NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
Season 1, Episode 1
The Napa Valley is the quintessential American wine region. Napa helped the USA gain the recognition it deserved in the wine world, and to this day, still brings the thunder. It's the wine region everyone knows and loves; but do you know the story of how it came to be? Find out on this premiere episode of V is for Vino.
filmed September, 2017 | runtime 30 minutes
from the Napa Episode
ELIZABETH SPENCER WINERY
Elizabeth Spencer is the winery I picked because their wines are a tremendous price-to-value ratio (especially for Napa) and old school: lean and balanced. So many Napa wines are too rich and ripe, but the wines by Sarah are so fresh! Plus, their tasting room is in the old Rutherford post office, and so fun to visit!
TORC is whatever chef Sean wants it to be. Loud, in your face, and not afraid of any style of cuisine. Located in downtown Napa, stop in and get yourself a glass of Cabernet and a steak.
Oxbow Public Market
Welcome to the world-famous Napa Valley!It's the wine mecca of America. The allure and prestige of castles andheavy-hitter wineries. Household names everywhere you look.Celebrity passion projects. World renowned restaurants. And land that sellsfor up to a million dollars an acre; we're gonna find out why. Welcome the Vis for Vino: let's watch learn and drink! This may not be the place where winebegan in America but the Napa Valley is without question the place that putAmerica on the wine map. And while 90% of wine made in America is made inCalifornia only 4% of that comes from the Napa Valley. But the small amount ofwine they do produce here has gained international recognition and made sureAmerica always has a place at the international wine table. Napa is locatedabout 55 miles northeast of San Francisco tucked east of Sonoma Countyand south of Lake County. The valley itself is framed by mountains on either sidewhich help moderate the temperature and protect from wind and rain. Only 2% ofthe world has a dry Mediterranean climate like Napa; that means not too hot,not too cold, long growing season with minimal temperature change in rainfall.It's not only the perfect place to grow grapes but it's also the perfect placeto live: its why so many people love it here. Napa has had its fair share ofchallenges. The first Napa winery was started by Charles Krug in 1861 but inthe start of the 20th century a devastating root louse called Phylloxerawiped out 80% of the vineyards and in 1920 Prohibition put almost every wineryout of business. It's really only in the last 50 years that Napa has become theicon that we know it as today. And for that story we need to take atrip to Paris... The year was 1976. A man named StevenSpurrier who was running a wine shop in Paris invited some of the most esteemedwell credentialed wine professionals in all of France to participate in a blindtasting competition of French versus Californian wines at theIntercontinental Hotel in downtown Paris. The judges would taste ten chardonnays;four from burgundy and six from California, and then move on to the reds.All this was done more of a publicity stunt than anything else and thecompetition might as well have been rigged; no one, and I mean no one, expectedthe American wines to stand a chance. After all, these were the French; theMasters of terroir and the kings of all things refined and the Californian winemakers were seen as a bunch of dopes who didn't know how to make wine. But thenthe unthinkable happened: first place of the white round was a 1973 ChateauMontelena from Napa Valley and the American wines took three of the topfour spots. At this point the judges were alarmed to say the least-so in the next red wine round they tried even harder to distinguish the Frenchfrom American wines to assure a French victory. But alas, the winner was in 1973Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley beating fourfirst-growth Bordeaux: wines that sold for thousands of dollars and had famedreputations. And one lone reporter from Time magazine caught the whole thing... The fallout was massive. Time magazine published an article claiming victorywhile the French press tried to downplay the event in any way they could- butdidn't matter it was too late. It was the shot heard around the world and Napa hadpulled the trigger. It proved that Napa wines could not only stand toe-to-toewith the best wines in the planet but gave California its opening to enter theworld stage. Today's featured grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.These grapes are most famously made in a place called Bordeaux