Sorry! No video on this post.
You may have noticed, most of these articles are written somewhat impromptu. Usually I’ll wait until something interesting is going on, and break out my camera phone to capture it. Well today something interesting happened, but it wasn’t an appropriate time to start videotaping. Regardless, I wanted to share this with you.
People constantly ask me about our wine label. What it means? What inspired it? Where it came from? It’s always my pleasure to tell people. The art that makes up the left side of each label was done by a Croatian artist named Dzemal Emric—a family friend and my art teacher from when I was young.
Today, Dzemal hosted an art exhibition in San Jose. It was a small and intimate gathering where I was able to reconnect with an old friend and teacher. Dzemal and I spoke about our artistic processes, philosophies, sources of inspiration, and much more. These were all things that I hadn’t deeply thought about in many years. At one point in our conversation, Dzemal recalled what I was like as a child artist. He told me that I displayed such passion, that I stood out from the other kids… He remembered how much I loved art—drawing, painting, etc.
Now I never abandoned art. No. I’ve said many times, that instead I found art in a new medium. I saw it in wine, and I embarked on a new journey to understand and master it. But in the last five years that I’ve immersed myself in wine, my previous means of artistic expression was put on the back burners. This show, however, and these conversations I had with Dzemal, they brought something back. I was reminded how wonderful it was to see the world through the eyes of an artist.
Seeing the world in that way means never taking anything for granted. You appreciate beauty everywhere that you may find it. As Dzemal said, one of his paintings was inspired by a book about the ocean. Another was inspired by the intricate decorations on the hats worn by old ladies in his homeland. And several more were inspired by the colors and energy of the Fall season. Too often people are blind to the beauty in front of them. It’s important to step back and look around.
Before I left, I went to say goodbye to Dzemal. He had one last thing to show me. While everyone in the room stood facing the four walls, contemplating all the abstract paintings, Dzemal pointed at the coffee table in the center of the room. I was confused. He showed me the stone tile table top. He showed me the sanded wooden frame around the table top. He showed me the four gold leaf legs of the table. It occurred to me: While everyone tried so hard to understand the paintings on the walls, no one had the vision to see the artwork in the center of the room…
Step back and look around people!
December is obviously a very special month. You’ve got all sorts of fun winter holidays and then finally the new year! This weekend though, we celebrated the most important day of December, the one that puts all others to shame…
Our Mothers’ Birthday!
We did it in classic, Napa Valley style. A three part day of celebration, we began with lunch at one of our new favorite downtown places—Atlas Social. This is one of the best tapas restaurants we’ve ever eaten at, and we’ve been to Spain a couple times… If you get the chance to go, do what we did. Before you even sit down, order one egg for everyone at the table. Perhaps their most popular item, the “egg” is a soft boiled egg, fried in panko crumbs, and served on a bed of bacon jam. The interplay of textures and flavors makes this one of the most unique and satisfying starters we’ve ever tried. Oh, and two bottles of Patland Rosé didn’t hurt either!
Second, we drove our mothers to one of our neighboring wineries—Darioush. There we were met by an extremely knowledgable, enthusiastic, and entertaining tour guide. Jameson took us through about seven delicious wines, the group favorites being the Viognier and Shiraz. Next, we went down below the tasting room to tour the estate. Architecturally speaking, this is one of the most impressive wineries you can find around the Napa Valley. Not to be missed on your next trip!
Lastly, everyone returned to the Patland estate for a brief respite. After just an hour of rest, Chef Munther showed up at the door! Munther is first and foremost an amazing friend, but he is an equally amazing and talented chef. He drove all the way up to Napa to give a private cooking lesson to our moms. After several hectic hours in the kitchen under his tutelage, we had a mind-blowing three course dinner on our hands.
