3 2011on November
at 1:40 pm
Larry Maguire, Far Niente President and CEO, enjoys a long tradition of spending Halloween in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, and in this blog post, he shares why.
I’ve been in Napa Valley nearly my entire life. My family moved north to Napa from Fullerton, California when I was 14. After a short stint in the Bay Area after college, I moved back to Napa Valley, first to Yountville. Karen and I later moved to St. Helena when our children were born, and we have now been here for 24 years. I know, some of you wonder how I can stand the 15-minute commute down valley to Oakville every day. Well, I suffer through it.
I was thinking about the wonders of our small town Monday night as Karen and I debated how we should spend Halloween evening. Our home is removed from foot traffic so we knew there would be no trick-or-treaters knocking on our door. If we wanted to get into the Halloween spirits (pun intended) we would need to dress up and head to town.
I should tell you that St. Helena has a long-standing reputation for great Halloween spirit. Trick-or-treating in town with our children when they were small was magical. It wasn’t unusual to see parents walking with wine glasses like children with candy bags. The homes of every vintner in St. Helena (and there are many) offered treats in the glass for mom and dad. Then the kids would go off to bed and we would head off to Terra to enjoy Chef Hiro’s great food and to take in the costume artistry that resides within his wife Lissa. While our kids have long left home, Karen and I still need to head to Terra to enjoy Halloween.
Terra never disappoints, and Monday night Lissa and the entire staff were in costume. Lissa always sets the bar higher each year for great costumes. This year’s Mrs. Potato Head gets very high marks. You’ll notice that some faded, old rock star paid a visit and even Marie Antoinette pulled it together enough to eat cake. I’ll never reveal their true identities …
Trevor Eliason, our Executive Chef, writes this ode to the fall-time dishes he so enjoys, and if this doesn’t inspire your inner chef (or at the very least make your mouth water), we don’t know what will!
The month of October means so many changes for the Napa Valley. This is the month when all the harvest action happens and so many come to see how wine is made and watch the season change before their eyes. There is also a transition in my kitchen, from the wonderful summer fruits and vegetables to the foods that inspire warmth.
As a chef, life in the garden this summer was a test of patience with the unusually cool weather, but when it finally paid off, the reward was plentiful and lush. Heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries, herbs and chilis filled every basket in the kitchen as we rushed to can, dry and preserve for the winter months.
Left to right: Stewed black-eyed peas, quince purée, estate 2010 olive oil, piperade,
pickled chanterelles, preserved Seckel pears and heirloom tomato sauce
But the fresh, vibrant food of summer has quickly slipped away as the cool October evenings have taken over. Now we’re collecting ripe persimmons, apples, pears and gourds from our fall garden. The craving for warm, gently braised dishes and deep-red, luxurious wines kick in this time of year. The aroma of wood-oven roasted butternut squash fills the Far Niente kitchen. Basted in brown butter, garlic and thyme, the smell is earthy and inviting. As sad as it is to see another summer pass, the comfort of fall and its bounty is comparable to putting on your favorite sweater on a cold night.
Soon the Thanksgiving holiday will bring family and friends together to enjoy one another’s company. A roaring fire and a big dining room table full of good company, great food and wine bring me more joy than anything. Which reminds me, I need to start planning my menu for Thanksgiving. Maybe for my next blog I’ll post what the Thanksgiving menu looks like for a Napa Valley chef. I’m thinking a few hints of truffle, wild mushrooms, broccoli romanesque, mixed chicories …
20 2011on October
at 2:38 pm
Whereas winemakers of dry wines want nothing to do with Botrytis and shriveled berries, those conditions are exactly what Dolce winemaker Greg Allen looks for in fruit that’s ready to pick. We checked in with him to see how the Dolce fruit is progressing towards harvest. Here’s the lowdown:
The recent rains have unleashed the unrestrained growth of Botrytis throughout the Dolce vineyards. Pictured here is a cluster of Semillon of which about half of its berries are presenting the tell-tale signs of early-stage Botrytis: fully-sized pink to purple berries.
Right now, about 30% of the fruit looks like this. At this stage, benevolent mold is growing throughout the berry. With the warm weather we’re currently enjoying, we expect the berries to shrivel and soon, not-so-appealing grey fuzz will cover each berry. Over the next week or so we’ll keep a close eye on the shriveling. When most of the fruit is dimpled (which indicates beautiful concentration), we will begin the first harvest pass. We will harvest the remaining 70% when it also reaches the wonderful, shriveled state.
Keep an eye on the Dolce Facebook page for harvest updates!
19 2011on October
at 9:43 am
Dirk Hampson stops by with this Far Niente harvest update:
Harvest is in high gear. While Chardonnay is all picked, we are just getting into the heart of the Cabernet harvest. The weather is finally giving us the conditions to bring the fruit of this late and cool season to full ripeness.
The beginning of October brought rain storms, putting fear in the hearts of growers and winemakers alike. While the rain caused some damage to the thin-skinned Chardonnay, we were able to sort and discard the less desireable fruit and get on with pressing the best berries. I have tasted our juice, and it shows all the strengths that we would expect from such a cool and long growing season. The Chardonnay is now headed off to barrels for fermentation.
The first of the Cabernet has started to ferment and the color is deep and dense. With a weather forecast that projects unusually nice conditions for the next two weeks, we are both busy and optimistic. We know better than to rely too heavily on the meteorologists, so the winery is going to be busy every day “making wine while the sun shines.”
6 2011on October
at 8:24 am
There are a lot of moving parts at Far Niente—and from the vineyards to the cellar to the hospitality staff in the Great Hall, we are fortunate to have wonderful people behind each component.
If you’ve been to an event at Far Niente, you have experienced the graceful handiwork of our Director of Hospitality, Hillary McGonigle. She brings a wealth of experience with her from her time at The Ritz-Carlton and other well-known properties and has an eye for the details that make a party not just good but great!
We sat down with Hillary to find out just how she got started in the world of special events. Here’s what we discovered:
When did you start at Far Niente? June 26, 2006
How did you get into event management? I majored in economics in college, but was also social chairman at my sorority. As it turned out, throwing parties was a lot more fun! I began working at resorts and hotels in San Francisco (such as the InterContinental and Renaissance properties) then moved onto The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel. I worked 24/7, holidays included!
What brought you to the wine business? When my daughter McKenna was born, I decided to begin a part-time wedding planning business in order to have more time with my family. After a couple of years, I took a position with a winery in Sonoma planning and executing all of their weddings. My husband, who is in the wine business, knows Tom Rodrigues [who designed the Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel, Dolce and EnRoute labels], and he knew that Far Niente was looking for a full-time hospitality director. Here I am!
What is the best part of your job? I am rewarded in seeing people happy. I love to create incredible experiences and life-long memories for people, whether it’s our Cabernet Release Day for club members, a dinner for 20 people or a momentous celebration like our 125th anniversary. And, of course, there’s no place like Far Niente to create these beautiful memories.
Tags: Hillary McGonigle
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