which is in thewest side of France. Bordeaux makes some of the most highly sought-after famedand consequently expensive wines on the planet. Names like for Petrus, Haut-BrionMargaux, Latour, may not mean anything to you, but for some winos it's all theythink about. And while white Bordeaux wines are great in their ownright, it's the red Bordeaux wines that everybody loves. What exactly is aBordeaux blend? Well it's any combination of five grape varieties, but ninetypercent of the time it's mostly Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot that dominates theblend. What does this all have to do with Napa Cabernet Sauvignon? Well the realityis most Napa Cabernet Sauvignon are actually Bordeaux blends. See the lawsays that only seventy-five percent of what's listed on the label has to be inthe wine, so a lot of winemakers make Bordeaux blends but they label themCabernet Sauvignon mostly for a selling point. Americans are morecomfortable buying Cabernet Sauvignon than something that has a blend listedon the label. Sauvignon Blanc. If Californiachardonnay is Mike Tyson, kind of round and heavy-footed, Sauvignon Blanc isSugar Ray- all finesse. It's taut, lean, herbal, and an acidity that cuts rightthrough the heart of the wine. It's actually the mother of our other grape CabernetSauvignon. See in the 17th century Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc crossed to form Cabernet Sauvignon. And it kind of makes sense- they all share a verysimilar green characteristic. Cabernet Ffranc is stewed bell peppers, CabernetSauvignon mint, menthol, and fresh bell peppers, but Sauvignon Blanc? Everythinggreen under the sun. Grass primarily, but dill, jalapeno, lime, green apple,gooseberry, other citrus fruits and stone fruits are pretty common as well. It's aperfect pairing for most foods because it's got a great amount of acidity soit's perfect with anything else green especially think your salad course orvegetables. Cabernet Sauvignon. It's the classic international grape varietal.It's grown pretty much everywhere in the world that grows grapes. It's kinda likethe George Clooney of wine: it's rugged yet refined, ages well, and loved bypretty much everybody. It's got a lot of dark fruit flavors: so black cherry, bluefruits, and then blackberry, cassis, blackcurrant, also some green notes likeeucalyptus and menthol. With oak aging, which it usually has, it can get some spicenotes and with age it gets leather and cigar box. It ages really well and that'sbecause it has a very high skin to juice ratio if you look here you cansee how much skin there is compared to how little juice there is and that makesa very high tannin wine which allows some of these wines to age for 20 30 40years plus. It was time to head to the vineyards where I'd meet Sarah ofElizabeth Spencer wines. Vince: I'm getting you in basically what is the middle ofharvest. Tell me a little bit about what it's like during harvest time. Sarah: Yeah you're basically on call 24/7. Well harvest is really exciting you don't geta lot of sleep but you make up for it in just the stimulation and you remember why you got into it. The smells in the winery are always just soincredible. V: Yeah we've noticed that, everywhere we go smells great.S: It's really infectious. V: Can you tell a little bit about Elizabeth Spencer, tellme just what you can about the brand and how it got started.S: Elizabeth came from marketing, she met Spencer who was in fine winedistribution out in Virginia and they both had some background in restaurantsafter a long courtship they decided to get together, as it were, and they formedthe brand Elizabeth Spencer, and had their first Cabernet release in 1998.Elizabeth Spencer doesn't own any of their own vineyards we contract withhigh quality growers to supply us with the fruit we need to make our wines. V: and thats a fairly common practice... S: it is a common practice in the Napa Valley it'sprobably you know roughly 50/50, I don't know how that shakes out in terms ofacreage, but there are still estate wineries like this one White Rockvineyards that makes only wine from their own fruit but they also make theygrow more fruit than they need for their own program and they will do what theydid for me, which is sell other wineries the grapes. V: What is it like growing andbeing a winemaker in the Napa Valley in a place where you've got these megaproducers? S: Because the Napa Valley has you know this reputation for good reasonof growing high quality grapes, that always ups the ante. V: You know the sameway you may have a restaurant town like San Francisco or New York kind ofpushing