Friday was the last day of our Culinary Camp. This was a fabulous week and if you are at all interested in cooking and wine, consider coming to one of Hugh Carpenter’s programs.
In the morning, we headed north from Silverado to Rutherford and the Elizabeth Spencer Winery. Elizabeth and her husband, Spencer do not grow their own grapes. They source fruit from a handful of dedicated growers and a dozen vineyard blocks. They use growers who can provide them with a continuity of high quality fruit, and they pay them fairly and reliably, in vintages of scarcity and excess.
In an era of corporate grape contracts, their long-term agreements consist simply of mutual high regard and a handshake. They make a number of boutique wines. Their Cabernet Sauvignon comes from grapes from select vineyards in the Napa Valley. Their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah come from the Sonoma Coast appellation. They have also produced very small quantities of Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc and Sonoma Coast Rosé of Syrah and a few other wines.
Elizabeth grew up near Philadelphia and Spencer was born in Vienna, Austria, and spent his boyhood in Brazil. These two people from different backgrounds they met in 1994 and married in 1997. As Spencer began establishing relationships with top-notch grape growers, Elizabeth was visualizing their winery concept and describing the label she would soon design. Elizabeth Spencer released its first wines from the 1998 vintage.
After lunch at the winery, we went back to our hotel at Silverado since we didn’t need to be at Cakebread for the final dinner until 4PM. I took a quick nap since my body demanded it after a busy week.
Marie and I met the group at Cakebread where a van drove us up to the Dancing Bear Ranch.
The Ranch is located on the slopes of Howell Mountain in the Northern Napa Valley. The vines grow in very stressful conditions in shallow rocky soil. The elevations range from 1450’ to over 1600’ above sea level and a wide range of growing conditions. The isolation of this site makes it home to a wide range of wildlife, including: turkeys, mountain lions, bob cats, and, of course bear.
Too soon our classes were over and it was time to go home. Our new friends from Minnesota had a 12:30AM flight from SFO. The couple from Kansas would be leaving on Saturday for Southern California to visit family for a week.
In all, this was a fun experience. I can’t wait to know what Hugh is planning to teach next summer. I think I will do this again.