Veraison - Grapes are ripening !!

Veraison -  Grapes are ripening !!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Napa Valley Nuptials

Last weekend we drove to Napa Valley for the wedding of Amy Irvine and the man of her dreams, Mark Whiley. It was hosted by her parents and our good friends, Carolyn and Mike Irvine. The event took place at the historic, stone-walled Greystone, the St. Helena campus of the famed Culinary Institute of America (CIA). In addition to its degreed culinary programs, Greystone has a Wine Spectator restaurant, a Spice Islands marketplace, and a Vintners Hall of Fame.

We were greeted at the entrance by students with trays of sparkling wine and hors d'oeuvres of salmon tartar, lamb rib chops, and stuffed zucchini blossoms. After several rounds of refills and finger-lickings, we were led upstairs to the Vintners Hall of Fame where the gastronomic event unfolded.

Formerly the Christian Brothers Barrel Room, the Hall of Fame “celebrates the men and women whose collective vision, determination, and hard work have been responsible for the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry.” The Hall’s walls are dotted with 2,200-gallon redwood wine barrels. On each barrel is a sculpted and spotlighted bronze plaque for each of the current 28 inductees. The room has great ambience and ideal for a large group celebration.

Our white-linen-draped table of ten was topped with an eye-catching, 21st Century arrangement of branch-like stems reaching upward to a cluster of beautiful Fall flowers. Miniature votives hung from the branches. Nearby there were four food stations, and each was staffed with cheerful CIA students uniformed in white tunics on which their names were red-stitched. The stations were topped with these gourmet temptations: Salad of Poached Maine Lobster; Bacon Wrapped Scallops; Risotto; Deconstructed Beef Wellington; Multi-National Cheese Station.

For this food and wine enthusiast, food stations offer the ideal arrangement for time and food management. I like to graze, and I like to graze at my leisure. The luxurious and delicate Maine Lobster salad savored with a glass of 2008 Raymond Chardonnay was the perfect opener for the progression to follow.

I’ve always enjoyed seared scallops and, for my second course, their bacon-wrapped version, which I requested over risotto, was as good as any. Another pour of the Chardonnay cleansed my palate, and I strolled around the Hall while pondering the timing of the Beef.

When I returned, the 2007 Mt. Veeder Cabernet was poured and waiting for me. The beef was rich and flavorful, perfectly medium-rare, a unique and enjoyable version of Wellington. The Cabernet, needless to say, was the ideal partner. I asked for another pour and edged to the Cheese station to assess its offerings.

The Cheese station was exceptional. I enjoyed all cheeses as well as the accompaniments of honeycomb, nuts and membrillo, a fruit-based jelly. The Cabernet was a perfect match. By now, I was sated and tried to decide if I could stay upright and dance to the rhythmic, rockin’ band that had many of the younger women dancing together in an exciting sisterhood, communal exhibition. Helga and I gave it a shot, but it was with the slower numbers where we found our comfort zone. Youth has its advantages.

I’m told we missed an end-of-evening, blazing sparkler send off for Amy and Mark, but we were able to wish them well at the “Morning after Brunch.” Carolyn and Mike outdid themselves, and I’m certain American Express really appreciates their efforts.


  1. Tom,

    This sounds like an awesome experience. I wish I was there with you and our common friend, Mr. Lee. Instead, your words brought me there.

    Kudos for your wine blog. I'll watch it keenly.


    Paul De Gregorio

  2. Tom,

    A four star review of a four star wedding. A great blog.

    D. Tobin

  3. Thank you for capturing our night, what an awesome momento! It was so great to have you there to celebrate with us.

    Amy and Mark