everything forward Napa is kind of that for the wine industry.S:Tthat's a great analogy yeah they tend to be at the vanguard of implementingthings that we've discovered in university and it also just attractsvery talented winemakers and very smart people. I think that the people that aredrawn into this industry are extremely passionate and it's a really interestingcombination of people that are artistic but very scientific. V: All right so tell mea little bit about what we have here. S; We have Savion Blanc.It's a certified California organically farmed sourced from a couple ofdifferent vineyard sites in Mendocino. We want to see something that is reallypure. Good acid, it's bright, it is focused, V:Awesome minerality on the nose inparticular. S: I think we get a little bit of that gooseberry.There is a little bit of white flower, pink grapefruit peel. V: Yeah lots and lotsof citrus and the more I get into this the more kind of floral it becomes.S: so Ialways get a little bit of capsicum, green pepper. Just such a great food wine.V: I always say you know anything green is always safe. Any kind of green you knowsalads or vegetables or anything but you know you can you could get up to thiswith a lot of like white fish and white meat. S: Sure, crab meat. Spencerwould say crabmeat and avocado salad. V: So the tasting room is in downtownRutherford it's a really cool spot. I love I love kind of the vibe in there.S: Well the tasting room is in the old Rutherford post office. It's a verycool building. Purchased the building in 2006. They had to do a major retrofit butthey wanted to keep some of the integrity of the old architecture. It'svery small in the actual tasting room and you definitely feel like youcan engage with somebody and talk with them about the wines.V: Yeah, its a very and kind of an intimate tasting in a place where some of these grandiosetasting rooms kind of wash out the wine itself. S: Sure yeah we don't have afountain yet. No infinity pool quite yet. Alright so now we have ourCabernet. Well it really is kind of a flagship wine for us since Elizabeth andSpencer have been making Cabernet since 1998. Its sourced from a number ofdifferent vineyards in the Napa Valley so in any given year we might have somefruit from Mount Veder or some fruit from the Stag's Leap area fruit fromCoombsville, from Calistoga. I might have 5% new French oak in thesewines, I don't want the oak to sit on top of the wine.V: Yeah and right away you cansee it's integrated. I can get a little bit everything. I get the fruit comingthrough. S: Feels like kicking a dead horse but youknow elegance. You want elegance in your Cabernet, you want structure, you wantgrip, you want tannin, you want all of those things that make it appropriate tohave with food, but you also want an expression of fruit. In five years Iexpect this to have a little more vetiver and chocolate.V: You also get a little bit of kind of like that sweetness, maybe like a sweet spice.S: There's a little bit of tobacco there, yeah, some Cola.V: And it drinks a littledarker on the palate than it does in the nose.S: Once you really dig into it you seethat it's got structure. I recommend decanting it especially in the first twothree four years of its life I think you'll have it a little more open andoffering after decanting. Well thank you so much this is awesome, cheers!S: Cheers! Sarah and i went to the crush facilityand she told me to wear shorts. I shoulda asked why.S: We talked a little bit aboutthe process from taking the red grapes that we sorted today and putting theminto a tank. So we have Syrah that is just been yeasted.V: Wow. And that's allthe way down with grapes? God that smells so good.It smells like fresh-baked bread.S: That is the yeast yes.V: Very cool yeah you can feel that heat coming off of it that's pretty crazy.S: Okay I wanted to do an experiment though. I've got some of this fruit which I haveput into three small bins and I'm gonna treat that fruit totally different thanhow I treat this fruit. So this T bin is exactly the same as the tank but we'veinoculated it with a totally different yeast strain. In the case of these guyswe're gonna kind of let them go on their own and how they do.V: And these are thewhole clusters.S: There these are also a whole cluster ferment.Same thing but we'regonna stop on these guys... Welcome to the V is for Vino nerd lab wetake complicated wine topics and make them simple! Today we're talking abouttannin. Tannin it's not something that you do on the beach...thank you. Tannin it's one of the five essential elements of wine. It is achemical compound or phenol that's