Stuffed Main Lobster Tail
Herb Goat Cheese Stuffing, Prosciutto Wrapped. Served Over Olive Oil Braised Baby Root Vegetable, Lemon Champagne Bure Blanc, Balsamic Glaze, Blood Orange Basil Infusion
Duck Confit Salad
Warm Currant and Syrah Braised Cabbage Salad, Fresh Pomegranate Reduction
Pistachio Crusted Lamb Rack
Basil Infused Fingerling Potatoes, Braised Lemon Kale, Roasted Corn and Saffron Flan, Red Wine Garlic Pan Sauce
To top it off, we paired an inspired selection of wines to the three dishes…
Bremer 2004 Chardonnay
Kosta Brown 2012 Pinot Noir
So if you’re looking for some food and wine pairing ideas, by all means, take a page out of our book. You won’t be disappointed! After all, the moms weren’t…
Happy Birthday Olga Patland and Barb Chappell
This morning I finally got the call to come into the winery. I was so excited; it would be my first time really experiencing crush. I had no idea what I was in for...
After a rough start morning, I raced down Soda Canyon Road to get to The Caves at Soda Canyon--where all our wine is made. When I got there, production was going at full force! Jay quickly found his way to me and motioned for me to follow. Staying close on his heels, I stepped over hoses, into puddles, around buckets, and maneuvered around just about everything else you'd find in a winery. My first job: Stem Sorting
Soon after, I moved up the platform to cluster sorting. Basically removing moldy clusters, leaves, lizards, raisins, and other critters. In no time, all of the Unti Vineyard Zinfandel was sorted and ready to ferment. Then came my next job, hand destemming our estate Malbec. That only took a couple hours... Luckily, I was being well supplied with IPAs. Lastly, I was assigned to do a punchdown on our Port.
For those that don't know, a punch down pushes the "cap" of grape skins down into the juice. We do this for a few reasons. First of all, it allows the juice--soon to be wine--to extract color, tannin, and flavor from the skins. Second, the yeast involved in the fermentation process actually requires some oxygen to survive. The cap forms a seal, blocking the flow of air into the juice. So we punch it down.
Thing is, our Port had a two foot cap that just didn't want to break. I'll just say this wasn't the easiest job I've ever had, and I certainly have more respect for the people that do this daily. Also, I'm a much bigger fan of the pump over method now!
So here I am, my first day of crush behind me. My hands are purple, my clothes are sticky, and I've got a big smile on my face.
At 5:00 AM this morning, I received a text from Patland winemaker, Jay Buoncristiani. He told me to meet him at Unti Vineyards to check on the fruit for our latest project--Patland Zinfandel. Turns out mother nature doesn't give you a whole lot of notice, and neither does your winemaker!
Regardless, I got up, got dressed, and got in the car. I entered in the address and saw that Unti Vineyards, located in Dry Creek, was two hours away. I could care less though. After all, this was the first step to me making my own wine! Not counting my college basement fun, of course...
I met Jay at the Dry Creek General Store. I left my car there--it not being properly suited for dirt roads--and hopped into his truck. Minutes later we were walking through our block of Primitivo (the clone of Zinfandel we decided to use). First, Jay explained what to taste for. Level of tannin in the skins. Flavor of the pulp. Acid and sugar. Then we looked at the color of the seeds, thickness of the skins, and size of the grapes. Lastly, before leaving, we took some samples. Two gallon ziplock bags full of grape clusters, to be lab tested for brix and pH.
On our drive back to Napa, we passed by Ridge Vineyards. If you didn't know, Ridge is widely felt to be one of the top quality producers of Zinfandel. Fortunately, Jay and I had the same idea. We both pulled over and walked eagerly up to the front gate. It was shut. We were an hour past closing. What did we do? We found a gate that was open! After a quick bit of Jay's signature sweet talking, we were in for a VERY last minute tasting. Everything from their current vintage Lytton Springs Zin to their 2005 Pagani Ranch. Needless to say, we were inspired. So much so, that we decided to share a little of our day in the video above.