by Ian White and Jonathan Cristaldi

As you walk through the doors of the Andaz on First Street in downtown Napa, you might not be surprised to see a large vine hanging in the lobby, or a map of wineries—as a matter of fact you’re likely to be greeted by the delectable sound of a cork popping, and some local wine flowing—after all, this is Napa Valley!

But had you ventured into this posh, wine-centric hotel on May 2, you’d have seen bartenders shaking cocktails and chefs serving up paired bites with friendly, but competitive energy.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea: there were no stirred up “fancy sangrias,” nor any weird wine-based cocktails—either of which should be avoided due to the high likelihood of a serious hangover. Rather, wine country’s hottest chefs and mixologists were enmeshed in a consumer judged battle featuring Perfect Purée of Napa Valley and Campo de Encanto Pisco for the Inaugural Wine Country Cocktail Showdown.

Duggan McDonnell, co-founder of Campo de Encanto Pisco and author of “Drinking the Devil’s Acre,” believes the best cocktail innovation is happening in the Bay Area. Of the cocktails featured in the showdown, “They were some of the most imaginative in wine country,” he said, pointing to the surplus of fresh, local ingredients from farms around Napa.

This boisterous and creative soirée was hosted by KRSH radio host and cocktail countess Ziggy Eschlman and featured contestants from Morimoto, Geyserville Gun Club & Lounge, Andaz Napa, Ca’Momi Osteria, Carpe Diem, Napa Palisades Saloon, and Duke’s Spirited Cocktails.

Each had to choose from Campo de Encanto’s portfolio of four Pisco “expressions” as well as The Perfect Purée’s lineup of tasty options like Thai Basil & Black Pepper. Attendees judged based on presentation, creativity, pairing—and of course flavor. At stake was a People’s Choice Award, while all proceeds benefited Napa’s Harvest Magnet School. Scott Kendall, owner of Carpe Diem, who placed 2nd, said he was “thrilled to place even place” given the high level of competition.

 

Below are the winning recipes for both cocktails and bites.

 

1ST PLACE

Geyserville Gun Club Bar and Lounge
Geyserville, CA

The team:
Nicholas Crouch, Bartender
Dino Bugica, Chef
Jesse Suazo, Sous Chef

 

Cocktail:

“Grape Ex·pec·ta·tion”

Created by Nicholas Crouch

2 oz. fresh pineapple infused Grand & Noble Encanto Pisco
1 oz. lime juice
.75 oz. Caramelized pineapple purée
.75 house sour cherry reduction
Shake and fine strain
Serve over fresh ice in a Collins glass.
Top with club soda and
Dash angostura bitters
Dash vanilla bitters

Bite:

GGC Pork Belly

1 lb. Pork Belly
500 ml black vinegar
1 liter chicken stock
2 carrots
1 stalk of celery
3 onions
Blood orange peel (garnish)
Rosemary (garnish)
Pickled daikon
Serrano chili
Sea salt
Sweet miso

Brown pork belly on all sides, then remove. In the same pan, sauté all vegetables. Add brown vinegar and chicken stock to pan, bring to boil. Pour pan’s contents over pork belly. Cook pork belly in oven for 3 hours at 425 degrees covered in tin foil. Cool, slice, then sear. Serve 4 ounes per person with orange rind, pickled daikon, serrano chili, sea salt and sweet miso.

 

2ND PLACE

Carpe Diem
Napa, CA

The team:

Everyone at Carpe Diem.

 

Cocktail:

“Taint’d Love”

Created by Vince Lee

1 ½ oz. Thai Chili infused Campo de Encanto ‘Grand & Noble’ Pisco
1 oz. The Perfect Purée Coconut Puree
¾ oz. lime juice
6 mint leaves
1 oz. pineapple gomme syrup
Toasted coconut and Thai basil (garnish)

 

Infuse Encanto Pisco with Thai Chillies for three days.  Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard for at least 10 seconds. Double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with the toasted coconut and Thai basil.

 

Bite:

Ahi Tuna Tartare served in a Phyllo cup

Created by Chef Scott Kendall

Diced sashimi-grade Ahi tuna
Diced pineapple
Diced jicama
Diced avocado

Mixture: 
The Perfect Purée Coconut Puree
Hoison Sauce
Ginger

These ingredients were then tossed in a mixture of The Perfect Purée Coconut Puree, hoisin sauce and ginger and then placed in a phyllo cup.

 

3RD PLACE

Duke’s Spirited Cocktails

Healdsburg, CA

The team:
Laura Sanfilippo, Co-Owner
Tara Heffernon, Co-Owner

Cocktail:

“The Afterglow”

Created by Laura Sanfilippo

1 ½ oz. Campo de Encanto ‘Grand & Noble’ Pisco
½ oz. The Perfect Purée Apricot Puree
½ oz. honey chamomile syrup
½ oz. lemon juice
2 dashes of Burdock House Bitters

Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard for 10 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with edible flowers

Chamomile Syrup:

1 cup wildflower honey
1 cup water
4 tablespoons dried chamomile

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool completely and strain out chamomile.

 

Bite:

Whipped Tarragon Goat Cheese on Toasted Brioche

16 oz. goat cheese
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon chopped
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
salt and pepper to taste

For the honey, heat in a small sauce pan until incorporated:

1 cup honey
4 oz The Perfect Purée Apricot Puree
zest of one orange

Add 1/2 cup of pistachios and teaspoon salt to food processor and grind until fine powder. Toast sliced brioche and smear goat cheese mix on top, drizzle honey then sprinkle pistachio salt on top. Garnish waith fresh dill.