found in the skin stems and seeds of thegrapes. it's a bitterness or an astringencyand it also contributes a little body character, it gives wine like a firmness.It's only found in red wines and this is because red wines are the only wine thatactually sit with their skin stem and seeds. White wines we just press thejuice very quickly and we let it go. Consequently these skins, the thickerthey are the more tannin is going to be in the final wine, so thick-skinnedgrapes like Syrah and Cabernet and Merlot are going to have more tanninand then the thin-skinned grapes say Pinot Noir, Gamay, things like that.Now there's a couple foods that we have that actually have tannin in them.Walnuts and a lot of nuts have tannin. And tea, black tea specifically.We'regonna do a little experiment here- take a black tea bag put it in some water andsteep it for a really long time. If they're supposed to steep it for four orfive minutes we're gonna leave a go for like fifteen twenty. Seriously get out ofhere...here, watch these clips of slow-motion turtles we shot. annnd we're back. How about them Turtles? So, we've.... So, we're so we've got our overly steeped tea here and give it a taste.Now taste that that bitterness and that astringency? And especially how it driesout your mouth? That is tannin. So how do you fix it? Well you could try adding alittle acid, people add lemon to tea, but it's really just gonna enhance it. Itwill enhance the acid and it'll enhance the bitter. Now you could try sugar itwould kind of help it would basically make it very sweet in the front of thetea and still have that bitterness in the back. No the real solution here iscream. So if you add a little cream to the tea in the form of fat and then nowgive your tea a try. Much better. See what happens is the tannins bond withthe protein in the fat and they soften both! Now it stands to reason that if youcan fix overly tannic tea with fat you can fix tannic wine with fat. So that'swhy Cabernet Sauvignon is often paired with a fatty steak like a ribeye. They gotogether really well and it helps soften the tannins and the wine. Tannin alsoacts as a preservative, a natural preservative for wine, it's why someCabernet Sauvignon and Barolos can last for 40, 50 years and age. That tanninhelps preserve it. And this actually helps both the wine and the tannin: Withage tannins become softer and the wine becomes more complex and exciting. I hopeyou enjoyed this nerd lab on tannin keep geeking out. After a hard day of winetasting the locals? They're heading to TORC. Sean: It' my restaurant baby is what I would liketo refer to it as- contemporary American restaurant located in Napa- the meaningof contemporary meaning we're not really pigeonhole to one cuisine we can kind oftake products and cook them how they're best prepared. Everything rootedin a really great French or Italian technique with those ingredientsbrought into the mix. You know I grew up in the industry I started washing dishesat 9. My father was a hoteliers. A GM at a hotel. And put me on a milk crate andhad me clean silverware for about five hours and that was it that was it.V: Fast-forward 20 years and here you are. S: Yeah fast-forward 35 years, you know? Crazy. I just decided that I really wanted to open open a restaurant here inNapa. It is the quintessential American wine country in my opinion and just thequality of produce is unsurpassed. There's so many other things that that Iwouldn't want to do, that I could do, that would probably be easier but for me thisis really my life's goal was to always have my own place and be able to choosethe direction it goes and what we're gonna do and what the ambiance is like.V: Almost a fine dining technique with kind of a casual atmosphere that makes it fun.S: And meaning like a lot of fine dining restaurants you go in there it's veryquiet and we try and take that pretentiousness out of it if you walk inhere at the music's loud the dining rooms loud you know people are talkingand having a good time and we put a product in front of you that you wouldhope to get at one of those restaurants. There's two things that I don't like toto label this restaurant and that's like farm-to-table farm to fork market driven. but we are market driven you know, we go to the farmers market at least once a weekwe have farmers that drive up to our door with produce we have some otherpurveyors that either raise ducks or game birds or we have a local fishermenfrom above 40 miles away over in Sonoma who pull up to the back door two orthree days a week with live king salmon right now. We cook based off ofwhat's coming to the door