St. Helena

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July 25, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Bar Terra | St. Helena, CA

Mami Gato: El Tesoro Reposado, Campari, Lillet Blanc, Yuzu

Let me be the first to admit that the photo isn’t great, but the taste: superb. While the Wine Blogger Conference of 2011 was going on, I felt the need to console myself (for not being there) by heading to Bar Terra in St. Helena. Bar Terra is the right wing of Terra restaurant, though there’s no conservatism present in the cocktail design or lighter fair menu. When in front of the building, Bar Terra is literally, to the right and to the left is Terra, dishing up pre-fix menus of “new creations and Terra classics” to quote their site. Let’s hope their Buttermilk Fried Quail is still involved… oh my.

So Bar Terra: I assuaged my situation by beginning with the Mami Gato, pictured above (Cocktails designed – well designed – by Kris Schram). The drink was really very nice – maybe a touch Campari heavy, but refreshing, delightful and the perfect accompaniment for this:

What would this world be without deep-fried pig skins?

The Chicharrones with chile and lime zest. And a secret sauce of spicy, yet pleasant components. Let’s call it the Diablo [tangy] Dipping Sauce! Perfectly crisped, fluffy, crunchy and a great way to segue from land to sea: Next up:

Fried Tuna Belly, Crispy Onion, Wasabi Sauce

Yeah, yeah. Fried, then fried. Don’t judge me. I’ve got lawyers. Listen: while all those bloggers wine writers, were living it up in Charlottsville, VA, drinking a slew of “interesting” and “exciting” wines with their “friends” in “hotel rooms” I was in the mood for a little deep fry action. But. Wow. I mean, WOW. This dish was fantastic (props to Chef de Cuisine, Andrew Salazar). The Tuna was perfectly crisped on the outside, but still good ole Tuna on the inside, and the Wasabi sauce added a welcoming yet subdued touch of fire. The Mami Gato was thrilled to pair itself with this dish as the drink cut through the fat of the tuna with surprising agility. That’s right, the drink exemplified surprising agility – like the feeling runners experience when they paste on these damn things.

I also enjoyed a glass of Hendry 2010 Albarino. And that was a hell of a glass of wine. Nice fruit, and good acid too which complimented the Tuna – a great recommendation from my waiter.

The atmosphere presented exactly what I was looking for: a talkative, congenially tempered crowd with a great vibe. Had I been in the mood, I could have approached the bar, or the table next to me and engaged in a bit of local comraderie, and speculative conversation:

ME: “Good weather we’re having ya know?”

THEM: “Sure beats the New York heat wave.”

ME: “You ain’t kiddin, Old Sport. You ain’t kiddin.”

THEM: “What did you call me?”

Exeunt moi.

Massive beams like something from a stable or barn keep the ceiling from crashing in and black and white elegant sexy images of female silhouettes mix with French inspired Absurdo-art and hang about the walls, waiting for you to ask your waiter what the deal is with them.

While I felt as though the fun was being had 3,000 miles away, I was in fact having a wildly fun time and even managed to jot down some exiting ideas for a future potential performance piece. I’m forever working toward the next best thing especially with respect to performance. I’m reminded of how the playwright Edward Albee approaches an idea: He suppresses it – pins it down, shuts it out of memory. If that idea resurfaces he does the same. Shuts it out, forgets about it. If that idea continues to bombard his thoughts, it is only when he can no longer take the incessant juxtaposition of a repressed thought with a realized thought, that he begins to write it out. The suppressed, repressed idea: love the imagery – love how the idea matures and presents itself by saying, “Here I am, and it’s about damn time you dealt with me.”

Deal with it.

Okay, Jonny. You’re in St. Helena, CA. It’s 86 degrees during the day with no humidity and the temperature drops into the 50’s at night. Bar Terra has Chicharrones and colorful cocktails. Why go anywhere else?

I don’t know. I have no rebuttal. See you at Bar Terra again soon?

You bet.

