In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(700 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(300 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to famous Joseph Phelps Winery and had lunch at Michelin star rated Auberge du Soleil. From our home in Danville, both places are located near each other and only a one hour drive to experience "world class wine and food."
Recently, we were in France and met Elizabeth Neuman, granddaughter of Joseph Phelps, at a private wine tasting in the famous wine region of Bordeaux. Elizabeth was kind enough to arrange a private tasting for us at their newly renovated winery in St. Helena. Their famous Insignia is one of my favorite wines. Her legendary grandfather passed away earlier this year.
Famous wine critic Robert Parker says, "Joseph Phelps was one of the great visionaries of Napa Valley. His legacy is one of extraordinary quality. He was one of the first to see the merit in blending,which his legendary Insignia, first debuted in 1974, has proven year after year. It remains one of the world's finest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends. He also wasn't content just to stay at home in Napa, but branched out with cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. Joe Phelps was a leader, and one of the greats of the wine world."
Our private tasting at Phelps was in the newly renovated Backus room. Our host Missy was very personable and a wealth of wine information.
The tasting began with the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Viognier that were both soft and refreshing. Both were aged for 7 months in French oak puncheons.
Next was the 2012 Pinot Noir from their Pastorate vineyard and 2012 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard that are both located on the Sonoma coast and aged for 14 months in French Oak barrels. Both were spectacular, but we preferred the Quarter Moon vineyard.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley was the next selection. It was rich and flavorful with 91%Cabernet, 6%Merlot, 1%Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc from 100% estate grown vineyards. It is a full bodied wine with great value at a price of 70 dollars per bottle.
The highlight of the tasting was the famous 2012 Insignia and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Backus Vineyards.
Insignia is a perfect blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Verdot, 10% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc from 100% estate grown vineyards and aged in French oak for 24 months. This wine has always been a favorite of ours and as usual lived up to it's regal reputation.
Finally, it was a real treat to taste for the first time the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Backus Vineyard. This spectacular wine is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec and 3% Petite Verdot from their estate vineyard in Oakville and aged 2 years in 100% new French oak. This wine is sensational and was so good that we made sure we took a bottle back to Danville to share with our wine and foodie friends.
After this elegant tasting, we had lunch at Auberge du Soliel located very close to the winery.
From the web site, "Auberge du Soleil restaurant began in 1981 nestled on 33 acres overlooking the lush vines of Napa Valley. The cuisine has evolved with a wine country theme where innovative menus inspired by the bounty of the vine are paired with food in ways that delight and inspire guests and long time devotees. The restaurant presents luxury at its finest while overlooking some of Napa's most renowned vineyards. Offering more than 40 of the Valleys finest wines by the glass and boasting a cellar of nearly 17,000 wines, our guests can enjoy a full sensory experience of the California wine country."
We ate on the terrace that had heavenly views of the peaceful and powerful Napa Valley. For the entree Linda ordered the stuffed squash blossom, ratatouille, ricotta, white corn, romano beans, and basil broth that was served picture perfect, light and lovely.
I began with the white corn soup with Maine rock crab and chervil oil that was heated to perfection and sensational. For my entree, I had the mushroom mille feuille, slow cooked farm egg, snap peas and watercress purée that was unique and very good. To cap off this meal, it was recommended by our attentive waiter to share the garden mint ice cream, valrhona bahibe cremeux, devil's food cake and peppermint meningue that was a fitting ending to a wonderful day in Napa.
In conclusion, we would highly recommend this world class wine and food experience.
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