It’s a Grape Idea!
Tastemaker Sharon Damante Creates Spice Blends for Food That Make Your Wine Taste Great.
Growing up in a large Italian family, it’s not surprising that Sharon Damante developed an interest in food and wine at an early age. “Food and family were the center point of my childhood,” Damante says. “I learned to appreciate the flavors of the dishes and felt an innate drive to recreate my favorites. Later, I fell in love with wine and the nuances of proper food and wine pairings, and I’ve never stopped nurturing that appreciation.”
It was that culinary enthusiasm that led her into the restaurant business and eventually propelled a life-changing move to Napa Valley. “This area is an ideal place for me to pursue my culinary goals,” Damante says. “I began entering recipe contests and live cooking events. I was really successful at it, and that led me to go after another dream – to be on the Food Network.”
The call eventually came when she was asked to join the cast of the Food Network’s cooking competition series “All Star Academy,” followed by an appearance on “Guy’s Grocery Games” and a role as prospect-mentee on “Guy’s Big Project.” Those experiences gave her the confidence to become a private chef. She began working with area wineries and visitors to the Valley, creating wine dinners where every ingredient, herb, and spice is specifically chosen to mirror the flavors and aromas of wine varietals being served.
“You want every sip of wine to be enjoyed at its best,” adds Damante, “that means every ingredient in your dish should be chosen to complement the wine.”
“So I created my own blends, and then suddenly my guests were asking if they could buy them.”
Damante launched Winemaker’s Pantry in August of 2018, bringing to market pairings for five of the most popular wine varietals and giving wine lovers and home cooks a simple way to enhance their wines. “My Cabernet blend combines a hint of juniper with warming notes of allspice (among its more than 12 ingredients) and adds earthy porcini mushroom and espresso sea salts to evoke the umami undertones that help bring out the varietal’s deep red fruit,” Damante explains.
Winemaker’s Pantry blends can now be found at many wineries and specialty markets in northern California. Damante is also producing custom blends and additional varietal blends as well as private labeling products for winery clients throughout California. A recently announced partner- ship with Vineyard 29’s second label Cru includes the blends in both direct-to-consumer retail sales as well as being featured at their downtown Napa tasting lounge adjacent to Oxbow, Cru Tasting Lounge.
“People won’t be disappointed when they use my seasonings,” Damante says. “They can take my products home and never have to second guess themselves; I’ve done the work to make sure the pairing is perfect, just like it was in wine country.”
For information, videos, recipes and tips, visit www.winemakerspantry.com
Article By: Michael Koehn