Colgin & Keller

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This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.

Emeril Lagasse taking his chef's coat off for a bid of $9,000. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Life doesn’t get better than this. Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cuisine paired with Colgin Cellars wines served at Ann Colgin and Joe Wender’s hillside “IX Estate” property in the scenic Pritchard Hill of Napa Valley.

The first weekend of June, I was at one of my favorite wine events — Auction Napa Valley, a four-day, non-stop celebration of food and wine. Now in its 32nd year, the auction raised over $8 million the first weekend in June, proceeds of which benefit local health and youth charities. The top lot had 82 bidders raise their paddles for Fund A Need that brought in $1.2 million for children’s health and education initiatives. This lot offered no cult cabs or vacation packages, just the satisfaction of helping children.

Before the frenzy of the live auction, guests picnicked on the Meadowood Resort’s fairway, toting wooden wine boxes that contained Ad Hoc restaurant’s crispy fried chicken, corn bread and potato/English peas salad. There was plenty of crisp Napa whites and rose wines to accompany lunch.

The 40 live auction lots featured pricey Napa magnums and exotic escapades. Barbara Banke (widow and partner of Jess Jackson) bid $460,000 for a private concert for 28 by Lady Antebellum, a trip for two to London and a collection of Napa wines. The Chappelet family package offering a trip to Africa (a five-year-old cheetah promoted this package) brought in two bidders at $360,000 each. Then there was Emeril Lagasse, the post-auction dinner chef, who marched on stage and took his chef’s coat off his back for a bid of $9,000.

But back to Keller’s cuisine. It’s not often that black truffles get shaved over your plate of lasagna by the maestro himself. But that’s what chef Keller did for the 30-some guests at the Friday night Colgin Cellars-hosted dinner. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t taking notes, just indulging in the multi-course meal. With the small alabaster spoon, I scooped the white sturgeon caviar and green apple relish dotted with Verbena crème fraiche and washed it down with a bubbly — a 1997 Grand Cru Salon blanc de blancs, Le Menils-Sur-Oger. The fish course was the delicate Dover sole accented wth succulent Maine lobster and cauliflower paired with the 2009 Grand Cru Camille Giroud Corton Charlemagne.

Guanaja tarte au chocolat, Brooks cherries, caramelized Piedmont hazelnuts and white chocolate ice cream. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Although I don’t usually eat red meat, I wasn’t about to pass up Keller’s lamb (which I noticed from the menu was from Elysian Fields Farm) served with sweet corn croquette, Holland white asparagus and morel mushrooms enveloped in Bearnaise reduction. Colgin’s 2006 IX Estate Meritage was simply divine with the lamb. This was followed by “Ossau-Iraty” sheep’s milk cheese from south-western France served with red walnut Dacqouise, pearl onions, avocado, arugula and “piment d’Espellete.” Perfect with the 2004 IX Estate Colgin syrah.

The dinner ended with a high note – guanaja “tarte au chocolate” with Brooks cherries, caramelized Piedmont hazelnuts and a small scoop of white chocolate ice cream…and there was a tray of irresistible mignardises. Since I favor chocolate desserts with cabernets or syrahs, the Colgin selection was a perfect finish for me.