September 28, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Ma(i)sonry, Pride Mountain, Cheers! St. Helena

We begin this post with a Wine Poem:

WinedOWirl

I dreamed of a man standing

In the hallway with a corkscrew

Who was going to open up all the wine

I don’t own and I begged him not to do it

but he didn’t listen and then there was grape juice

all over the kitchen floor and all I could hear was the sound

the WinedOWirl makes — guttural and gurgling.

That was interesting, huh? Now we move on to bigger and better things that look like vineyards, stone buildings, and parties—-feast your eyes on this photo below!

maisonry

Jonny C & Thys-Jan Tepper at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville, CA

This from Ma(i)sonry’s website:

Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley offers a unique lifestyle experience in wine country. Originally built in 1904 as a private residence, the manor is one of three stone buildings in Yountville, and one of only two listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The setting is reminiscent of a home or a private club, framing a highly edited collection of furnishings and artwork. The furnishings, ranging from 16th century to mid-twentieth century, are paired with contemporary works crafted by today’s top designers. The collections of art on display include Napa Valley favorites, the best in the Bay Area as well as some of the most respected names worldwide, all of which will be available for purchase.

I can vouch for this – I was made to feel like a Lord of the manor, and so will you, should this mark a stop along your Napa Valley tour.

I first learned of Ma(i)sonry one eve, dining at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, CA, just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. Moved to the bar, awaiting our table, Amanda and I struck up conversation with a lovely couple, Thys-Jan, or “Tie,” and Erin. Tie was just starting at Ma(i)sonry and we had a great time chatting about the new venture and how much he and Erin love living in Napa.

Interestingly, that night at Cavallo Point, we had ordered a Robert Foley 2005 Merlot off the list, but the Sommelier had just sold the last bottle. He assured is however that there was another wine that would satisfy our palates. The label, when presented, showed a simple, elegant white backdrop with a flock of birds swooping up and off into the green glass of the bottle, and with that, we were introduced to Blackbird.

Wow.

Luscious. Smooth. Divinely fruity. Smelled like a stack of a billion dollar bills and was the color of every perfectly cooked steak from here to around the world and back again. I wanted to guzzle it, and did, and made Amanda drive home.

At the time Ma(i)sonry was just getting off the ground and apart from their antique art items, they were setting themselves up as a tasting haven and had one proprietary wine, which just happened to be Blackbird! A prescient warning of good things to come? How could it be that of all the wines in all the world (at least all of all the wines on Cavallo’s wine list), we were served the very wine that is practically unavailable outside of Ma(i)sonry? The very new establishment where Tie would be wielding antique swords and skulls from the Ma(i)sonry manor in Yountville?

Ma(i)sonry is a playground of potential purchases. Everything is for sale—from the chairs to the tables where you sit to taste wine to the wine as well. And believe me, one glass of Blackbird merlot and you’ll think you’re Edgar Allen Poe (and luckily there is a bust of the man for sale).

The wine offerings at Ma(i)sonry currently include: The Brown Estate, Husic Vineyards, Lail Vineyards, Pedras Wine Company, Renteria Wines, and Tor Kenwood Family Wines. Tasting flights are $35 per person.

I would highly recommend a visit and then a casual stroll down the street to the French Laundry Garden where you can, when no one is watching, pick some herbs, and imagine how much you would have spent on the very green in your hand had you dined inside the little stone temple that is French and is full of French (Culinary) Laundry.

***

I’d promised I’d speak of Pride Mountain Vineyards as well and Cheers! St. Helena, and I will in brief: Pride was fantastic and my hero wine-maker Robert Foley reigned supreme leader of Pride for a long time. The land straddles the Sonoma and Napa county line and I learned that wine produced from grapes growing on one side of the county line is taxed differently than wine coming from grapes grown on the other. Beyond that, I’m convinced that a scene from Bottle Shock was filmed on location there.

Cheers! St. Helena is a wild event that happens the first Friday of every month in the town of St. Helena. They close off the streets and bands show up and nearly 75 wineries pour their wines to consumers who have purchased passes.

Pride Mountain Tasting Room - Wines on Display

Pride Mountain Tasting Room – Wines on Display

Pide's Caves - rows upon rows of silver-dollar winecakes!

Pride’s Caves – rows upon rows of silver-dollar winecakes!