What’s the best part about living in Napa?
Apart from the many questions we get about our three dogs (Do you have a saddle for Finnegan? Will Sampson’s ear ever go up? Is Frank the boss?), the most frequently asked question Joe and I hear is: What do you love most about living in the Napa Valley? While the list runs long, I would have to say that access to some of California’s best food and wine is the main attraction.
Living in Yountville, just a stone’s throw from some of the world’s most celebrated restaurants and wineries (French Laundry, anyone?), and with an abundance of locally grown and sourced produce, meat and fish at our fingertips, it’s easy to enjoy the bounty of the Napa Valley in our own back yard! Local farmer’s markets are plentiful. On days when we’re too busy to cook we also have some incredible take out options at our disposal. Wine is of course, a regional specialty, and we love to explore the diverse range of wines made here (if you’re a first time reader, Joe is the Bordeaux wine maker at Robert Mondavi Winery just up the road in nearby Oakville). At this special time of the year, when warm summer days give way to balmy nights, we love to dine al fresco — what better way to spend a lazy afternoon or evening?
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are some of our favorite things to bbq for a summer dinner, plus some simple wine pairings you can try yourself!
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(^ the ONE shot where all 3 dogs are looking at the camera and not biting each other! Frank is our Frenchie, Sampson our Akita, and our newest baby is Finnegan, an Irish Wolfhound)
When Joe and I are preparing a meal together, we usually divvy up the work with me prepping the food, and Joe manning the BBQ. One of the easiest AND most visually pleasing dishes we make are skewers. Simply grab your favorite vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, squash, etc.) and alternately skewer with a protein (chicken, steak, or shrimp), sprinkle with some salt, pepper, and herbs, and throw it on the grill! Easy squeeze…
On a warm, summer afternoon or evening, my all-time favorite wine to drink is the Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley FUME BLANC. This estate-sourced wine is crafted with Sauvignon Blanc fruit and a touch of Semillon coming from some exceptional vineyards including Wappo Hill and To Kalon (considered one of the most historic vineyards in California). Crisp and refreshing, with a perfect mix of acidity and fullness, it’s a wine I can never get tired of drinking…as an aperitif or paired to a variety of summer’s dishes.
Another seasonal dish we love to make when summer produce is at its peak is pesto pasta. This dish could not be easier to make, and is very customizable based on individual tastes. My favorite noodles to use are campanelli, and I like to add home grown tomatoes and extra basil to amp up the flavors. The dish is pretty and represents pure deliciousness for me: My mom always had pesto pasta on hand growing up (and my friends would scavenge her fridge for it…yes you, Kelsey!). I always make a little extra to be sure I have leftovers around to nibble on for lunch the day after.
Not surprisingly given his job as a winemaker, Joe is often asked about wine and food pairings. While there are some simple guidelines you can follow to pair your wine and food courses together (whites with fish/veggies and reds with steak/burgers/lamb), our philosophy is to enjoy whatever you’re feeling! There are no rules! I can go an entire night only drinking Fume Blanc and loving every sip 🙂
That being said, since Joe gets to bring home so many different wines that he works on every day, we decided to do a more traditional pairing for this meal. We started with the Fume while we were prepping the food and followed with two great bottles — the Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Chardonnay and the Robert Mondavi Winery MAESTRO red blend — as we dug into our skewers. The Maestro is a special wine which Joe had a hand in making for the first time last year for Robert Mondavi Winery’s 50th anniversary! The blend is unique in that the varietal composition changes with each vintage depending on what Mother Nature provides: Using select fruit parcels from the winery’s estate vineyards, the wine could include a bigger percentage of Merlot one year, or Cabernet the next (such as the 2014 vintage)! The wine gets its freshness from a component of Stag’s Leap vineyard fruit and its power and structure from the famous To Kalon vineyard.
(^Frank…always mean muggin’)
When we’re just cooking for the two of us (plus a few nibbles for the pups), we keep it easy and casual with two simple dishes and without a lot fussy table décor other than a simple arrangement of fresh-picked flowers from the garden. Our evening routine usually goes like this: We come home from our respective jobs and Joe cracks open a beer (because it takes a lot of beer to make good wine!), while I enjoy my go-to glass of Fume Blanc. Before long, we put on a Lumineers or Jack Johnson record (we have this stationary record player and this cool portable one) and we divide and conquer dinner.
In my opinion, a meal isn’t complete without dessert! I’ve always had a monstrous sweet tooth so I usually end the night with either a sweet treat or sweet wine…or sometimes both 🙂 Since our summer nights have been so beautiful lately, we decided to bust out some good ole’ S’mores alongside a sweet wine, the Robert Mondavi Winery Moscato d’Oro. I adore this wine and get really excited whenever Joe brings the little bottle home. Made from Muscat Canelli grapes, it has the perfect amount of sweetness to satiate your palate without feeling like you’re drinking straight sugar. So good!
Summer in the Napa Valley is a special time as long as you catch a day when it’s not 100 degrees (we’ve had a few this year)! If you’ve never visited I encourage you to come to this beautiful place. But even if you can’t visit, you can bring the Napa Valley lifestyle to your own backyard by following our lead: Purchase what’s fresh and delicious at your local grocery store or farmers market. Pick a few great wines to accompany the meal. If possible, dine al fresco like we do or splurge by finding a restaurant with outdoor seating. Keep it relaxed and easy and you’ll have everything you need for a leisurely meal with the people who matter the most – Napa style.
You can shop everything I’ve linked below:
Feel free to comment any questions you have about these Robert Mondavi wines, or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Robert Mondavi Winery for sponsoring this post. This post is intended for readers 21 years of age and older.