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More than 250 guests attended Saturday night’s bASH, Appellation St. Helena’s annual food and wine pairing competition. The historic barrel room at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone was the scene of the event, where both student and restaurant teams were paired with the Appellation’s wineries and competed against each other.

“This was designed to give the idea of what these wines would taste like when it is actually consumed,” said bASH Event Chair Jeff Blaum. “It showcases the wine in a practical manner.”

More than 20 teams competed at the event. Pairings included ASH wines and creative creations from both restaurants and students of the CIA.

Among the creative creations students and local chefs presented were goat cheese tartlets, braised short ribs with caramelized onions, beef Wellington with an innovative twist and many others.

After all the votes were counted, it turned out that winning dishes in both of the categories were all-American favorites. In the restaurant category the winner was Market’s Mac & Cheese paired with Taplin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

The winning students’ team was Jeanna DeMarco and Liz Strole, who created Short Ribs Sliders with garlic aioli on gouda and dried cherries bun. It was paired with David Fulton Petite Sirah.

Students David Moosman and Stephanie Torgerson won second place with a beef Wellington paired with Pellet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Students James Dagleish and Cody Bucholz won third place. Their trio of creations was paired with Titus Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.

Blaum said he was satisfied with the wide variety of wines that were poured at the event. “We were able to present the various varietals grown within the Appellation,” he said. “Along with our flagship, cabernet sauvignon, we presented sauvignon blanc, Riesling, petite sirah, zinfandel, petite verdot and blends.”

As part of Arts in April, the work of local artist Penelope Moore was showcased at the event.

“I paint food and wine, and having my art presented at this food- and wine-centered event was a great exposure opportunity. It was great to showcase my art to the culinary people of the Napa Valley,” said Moore.  

“I felt that the student chefs put all their heart and soul into each dish they’ve created and I enjoyed the wine pairings. It elevated the experience and enhanced the dish that it was paired with,” she added.

Blaum said the combination of young artists and culinary students was inspiring. “It is so exciting to put together an event with so many talented people, and to draw them from such a small community is truly special.” Blaum added that ASH will be making a contribution to the CIA’s scholarship fund from the event’s proceeds.

This year’s event was sold out, with guests from seven different states attending. “This is our first time at bASH and I love the fact the room is not too crowded,” said Glenna Valley of Lafayette. Valley enjoyed the different food and wine pairings. “It seems like they really came together to pair the right dish with the right wine,” she said.

“It’s absolutely worth the trip from Lafayette and we would definitely come again. It is so nice to have the opportunity to try different wines under one roof, so that you don’t have to drive around,” she added.

Catherine Johnson came all the way from Lodi to celebrate a special event. “Today is my birthday and my daughter invited me here,” she said. “This is our first time at bASH and at the CIA and it’s amazing. It’s one of the best events I’ve ever been to. There are so many great food choices and there are no bad wines, only good wines and great wines.”

Members of Appellation St. Helena, the organization behind bASH, said they also were pleased with the outcome. “We’re grapegrowers and we joined ASH last December. I think the organization is very forward-thinking and dynamic,” said George Watson of ONE Vineyard. “This is a little bit of a different event, there’s nothing like it in the Napa Valley.”

“The energy of the local winemakers and the culinary students is wonderful to experience,” added his friend Jack Pagendarm.

Blaum said, “This is a unique opportunity for the students. They are paired with the world-class wines of ASH and cook competitively in public for the first time, in most cases. Their talent and dedication is evident.”

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