It’s early evening in the Valley. Raindrops threaten and with each minute my stress gathers steam. You know that feeling when you’re trying to get ready and nothing looks right? A pile of discarded clothes litter the bed. I resolve to start running regularly because this is part of the reason nothing looks great. Ugh! I pass my husband who is waiting in the kitchen and dash out the door, into the rain, directly to the car. Thankfully I got the umbrella first.
The destination tonight is to bASH 2016. The “b” part of ASH has got to be a reference to a party. The ASH part is pretty heady. It is Appellation St. Helena, an alliance of wineries with vineyards in the St. Helena Appellation. It’s been around longer than the AVA has been designated, actually it goes back to the late 1800’s. After a 128 year hiatus the organization was revived. The mission is clear, to act as a voice for the amazing wines coming out of the St. Helena region of Napa Valley and to share it with the public.
The parking lot is full at Greystone (home of the infamous CIA) , truly a sign of how popular this event is. I’m getting more anxious to get out of the vehicle every second, and at the moment I want to say “Drop me off at the front door”. Just then a car pulls out and we pull in. The building is magnificent and austere. A mere 117,000 sq feet of it, formerly known as the Greystone Winery and later, Christian Brothers. You can feel the history in this building. Somewhere near me exists a place where up to 2 million gallons of wine was planned to be stored. I suck in my breath.
We climb the steps to the registration table and are greeted by the friendliest of welcoming committees, both helpful and professional. There is a slight snafu about one of the passes and they quickly resolve the bump. Just steps away from us the excitement and the divine aroma of delicious pairings wafts through the hall, I hear the murmur of joyful conversation and the occasional exclamation. Onward!
As I cross the threshold of the vast barrel room, now converted into an event room, my eyes pass from right to left and take in the surreal vision. Tables with wine bottles adorning them, masterpieces on small plates everywhere and the culinary students working in assembly line efficiency putting out tastes with meticulous fervor. Between each station is a giant wine barrel, there are 26 stations in all paired with wine from the wineries of St. Helena. We set out to discover each and every taste available we can until our stomachs protest. If tasting all this food and wine were not enough, we also have 3 wooden coins each to give to those stations who made the biggest impact on us. Those with the most coins at the end of the night would be duly rewarded.
St. Helena Winery GM, Lesley Russell tells about what she is pouring…
The dishes ranged from Vol au Vents to Lambrusco Glazed Pork Belly. Lamb, steak, 6 different kinds of duck and oh so much more. I had a moment when I tasted the pairing of the Martini House Mushroom Soup with the St. Helena Winery Sympa Cabernet. Exquisite! Also the 2013 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the Amaribella Tart. There were so many wines and I have to say every drop was a impeccable representation of the region and it’s ability to produce remarkable wine.
The wines of St. Helena are certainly something to behold. The balance of the tannins with the elegance of the bodies of all wines I tasted at this event were harmonious. Better than the Beach Boys singing Good Vibrations.
Waiting until the very last awardee was recognized, we made our way home knowing a whole lot more about St. Helena wine and the Culinary Institute of America’s capabilities. The event far exceeded our expectations both in depth and breadth of the experience.