I have to say, food blogging has its perks!!
I am lucky enough to be in Sonoma, California this weekend as a guest of Kendall-Jackson Winery at their 1st annual Sip, Bite & Blog Conference. I haven't been back to the California wine country in several years...I've missed it. It still feels a little like home here.
Anyway, Kendall-Jackson has put together a jam-packed-fantastical- weekend of wine and food education and generously flown in food bloggers from around the world. Including me!! We are learning first-hand from their winemaking and culinary team, about their wines and the food they grow here at the estate. The word PHENOMENAL is what comes to mind when I think of what we are experiencing here.
Our evening began with a quick ride from the hotel to the Kendall-Jackson Estate where tasting tables were set with seven wines from the Kendall-Jackson portfolio. We talked about each wine's flavor profile, where its grapes were grown and winemaking techniques used to create them. We then tasted each wine with a specially prepared dish, made mostly from food grown at the estate or sourced locally. Again, PHENOMENAL is what comes to mind.
We started with KJ's 2009 Avant Chardonnay. This wine was paired with a Cornmeal Crusted Estate Heirloom Fried Green Tomato with Delice de la Vallee Cheese and Breakfast Radishes. There was an amazing sense of balance between the wine and food while the tomato helped highlight the bright acidity of the wine. Quite fantastic.
With KJ's 2009 Vintner's Reserve Riesling a Buckwheat Crepe with Prosciutto, House-made Apple-Pear Butter & Bellwether Farms Carmody Cheese was served. The melted cheese was combined with grilled green onions and prosciutto, making this very-quesadilla like appetizer, a perfecting match with the crisp Riesling.
On to my favorite pairing of the night, KJ's 2007 Highland Estates Seco Highlands Pinot Noir. For me, this food-wine pairing was epic, just fantastic. As a Pinot Noir producer, I am partial to this varietal, but really, when paired with this Smoked Fennel and Tomato Soup, my knees went week. The smoky finish of the soup topped with Pinot Noir grapeseed oil....wow, wow, wow. I'll be dreaming about this one.
As if it couldn't get any more outrageous, the 2007 Highland Estates Alisos Hills Syrah was tasted with Sweet Tea Brined Niman Ranch Pork Belly Sliders with Syrah BBQ Sauce. The pork belly was roasted and dressed with Kendall-Jackson's house-made Syrah BBQ sauce. In case you were wondering...mouthwatering is an understatement.
For a final savory finish, the 2005 Highland Estates Trace Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon was served with Snake River Farms Beef & Nopales Tacos. House-made mole sauce and fresh nopales (cactus leaves) from Kendall-Jackson's South American garden really knocked this pairing out of the park.
Dessert was another meal in and of itself. The 2008 Late Harvest Riesling was shown off with Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberry Gelee and an Icebox Cookie. The Tahitian vanilla bean scented buttermilk played nicely with the velvety wine. The strawberries were infused with lemon verbena and made into the gelee. Unreal.
And then this incredibly lush 2007 Late Harvest Chardonnay was put together with the most amazing Mama Frischkorn's Caramel Corn (in an adorable box no less). There are no words for this, it was just dang good.
All these recipes are available here.
As if all of that wasn't enough...we then stepped out to a beautiful patio area where tables were set and wine was flowing. Dinner was being prepared in the outdoor kitchen and outdoor pizza oven.
The tables were soon filled with freshly roasted vegetables from the Kendall-Jackson gardens, topped with local cheeses. Pizzas arrived right out of the oven made with fresh ingredients as well. In fact, the pizzas never stopped coming out, and all were uniquely different.
The culinary team was without a doubt exceptional. They even let many of the bloggers join in and help make the pizzas. Overall, it was a great experience for all. Dessert was also over the top, a tiramisu trifle. I wish I had a picture...the chocolate curls were quite impressive.
And here's Brian Kraemer...one of our event organizers. Follow him on Twitter @briankraemer...you'll love him.
Also, I was lucky enough tonight to spend some time with Katie Jackson. Katie is the daughter of legendary, Jess Jackson, who sadly passed earlier this year. Her father is a true icon of the wine industry and will be sorely missed. Katie is about the sweetest person anyone could meet...truly adorable, sincere and currently learning the ropes of the amazing business her father started many, many years ago. I found out she writes a blog...follow her here.
Tomorrow....helicopter tours, jeep rides through vineyards, lunch on a mountain top, winery dinner...I need to get some sleep.