here. A lot of timesdialogue we have with the cooks and the sous-chef says what are we gonna do withthat and I look at them and I say I have no idea but webought it and it's pretty cool and let's not waste it.V: Well I'd love to go get getto cookin you want to show us some stuff. S: Yeah definitely. V: Alright chef this is THE Napa Valley I'm expecting big things so what are wedoing today.S: We're gonna kind of do a play on a Middle Eastern style tomatosalad with bread and labne. V; You're speaking to a Lebanese guy so that'sright on my alley. S: Whatever varieties we could really get.V: You just use whatever you can get whatever is fresh whatever they'rebringing.S: Whatever's good. Yeah, totally seasonal it's the best way for us to be.So we're just looking to cut the tomato thick slices because we're gonnamarinate it with a little bit of sherry vinegar and olive oil. And thensalt, really important.V: Probably pull some of those moistures right out and kinda tenderizes them. S: Definatley. Then we're gonna take some good local fenneland I like the contrast that gives the sweetness to the tomatoes. Greek yogurtand then just some fresh lemon zest. This is some fresh garlic. I think tostay traditional to where this dish would be from you need that bite and thenjust a little juice pinch of salt touch of pepper and then we're justgonna mix that up with a spoon You know we always have like leftoverbread so we'll tear some bread and then we're actually gonna saute it realquickly just to get some crisp on it and flavor. I'm gonna take a garlic clovealways leave the skin on garlic so that way uh if we do get a little color on itwe're not making it bitter.V: Oh interesting I like that trick.S: It's agood way to judge when when your oil is hot to too.V: It's hot, I don't know howyou chefs do it back here all day S: Somebody has to.We're just flipping this tomake sure it doesn't take too much color and if you see where it's startingto look a touch dry you just add a little more oil to it and then we'rejust gonna put this on on a paper towel to make sure it's not greasy.V: Now yousaid this dish kind of has middle-eastern roots to it.S: I thinkMediterranean. Palestine, Israel, Morocco Italy the area you know the food is verysimilar. And then we're just gonna put a couple of dollops of the labne on theplate it's nice and thick you know it's something where you can drag the tomatothrough it and then the bread just sporadically on the plate and then acouple of other ingredients that we're gonna add to this fennel pollen fromhere in Napa. This is a coarse sea salt because everything needs salt and thisis Pimenta espelette so this is a from the basque region of both Spain and Franceand it's a it's a dried red chili pepper. It's more smoky than spicy. This isanise hyssop. So we have the fennel which is anise we have the fennel pollenand then we're just gonna tear some fresh anise hyssop flowers and all.And it's got a really a neat light licorice flavor. lemon zest.V: Wow and youget the purple the yellow the red the green it's it's gorgeous.S.Thank you. That's it. V: I hate that I even hate to bother it itjust you know you look at it all day. yeah oh you know what that spice isgreat.S: you know in all these different colored tomatoes too they all havevariants and flavor you know some are higher in acid some are sweeter V: This red one here a lot less firm than say this one which is cool because you getthat play on textures. The thing I can't get over here is that little bithow that little bit of spice goes so much for the dish. Absolutelygorgeous, that's awesome.We paired this with the Sauvignon Blanc for a fewreasons; the acidity in the tomatoes really needs a nice high acid wine tomatch it and the floral notes of the wine go really well with the floral andlicorice flavors of the anise hyssop. Plus the acidity of the wine cuts rightthrough the fat that you find in the yogurt. Looks like we're busting out thebig guns.S: Big guns. Steak. You know we're in Cab country. Primedry-aged of New York Strip.V: Look how thick that cut. We're this thick,S: It's about 20 ounces it's good for two people. A good amount of salt on theoutside pepper.V: Give me your three essential steak mistakes...S: number one isthey let their father cook it which means it's either blood raw or well doneso you avoid that that's number one Definitely a very very hot pan the thirdthing that's the most important thing is that it actually rests.And at this pointwe're gonna add something that's integral to the flavor of everything andthat is butter it's gonna impart a nice nutty flavor on it but it's all gonnacome