Napa Valley?s finest, from small purveyors to big-time wineries, are getting ready to welcome the glitterati Friday during Taste Napa Valley, the opening salvo of the three-day food-and-wine extravaganza known as Auction Napa Valley.
The tasting event, which whets appetites for bidding at the concurrent barrel auction, draws international celebrities along with lots of locals. Last year, Oprah Winfrey was sighted at the tasting at Trinchero Family Estates in St. Helena.
This year, Taste Napa Valley will be held on the grassy lawn of the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, where 100 vintners will be joined by chefs such as Greg Cole of Celadon and Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill, in presenting tastes of the valley. Smaller purveyors, such as Holly Peterson Mondavi of Sea Star Sea Salt, will also join the fun, informative tasting.
?This event is a true reflection of Napa Valley and everything it has to offer,? said Lydia Damian, director of hospitality at Long Meadow Ranch Winery in Rutherford. ?Everybody incorporates all the beautiful products found here.?
The Hall family of Long Meadow Ranch Winery are longtime food and wine pioneers in Napa Valley, singlehandedly restoring the family farm to the heart of the mostly grape-growing valley. They have sold products like grass-fed beef, fresh eggs, olive oils and organic fruits and vegetables at the St. Helena farmers market for decades. In 2006, they launched their own roadside farm stand, LMR Rutherford Gardens.
At the tasting event, Long Meadow Ranch will be one of the few purveyors with dual tables: one to pour sips of its food-friendly sauvignon blanc, cabernet and red table wines; the other to serve its olive oil and grass-fed beef.
?We always feature our grass-fed beef,? Damian said of the tasting event. ?This year we?ll be doing our grass-fed meatballs on rosemary skewers.?
Long Meadow Ranch produces lean, flavorful cuts of beef from a heritage breed of Highland cattle raised at the 700-acre main ranch, located 1,000 feet above the valley on the east ridge of the Mayacmas Mountains.
Their beef is not only shipped to high-end restaurants all over the country but served every week to kids who attend schools in the St. Helena School District.
?Thursday is grass-fed burger day,? Damian said. ?We even produce our own grass-fed hot dog.?
Owned by Ted and Laddie Hall and their son, Chris Hall, Long Meadow Ranch has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement in Napa Valley. This fall, the family will take the next step by opening Farmstead, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Northern California.
Located at the southern entrance to St. Helena, the restaurant will be housed in the large barn now serving as a retail space for Whiting Nursery.
Chef Sheamus Feely, formerly of the Rutherford Grill, will serve up fresh, seasonal food that is affordable and family-friendly, using the ranch?s beef, eggs, olive oil, fruits and veggies.
?If we don?t grow it or raise it, then we?ll source it from organic and sustainable producers,? Damian said. ?It will be a lot of fun, to stick with the season and be creative with the menu, but keep it a comfortable place.?
The Halls are renovating the old Logan/Ives farmhouse, located next to the restaurant, as a wine and olive oil tasting center. It will be landscaped with edible gardens and a demonstration vineyard. Plans call for it to open sometime in October.