The third and final event for the two-day Cabernet Franc Celebration was the winemaker’s dinner for 80 people. This featured three different winemakers’ chosen back in September (2021) to participate in this event. The idea was to show three regions (Paso Robles, Livermore Valley and Napa Valley). Each winery/winemaker would present an 8–10 minute keynote speech on their “love affair or experience” with Cabernet Franc. Then the winners announced from the 2022 Wine Competition before sitting down for a gourmet dinner in the Grandview Room at The Golf Club at Copper Valley.
The evening started off with magnificently arranged tables of eight by the Vine18 staff. Additional bottles of wines from the competition were placed on each table for the guest’s enjoyment prior to the start of the evening.
First up was Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines a small boutique winery in Paso Robles, California. She and her husband, Michael were the force behind getting December 4th on the calendar as International Cabernet Franc Day. Lori besides having a food science background and a graduate degree from UC Davis in the winemaking program, is a published author, award winning blog writer and podcast producer/host for Exploring the Wine Glass. Her keynote speech was how Cabernet Franc has grown out of the shadow of its progeny. She also touched upon the amount of Cabernet Franc produced today and the relationship to Cabernet Sauvignon.
The next speaker was the dynamic and delightful Steven Kent Mirassou from his latest label L’Autre Côte, specifically showcasing Cabernet Franc. Steven is the 6th generation winemaker from the first family of American Wine and made his first vintage of Cabernet Franc in 2006 from Livermore, California. His Bordeaux style wine, the Lineage Collection was the first 100 point wine scored from Livermore Valley. He has since received his second 100 point score on his Steven Kent Winery label for a Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2017 Steven created L’Autre Cote, a wine brand/label devoted exclusively to the production of Cabernet Franc. His keynote speech was titled, “Finding Home: Why the Livermore Valley Should Become Cabernet Franc’s New Spiritual Center”.
The final speaker was Pam Starr of Crocker & Starr Winery located in St Helena (Napa Valley), California. Pam is the co-owner, manager and winemaker at Crocker & Starr. Pam comes from a rich pedigree of winemakers before starting the winery in 1997 with Charlie Crocker. Her special skill of passion and dedication are self-evident especially with her inaugural label launch of Cabernet Franc. Pam also makes distinctive Bordeaux style wines from the estate. Her keynote speech was titled “The non-fruitedness of Cabernet Franc Wine”.
After these speeches concluded, the announcement of the previous day’s Best of Class and Best of Show were made public. The irony for the evening is that two wines featured at the dinner won Best of Class (Dracaena and L’Autre Côte) and Dracaena winning Best of Show from the Wine Competition (a blind tasting!).
The evening started off with Dracaena Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles with a smoked pork belly served with parsnip puree, marble fingerling chips and plum cassis chutney. The 2019 Cabernet Franc was produced with 92% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot.
The second course was L’Autre Côte from Livermore Valley paired with a Roquefort infused with raspberries, blackberries and apricot, wrapped in a puff pastry with a jasmine tea anglaise. The 2018 Cabernet Franc is 100% Cabernet Franc.
An intermezzo sorbet was then served to cleanse the palate.
The third course was Crocker & Starr 2018 A.V.A. Cabernet Franc Estate Blend from Napa Valley. This consisted of 70% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This unique characteristic wine was paired with a mole chuck Wagyu beef, served with crispy plantains and a cardamom radish slaw.
We had originally looked for a Cabernet Franc Blanc but could not find one that was up to the quality of this event. Thus, we finished off the evening with a non-Cabernet Franc, but certainly one of the most creative dishes for dessert. Rhonda Wood provided her award winning Wood Family Chardonnay which was paired with an apple cinnamon Crème Brûlée topped with pear sorbet and a macadamia nut crumble. Perhaps unique but a totally outstanding food/wine pairing.
Executive Chef Albert Sandoval provided and showcased his culinary skills which left the sold-out crowd amazed. Between two of dishes, he quickly ran out from the kitchen to describe the food and wine pairing with the winemakers. Two others from the club deserve kudos, Cindy Acre and Christina Germolus for their tireless effort in arranging the room and attention to details not just for this evening but for the entire two-day event.
It was truly a unique evening pairing four winemakers with diverse and scrumptious foods and their excellent wines. A very enjoyable and noteworthy meal.