A Heavenly Valentine’s Weekend in Napa

For those of us who cherish great food and wine, Napa and Sonoma are mecca supreme. There’s more to sample in wine country than an aggressive foodie could accomplish in a week, a month, a year.

But, from time to time, there are these amazing opportunities to get the best of the best distilled into one awe-inspiring event. One of these is the annual Masters and Makers @ Meritage.

wine and chocolatePart weekend party, part sommelier school, Masters and Makers offers a completely immersive food and wine experience. Guests taste great food and wine and learn about wine pairings, glassware, cooking, the list is extensive. In other words, the fun kind of boot camp.

The Venue

Located just south of Napa, The Meritage Resort and Spa offers sumptuous lodging, including two swimming pools, an award-winning spa and tasting room in a cave and restaurants, tucked away against a hillside vineyard.

Pool side cabana
Photo Credit: Rex Gelert

This is the third year The Meritage has hosted Masters and Makers which, like previous events, featured the best Napa and Sonoma wine, farm-to-table dining, seminars and classes. It was an amazing opportunity to learn by doing – picking up the subtle bits of knowledge that can take you from a good wine selection to a great one.

The weekend started with an Amuse Bouche, a tasting featuring wines from HALL Wines and Trinitas Cellars. This all-levels “workshop” included insights from a winemaker and a master sommelier.

wine caveLater HALL Wines was featured again at a winemaker dinner in the estate cave with food by Meritage executive chef Ryan Rupp. The meal included a
generous serving of Wagyu Beef, Smoked Muscovy Duck and a “Winter Seafood Mosaic.” For dessert, and yes I found room to eat it – Bitter Chocolate Custard with currant poached pear, ginger streusel, almond gelato and praline with edible flowers. Again, a master sommelier helped guide guests through the various selections, describing each wine’s traits and why it was chosen for that particular course.

Snake River Wagyu

Saturday’s lunch focused on unlikely wine pairings that you might not expect work well together. Lunch included Potato and Leek Soup — Curry, Shrimp and Chive Dumpling, Crème Fraiche paired with an old vine Zinfandel. The second course was Applewood Smoked Pork Belly & Cherry Braised Organic Chicken with a Carneros Pinot Noir.

There was also a cooking class, running concurrently with the wine pairings, with insights from The Meritage team and Skywalker Vineyards. Later, there was a blind tasting of Napa Valley cabernets, reidelalong with a Shape of the Glass tasting experience with RIEDEL glassware where guests tasted through four wines in four different glasses to learn the importance of using the correct wine glass with each wine varietal.

One of the highlights was Saturday evening’s Grand Tasting, which included dozens of Napa and Sonoma wineries, as well as several local microbrews. Participants included Robert Mondavi, Stags’ Leap Winery, Etude Wines and many others.

Valen-Wines Day20160214_123613

This was all just a buildup to the grand finale on Valentine’s Day. Sunday began with an exquisite Valentine’s Day Sparkling Brunch. The food was beyond delectable, featuring assorted Tea Sandwiches, Niman Ranch Ham and Pt Reyes Toma Cheese Quiche, Chilled Jumbo Shrimp on Ice, Smoked Salmon Boards and Brick Oven Bagels, Thick Cut Brioche French Toast, Seven Pepper Spiced Tenderloin of Beef, Omelet Station and the yummiest little baked goodies!

The weekend finished up with a tasting of Meritage blends and fine local chocolates.

The experience in a word – heavenly: Beautiful surroundings, outstanding food and excellent wines. It was a Valentine’s Weekend to remember and to keep coming back to – make sure to save the date for next year!

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