Sunday in Napa - Chapter 1: The Colors and Shapes of Tiles and Cheese

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is going to be a three part story (seems to be happening a lot on this blog recently). It revolves around good friends, good wine, and good food. Hope you enjoy!Driving into Napa, my party and I marveled at Northern California Fall in it's full bloom. We were in awe at the undulating hills covered in infinite paralleled rows of grape vines harvested weeks before, now showing off their autumnal vestments. Geese flew overhead and hundreds of hidden birds held who knows how many conversations about whatever birds converse about (acorns and nests, perhaps?).

Elise had organized for some of the local food bloggers to go on a tour of wineries in Napa, so we all carpooled together and gathered for what would be an educational and entertaining day. For me this was going to be small vacation in a way. A chance to escape work and class and the grind. A chance to enjoy a crisp fall day outside, food and blog conversation with friends who actually had interest in the subjects. A chance to enjoy some truly good food and some well aged wine.Our first stop was the geometric, olive tree laden, and colorful Quixote winery. We were met by Carl Doumani and Pam Hunter, the proprietors of the Seussian grape press we were all beguiled by. They founded the winery in Stags' Leap back in 1996 and have since produced fantastic cabernets and petit syrahs, which I will describe in my most limited wine-speak later.
(Architecture Photograph by Fernanda)
Carl began out tour with a description of the architecture and short history. The design of the winery, and consequently Quixote label, was done in part by famous Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Known for his keen attention to local tiles, movement, color, and geometry (encouraging a lack of straight lines) the building is interactive and participatory member of the Quixote family in a way. It really wouldn't be the same without it. And plus, what winery is complete without a giant gold turret in order to encourage success in even the most karmic sense?

Carl then took us down to the vineyard and lessoned us on the worm horn used to help give the land nutrients and the use of various organic methods used to grow the berries such as powdered dead moths sprayed over the plants as a deterrent to other moths. Think of it as eco-friendly heads on a pike. Tea, worm compost, and a bit of video surveillance to keep an eye on the grape gobbling turkeys are all important to production.Carl then retired for the rest of the day, and left our party in the intelligent and friendly hands of Pam as she led us to her home for a wine tasting and cheese pairing. Their home is, for the lack of a better word, jaw dropping. Well designed, warm earthy tones, and a subtle Asian influence.

We gathered around the table where a trio of tasty cheeses awaited us for a wine pairing using the Quixote wines. We were then met by Janet Fletcher, the two time James Beard Award winning cookbook author and food columnist for the S.F. Chronicle (and whose job I covet). She guided us through samples of Pecorino di Grotta, erhaki, and zamorano cheeses. All of the paired well with the Petit Syrah and Cab, my fave was the erhaki with it's slight nuttiness, and slightly creamy texture. The petit syrah was delightfully fruity, with very low tannins. A nice relaxing, drinkable wine. Janet also kindly provided all of us with copies of her book Cheese & Wine, a delightful guide I had actually on my wishlist.It was a thoroughly relaxing event, we all chatted about food media, and sipped wine. Deliciously decadent and perfectly relaxing, something we all needed as a respite away from life. Good wine, good cheese, good conversation. How could it get any better?

Chapter 2 of the Sunday in Napa posts; Braised & Roasted.


  1. wow! What great images. I can't wait to see the red wine cake you hinted at creating.

  2. What a perfect way to get away from it all! Your photographs are gorgeous. I want more. (Please.)

  3. It was a perfect day, wasn't it?

    Your photos are fantastic! My favorite is the one of Carl behind the glasses. I have a post on it too, of course. I look forward to further installments!


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