Archive for Yountville CA


Posted in Bottega (Yountville), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by ballymote

There was little doubt at any time in the planning stages of this trip that Bottega was going to be one our destinations. All of us were anxious to experience the culinary skills of Owner/Chef Michael Chiarella (Food Network TV star). We arrived much too early for our 8:00 P.M. reservation (my fault, as I had thought we were scheduled for 7:00 P.M.). We did some window shopping which is all one can do in both Napa and Sonoma after 5:00 in the evening. It makes no sense to me, or the rest of us, why shops would close at 5:00 P.M. when this would be the perfect time to cater to the tourists who have spent the day visiting wineries and are looking to fill the hours prior to dinner with some shopping. We sat on the terrace for a while and had a drink and soon we were seated at our table in the chic, fashionable eatery.

Once again we had brought with us a bottle we had purchased earlier. Tonight it was the 2006 EMH/Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon, just a shade less appealing than last night’s 2007 vintage but still a wonderful wine. From the Bottega wine list we chose one of Michael Chiarella’s own wines, the 2006 Chiarella Family Vineyards,  “Eileen”,Cabernet Sauvignon. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this wine and it was also reasonably priced on the wine list at only a few dollars above retail.

Before I even start on what we ate I should probably say that none of us considered this a great dining experience. It’s even a little hard to pinpoint why. The food, overall, was good, not great, the service a little slow and it felt like we were one of many tables that our server had and we certainly had our turn but it felt like “our turn”. 

For starters I had the Burrata Caprese, Joe had the House-cured salumi and some of the others had the Butternut squash soup with creme fraise and pumpkin seeds. Carol had a spinach filled ravioli for her pasta dish .

What Gerry had for his pasta dish, his wife Joann had as her entree,

  • House-made egg pappardelle veal, pork & porcini mushroom Bolognese, rosemary, parmigiano-reggiano. I tasted it and thought it was very good, Gerry liked it, too, but Joann felt it was rather bland.

    For my entree I had the Toasted Trade Spice Fulton Valley Chicken Breast sweet corn & potato velutata, arugula & shaved corn salad, sherry vinegar pan sauce. It was pretty good. Joe had one of the fish “specials”, I believe it was halibut. He thought it was fine.

    Carol and Kathy both chose the Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs preserved Meyer-lemon spinach, smokey jus. Carol thought it was good, Kathy was disappointed. Although the meat was tender she felt it lacked flavor. We also ordered the truffled fries for the table. I had read more than one review claiming “the truffle fries are to die for”. You die for them. I’m not; they were just OK.  As I mentioned earlier, there was just something about the entire meal that made everything slightly unfulfilling. It may be that we went in with expectations set too high. Chef Michael walked thru the dining room and stopped at a few tables but much to Carol B.’s dismay (she’s a huge fan) he didn’t get to our table. Eventually, he changed from his white Chef jacket and sat with some friends to enjoy his own meal. As we were walking out, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind posing for a photo. Carol was mortified that I would disturb him while he was eating. She is totally correct. It is NOT something I should have done but, he was very gracious and got up and told Carol and my wife, Kathy that, “it’s no trouble at all”

    Michael Chiarella was very nice to take the time to pose with us. He also makes a very nice Cabernet. I also have read enough reviews on Bottega to know that it’s usually a great dining experience. We just didn’t feel it on this particular night.


    Posted in Ad Hoc (Yountville), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by ballymote

    Our Monday night dinner took us to Thomas Keller’s (Chef Owner of The French Laundry) other restaurant, Ad Hoc. This is a unique dining spot in that it features just one dinner menu each night. It usually features an appetizer, a main course, a cheese course and a dessert. On this particular Monday evening they were featuring their famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken which customarily is served every other Monday.

    Unlike here in the Philly/South Jersey area there are NO BYOB’s in California and corkage charges are applied when you bring your own bottle to any of the restaurants. Some of them will waive the corkage on a one for one basis. In other words, if you buy one bottle from their wine list you can bring one bottle of your own and the corkage fee is waived. That’s what we did at Ad Hoc bringing a 2007 EMH/Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon which we had purchased earlier in the day while visiting the winery. We purchased a 2006 Dillon Vineyard, Chardonnay which was produced right here in Yountville, from the Ad Hoc wine list. The Chardonnay went well with our starter and the cheese course while the Cabernet was perfect with the fried chicken.

    We all started with the Panzanella Salad, heirloom tomatoes from the French Laundry garden, english cucumbers, palladin croutons, kalamata olives, shaved red onion and basil cream. This was a very tasty rendition filled with absolutely the freshest of veggies. Joe B. in particular really appreciated the quality of the produce.