out it's not it's not something that we're gonna keep in and we're gonnapour on the plate.V: Looks like a bath you get that nice froth going.S: Definitely we have a nice crust on both sides of the meat. I'm gonnatake it out put it on the cookie sheet V: and I like that to the rack too.S: Yeah sothat way there's air circulation under it. So we're at five hundred degrees hereand after we've got that sear on the outside we're gonna let it cook forabout ten minutes. I'm just gonna discard that fat but leave a little bit of itinside. A touch more olive oil so we're actually you're gonna cook the potatoesinside with some of the beef renderings. V: Oh wow so you kind ofseason that pan.S: And these are magic meuniers. So these are hand dug by a friend ofmine over in Sonoma County so they're yellow and peach colored, and yeah,they're crazy and the texture is like light and fluffy and creamy.Once again garlic with the skin on. We're gonna take some of our potatoes put themin with a hot pan. lots of butter and we're gonna get thatnice and frothy a little bit of salt. We're actually gonna put this in thesame oven with the steak they'll actually cook in the ten minutes that itactually takes to cook that steak. So next we're gonna do some nice summervegetables. Some beautiful little squash and they have the flowers on them, somefresh scallions, and we're just gonna cut some little like one-inchbatons. So once again olive oil, the garlic and the skin. And we're gonnastart with the squash so at this point I am gonna add the onion a touch of water.Just enough where it's gonna cause it to lightly steam. So you knowwould i look at flavor profile of the Cabs from Napa- big and fruit big on thepalate, herbaceous yeah so we're gonna find things that that assist in that andbringing that out you know I get a lot of mint and so we're gonna actually usesome mint in the dish. This is what's referred to as a chocolate mint.V: Kinda like mint chocolate ice cream if you could put it in a plant.S: yeah we're gonnaput it in a steak. you take a fork and you just wantto give it a poke- so that's that's ideal that's what we're looking for. Okay somemore summer vegetables to those. So what we're gonna add our Padron pepper- soit's a Spanish variety, they're more that like bell pepper flavor that you do getfrom cab, and we're just we're just gonna get them a little blistered and in thatfrothy butter. Add some cherry tomatoes to that, take the onions and we're gonnamake some nice fine slices and then we'll take our our nice scallions hereand we're just gonna finish our potatoes. The chocolate mint. This is how you makesure the the steak is rested properly. So now what I'm gonna do is I'm justgonna take the vegetables and we're just gonna put them on one side of thisplatter. All right let's see how the steak. The ring on theoutside just to sear it in yummy this pink all the way through nice finishingsalt like we put on the tomato salad fresh cracked black pepper on top lastsome of the chocolate mint raw and back to that kind of Mediterranean Californiaconnection some beautiful olivesand then last we're gonna do a little bit of horseradish. V: look at that fresh.You know what I love about this too is that your handprint is allover it.S: Where you gonna start? I mean I don't know I probably got tostart with the meat is that okay? S: Totally acceptable.V: So the first thing it hits me is that cut of beef the dry aged beef yeahand a little bit of funk and then the second thing I get is that beautifulthat olives...that little bit of briny kind of salt which I love...come on oh my gosh and it melts in your mouth. I normally just explain what thewine goes with it you did my job for me... you took it a step further and says itwe have these comparing flavors we can get these menthol in these mint flavorsfrom the chocolate mints we can balance some of that freshness from the likeberry and the fruit flavors with the freshness of some of these herbs andsome of these spices so I love that you've taken it a step further inaddition to all the comparing flavors. The big bold dish needs a big bold wine,and a tannin structure in the wine goes great with the fat in the steak.Unreal. Start-to-finish unreal. Cheers to thatS: Thank you Vince. Thank you so much for having us.S: Thanks thanks for having me! We ended our day at the Oxbow publicmarket- Napa's blend of restaurants stores and shops that carry well...alittle bit everything. Meats and cheeses, wood fire pizza,sushi, oysters, craft beer, specialty bitters,of course wine. I hope you enjoyed the one and only Napa Valley we'll see younext time on V is for Vino!