is not your dish then the full food and wine pairing doesn’t skimp either! Cheese, salmon, pork belly, short ribs and the unforgettable caramel corn dance along beautifully with their reserve wines. And you have the option of enjoying these tastings at sit down tables indoors or outside on the back patio under the umbrellas.
Daily with an appointment 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kendall Jackson Wine Estate, 5007 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95439
Visit the Kendall Jackson website here
Not to be out done there are some amazing Wine and Food pairing experiences in the Napa Valley too.
Long Meadow Ranch Winery – $40+
A family owned winery and ranch known for its socially responsible business practices. Celebrating the farm to table ideals that are becoming more and more popular, LMR delivers a very special wine tasting and food pairing experience. Set on 3-acre sustainable food, wine and agricultural center in St. Helena, it’s an authentic Napa Valley experience. The Logan-Ives House is where the winery is located and there are two different experiences one can enjoy. The less expensive Logan-Ives House Pairing offers tasters the opportunity to try ranch harvested and produced olive oils along with either Tomales Bay oysters or ‘potted pig’ and mustards. It’s a much more rustic and laid back tasting experience than typically presented in other wineries. Oh, and their EVOO is not to be missed! A bit pricier at $65, but well worth it, is the Logan Ives Signature Pairing combining all that is special and unique about LMR. It’s an intimate, sit down experience with the full portfolio of LMR wines and a corresponding tasting menu. Carrot Bundt Cake smothered in butter on both sides, says it all. Seasonal menus are constantly changing, but if they came up with something like that, the sky is the limit!
Logan-Ives House Pairing- $40 – from 11am to 6pm
Logan-Ives Signature Pairing – $65 – at 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm
Long Meadow Ranch, 738 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574
Make your reservations by calling (707) 963-4555 x7105
Visit the Long Meadow Ranch website here
Robert Sinskey Vineyards – $25
Sinskey are the only ones of this list that do a small little pairing with the traditional Napa Valley wine tasting at the bar. There is also an option for doing a more enhanced pairing, sit down style for $75 per person. For the introductory wine flight you’re paired with relatively simple but well thought out pairings: Olives, Roasted Nuts, a generous slice of muenster cheese on a toasted cracker,
a delicious cheesy puff and a mini-quiche! Overlooking the relative simplicity, the focus is why they were chosen as accompaniments and how they bring out the characteristic of each wine. Robert’s wife Maria, an accomplished chef, runs the kitchen and culinary program and you can tell they know what they’re doing. A quick perusal of their offerings makes you want to slip out onto the side patio and relax in one of the lounges and take both the beautiful sites and taste sensations. RSV’s Farm to Table experience seems to get you quite a bit. The grounds are beautiful and the duration of the tour is around an hour and a half. You begin in the garden and receive an education on food and wine pairings, with a glass of wine in hand of course! Down in the cellar and caves, you’re shown RSV’s winemaking process and end up at the winery’s lovely farm table where you are paired with a seasonal menu and Sinskey’s reserve wines. Menus vary daily so they’re unpublished but with Maria at the helm there is no little room for disappointment!
Daily with an appointment 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 6320 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
Visit the Robert Sinskey Vineyards website here