    Our waiter, Dan, and the hostess, Julia were everywhere, delivering plates of food and making sure all of the guests had what they needed. There is a nice relaxed atmosphere at Ad Hoc that goes a long way toward making the dining experience enjoyable.

     Once the salad plates were cleared we were presented with a heaping bowl of Buttermilk Fried Chicken served nice and hot with a family style bowl of duck fat potatoes, roasted bell peppers, savoy cabbage and shaved fennel slaw to complete the evening’s feast.

     The chicken was delicious, the potatoes very good, but we pretty much all agreed that the shaved fennel cole slaw was very bland. It wasn’t enough to put a real damper on the meal but it was a bit surprising that it lacked any flavor.

    The cheese course was  interesting, a Cana de Cabra, which is a soft Spanish goat’s milk cheese, was accompanied with lola rosa, late summer melons and toasted pistachios and the salad-cheese combo was very good.

    The meal was topped off with a tasty dessert.

    Raspberries – n -Cream Sorbet with an elephant ear cookie. Great flavors on the sorbet, crisp and light cookie and the meal was complete. At $49.00 per person it’s a pretty good deal, especially for Napa.

    I’d say we were three for three in the good dinner department with all six of us looking forward to the next one.


    Posted in Info on Wine, Kapcsandy Family Winery, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by ballymote

    We awoke early on Wednesday morning (Oct 6th) and drove to Yountville for a quick breakfast at Bouchon Bakery before heading up to meet with Lou Kapcsandy at his State Lane property. This was a visit I had been looking forward to with great anticipation. Kapcsandy Wines are quickly becoming one of the new California “cult” wines and everyone who has visited and posted reports of their visit on the wine boards seems to come away totally impressed with Lou and his operation.

     We arrived exactly at 10:00 A.M. and Lou was there to greet us and show us the grounds. His passion and pride was immediately apparent as he related how through persistence and a bit of luck he was able to purchase the former Beringer property back in 2000. Soon after purchase, and with the help of famed winemaker Helen Turley and her husband, John Wetlaufer, he replanted the entire vineyard and set about working toward his goal of producing world-class wines. His first few vintages, beginning in 2003, began to draw notice and good reviews and in 2007 he brought on Denis Malbec, winemaker at Chateau LaTour in France to work his magic. The results were almost immediate. Recent vintages of the Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon, State Lane Vineyard (2007) and Roberta’s Reserve Merlot have, according to noted wine critic, Robert Parker, achieved perfection and Lou’s goal of having his wines reach the level of the First Growth’s of Bordeaux has been achieved. You can tell though that Lou is not about to rest on his laurels as he is as committed as ever to turning out the best possible wines each and every year.

    We moved inside to the tasting room and Lou began pouring virtually the entire line-up including a 1995 Beringer Cabernet from State Lane that had served as a mentor wine for him. Lou, by the way, was, and continues to be a collector of fine wines and has a cellar that would make anyone envious. I was already aware of how good his wines were but it was a treat to watch the others in our group as they sampled one after another of the Kapcsandy wines. Naturally, the highlight of the tasting was the 100 point 2007 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon but I think what stayed with everyone even more than the lingering finish of each of those wines was the cleanliness of the entire operation.

    As Lou escorted us from one area of the plant to another it became apparent that what is clean by other’s standards is downright filthy by Lou’s standards. Every inch of floor space is immaculate to the point of being able to eat off it. The stainless steel sparkles. The barrels are spotless. Lou would have it no other way. His attention to the minutest detail is meticulous. He could be described as being a stern task-master except that he has an obvious softer side and a sense of humor. The two hours flew by and all of us learned so much and were totally impressed by the man and his wines. We made some purchases, begged to be remembered when the 2008’s were released for sale and thought that was the conclusion of our Kapcsandy experience. It was not.

    On Friday, Gerry B. and I drove back up to Kapcsandy to pick up our wines. Much to our surprise and delight, we arrived just as last night’s harvest of merlot grapes was being sorted in the plant. Lou took us over and we had the opportunity to watch as the grapes were de-stemmed and moved slowly along the conveyor belt with nine pickers on each side scanning the grapes closely, removing the imperfections. By the time the grapes dropped gently onto the next area where they were gently prodded and suctioned into the tanks, they were perfect. It was fascinating to watch and observe as the climax to a year of growing took place. So much goes into the end product that we see as a bottle of wine. It starts in the soil, gets nurtured by Mother Nature, receives good “parenting” from Lou and his team, a touch of magic from Denis Malbec and all we see is the finished product on a shelf.

    Thank you so much, Lou, for allowing us for taking the time during your busiest of seasons to both enlighten and entertain our group. Keep up the great work!!