Usually at this time of the year, activity dwindles in California’s Napa Valley–harvest is over, the tourists are gone and the rainy season sets in. But for the past two years, the region has reinvented itself as a pre-Thanksgiving destination with ‘Flavor! Napa Valley,’ billed as a four-day extravaganza of food and wine. The culinary names behind the event are familiar—Keller, Chiarello, Forgione—and the wineries involved are world-class.
A grand tasting, dubbed The Appellation Trail, is held at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and marks the unofficial launch of festivities with more than 100 wineries and 30-plus restaurants participating. And you’ll never know who you’ll run into. On our visit, we spied upon ‘Iron Chef’ Masaharu Morimoto, who was there to represent his namesake Napa restaurant. We also had the honor of having wine poured by famed Mondavi winemaker Genevieve Janssens! The Trail was quite the adventure—and a very fitting welcome as we embarked on this four-day feast.
The euphoria was almost too much to bear—and it was only our first day! To recover, we found solace at the uber-superior Meadowood, a luxury resort and spa on a secluded 250-acre estate, surrounded by vineyards, clusters of olive, oak and redwood trees, and manicured fairways for golf and championship croquet. The ambience is both rustic and refined; and the service, from a whatever-you-wish wine pours at the lobby to an umbrella escort in the rain, was impeccable.
In addition to sporting activities and first-rate fitness and spa amenities, Meadowood offers wine tastings, private winery tours and home-grown meals from Michelin-starred chef Christopher Kostow at The Restaurant or the more casual Grill. Our brunch one morning featured delectable fish tacos and huevos rancheros with the works. Of course, we couldn’t ignore The Health Spa, as it was calling our name, ready to pamper us with its signature Grape Seed Harvest Wrap—and the Grape Seed Antioxidant Facial, to match.
All this grape infusion was making us long for the bottled variety, so we headed back to the CIA for a presentation called ‘A Hedonist’s Ultimate Tasting,’ led by Godiva senior chocolatier and chef David Funaro and one of America’s foremost wine experts, Karen MacNeil. The two were a match made in heaven—and the treats they brought along sent us all to paradise and beyond. Who would have thought that port and Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel would have you dancing in the streets? Or that petite syrah and Extra Dark Santo Domingo Chocolate would have you smiling all the way home?
We were still smiling when we arrived that evening at the Silverado Resort and Spa for Dinner with Napa Valley Winemakers. The event had guests seated at tables, each hosted by a local winemaker. We seemed to have hit the jackpot here: Ours was none other than Sean Larkin of Larkin Wines. If you are familiar with his wines, we applaud you. If you don’t know Larkin, you are missing out. All of Larkin’s small-production wines have a 91 rating or higher from Robert Parker. In fact, we’re told that Parker has been known to sit in Larkin’s kitchen, waiting to sample his cabernet sauvignon, cab franc or merlot, and rate it on the spot. Oh, and did we mention the food served at dinner—created from local ingredients—also was to die for?
After establishing itself as the country’s premier wine destination, Napa Valley has outdone itself again with Flavor!, adding a dash of food—and fun—to the wine country experience. Thank heavens for that.
If you go:
• Flavor! Napa Valley is a four-day event that takes place in mid-November, flavornapavalley.com.
• For reservations at Meadowood Napa Valley, call (707) 963-3646 or visit meadowood.com.