In my last column I wrote about the book “A Moveable Thirst” in which its authors visited all of 141 public wine tasting rooms in Napa County. Dave Thompson, CEO and owner of Pacific Online Inc., (an Internet service provider), informed me of his similar idea, The Napa Wine Project, but it is much more expanded. Jokingly, he suggests a name for his project might be “A Moveable Thirst on Steroids.” Thompson has set himself the task of visiting all of the commercial wineries/producers (real and virtual) in Napa County. He has been at this “labor of love” project for four years, and has posted his results online at www.napawineproject.com.
To date, he has visited more than 600 wineries/producers and he estimates that the total number in Napa County may be about 800, although estimating the number is fraught with complications. In addition to those with public tasting rooms, there are many below the radar (such as those in garages). It takes a dedicated sleuth to sniff (pun intended) them out. About 350 wineries have their own physical plant; others are APs (alternating proprietorship) where a bonded winery permits a producer to use its facilities; or are made at custom crush facilities. Thompson is based in Santa Rosa.
The 2010 San Francisco Michelin Guide, the Holy Grail for foodies, is off the press. Thirty-nine Bay Area restaurants received Michelin stars with Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in Yountville being the only restaurant in the Bay Area to receive the coveted, 3-star award. (In the guide’s nearly 110-year history, only 71 restaurants world-wide have been awarded three stars.) In Napa Valley, the only restaurant to receive two stars was The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena. One-star awardees are Solbar at the Solage resort in Calistoga (the chef is 34-year old Brandon Sharp, and the award may finally put Calistoga on the culinary map); Terra in St. Helena: Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford; Bouchon, étoile at Domaine Chandon, and Redd in Yountville; and La Toque and Ubuntu in Napa. For info, visit www.michelin.com.
The Mandarin Black Tie Ball, held Oct. 10 at Jarvis Winery, has set the pace for the holiday season celebrations. Arriving guests were ushered in to the crystal room (so named for Bill Jarvis’s collection of huge geodes, lined with amethyst crystals that would make the Smithsonian envious) for an hour of schmoozing over glasses of Jarvis wines and an array of exotic dim sum appetizers. The main event was a sumptuous dinner in winery’s huge cave ballroom. Tables were set around a dance floor where a troop of professional dancers entertained guests with series of cha-chas, tangos and waltzes. One of the stories of the night: Someone was telling a sweet, old lady about Jarvis and said “its entire facility is underground.” The dear soul inquired, “The vineyards too?”
Brix Restaurant & Gardens in Napa recently held its last of three monthly, special food events called “Brix Unpaved: International Street Food Nights.” In August, the event theme was Bollywood with the foods of India; in September, the theme was Bangkok and featured Thai foods. On Oct. 15, the theme was “Street Foods of Sicily.” The program was so successful that Brix may make the program a yearly happening.
CABOOSE ITEM: As I have noted before, new books on the wine country pop up like mushrooms in spring. The latest is “Into the Earth: A Wine Cave Renaissance” by photographer Daniel D’Agostini and Molly Chappellet. The book has just been released by Panache Partners. I haven’t seen it yet, but I understand it contains stunning photographs taken in some of the most spectacular wine caves in the Napa and Sonoma wine country. The book is $50 and available at www.panache.com.
(George Starke can be reached at wineroads @yahoo.com, or at 942-0733.)