Pairing Unique and Rare Into Guest Experiences
Many wineries in Napa Valley have programs to educate visitors about their wines, but St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery offers two fascinating experiences that might be unique. One lets guests create their own premium white wine; the second pairs wine with vegetables, a rare subject in Cabernet-centric Napa Valley.
Blend a Custom White Bordeaux Wine
Many wineries let visitors blend red wine, typically from up to five Bordeaux varieties or different vineyards, but St. Supéry allows them to try it with white wine. In effect, the My Virtú exercise allows guests to make their own version of the winery’s Virtú white Bordeaux blend, itself based on the French model. Although Americans are infatuated with Sauvignon Blanc, most Bordeaux versions are a blend of that grape and Sémillon. Many California (and Washington) versions are, too, though it’s not always noted on the label. Guests get three wine samples plus a pipette and beaker for measuring their blends. One wine is St. Supéry’s popular standard Estate Sauvignon Blanc, their flagship varietal. The winery is the largest grower of Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley with 200 acres of vines on its 1,535-plus acre Dollarhide Ranch. This grape is made in stainless steel tanks with no oak contact, bringing forward the familiar grapefruit and guava flavors most people associate with Sauvignon Blanc.
The second wine, Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Sémillon, is sold at the winery and to club members. It varies a bit each year, but the 2017 vintage used in this tasting is 1 percent Sauvignon Blanc. Aged in French oak, 25 percent new, this wine is more herbaceous, and even nutty with hints of lemon thyme.
The last wine is the winery’s Virtú blend. In 2017, winemaker Michael Scholz chose 59 percent Sémillon and 41 percent Sauvignon Blanc fermented in stainless steel, then aged in French oak for five months.
The blending process is straightforward. The participants try different proportions of the two components to choose their favorite blend. Can they beat Aussie winemaker Scholz’s palate? Probably not, but it’s still fun to try.
At the end of the experiment, the host prepares a 750-ml bottle of the chosen blend to take home. The entertaining program costs $60 per person.
Vino + Veggies
At a time when many people are choosing to eat less meat – or none, it’s not necessary to be a vegetarian to want to learn how to pair wine with vegetables. It’s a fascinating exercise as many vegetables really don’t complement many wines on their own, though there are exceptions like “meaty” mushrooms.
Kawachi created four samples from vegetables and herbs from St. Supéry’s culinary garden behind the winery and from Dollarhide Ranch, a paradise for plants, so the offerings are constantly changing. They also include local cheeses, a key part of the success. The creations were more sophisticated than the slices of cheese and charcuterie often used for wine pairing. It quickly became clear that the spices, herbs, and accompaniments were what made the wine sing. Nothing but a bit of salt is needed with a good piece of beef or salmon, but a carrot by itself doesn’t really cut the mustard, so to speak.
The first taste was St. Supéry garden cherry tomatoes with shiso and three varieties of cucumbers adorned with shaved Skyhill Farms goat feta. It paired perfectly with 2018 St. Supéry Napa Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Goat milk cheese and Sauvignon Blanc are a classic pairing, but the acidic/sweet tomatoes, herbal shiso and crisp cucumbers complement the match.
The second pairing was garden- roasted carrots served with preserved St. Supéry lemon and dukkah spice mixture served with 2017 St. Supéry Napa Valley Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Sémillon. This worked well even though the assertive dukkah might seem overpowering without tasting the combination.
The third selection was St. Supéry Garden squash blossoms stuffed with herbed Skyhill Farms chèvre and basil matched with 2017 St, Supéry Napa Valley Estate Virtú. That was a natural. The good news is that anyone who grows squash has an abundance of blossoms. Plucking some is the only way to keep from being over- whelmed with the vegetables (really, fruit, but who’s pedantic?)
The final pair was roasted maitake mushrooms, the only item not harvested from the winery garden, plus St. Supéry garden eggplant and green beans served with 2015 St. Supéry Napa Valley Estate Elú, the red counterpart to Virtú. Virtú is a blend of the five popular Bordeaux reds with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating. This combination would have been fine on its own but a sprinkling of distinctive zataar elevated the flavors. Because the vegetables are seasonal, guests would likely get to try other combinations.
St. Supéry’s Vino & Veggies pairing is not an attempt to serve lunch by circumventing Napa County regulations as at some wineries but a tasty and educational experience for wine lovers. There’s still room for a late lunch or dinner following. The cost is $65 per person.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
www.stsupery.com // 707-963-4507
8440 St. Helena Highway/Highway 29, Rutherford, CA