Monday, May 16, 2016

Napa Valley Versus Sonoma: We Pick The Winner!

Team gears up for Napa vs. Sonoma at Real Seafood

The two most famous wine regions in the United States? There’s no doubt about it, Napa Valley and Sonoma lead the way. Which is better? Here’s our liquid quest to find and answer.

The dinner featured top wines and gourmet food.Real Seafood Showdown

This is the sort of event we love.The recent wine dinner at Real Seafood Company in Toledo had a competitive edge. Participants would taste head to head match-ups of Napa Valley and Sonoma wines to determine the best wine region – while enjoying the superb culinary treats of Executive Chef Paul Cerveny.

Napa Valley has been producing the finest American red wines for more than a century. Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme with some bottles commanding prices over $1,000.

Sonoma formerly was overshadowed by its world-famous cousin, but today it produces wines to rival Napa. It is well suited to cool climate wines including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Let The Battle Begin

Our contest pitted two iconic wineries: Rodney Strong Vineyards of Sonoma and Napa Cellars. Rodney Strong is the namesake winery of famed American Dancer Rodney Strong. Notable winery Napa Cellars is owned by the Trinchero winery group.

We enjoyed four courses with a wine from each winery. We tracked our favorites on a menu we used as a ballot to pick the winners. Even if we were only drinking water, each dish was a masterpiece to be enjoyed. Of course, paired with superb wines, this was an amazing dining experience.

First up was Wild Mushroom Spring Rolls with Chinese mustard dipping sauce and micro cilantro. The Napa Cellars 2013 Pinot Noir squared off against the Rodney Strong 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir. As we discovered as the evening progressed, it’s hard to choose between two excellent wines. In this case, our tasting team opted in favor of Sonoma and the Pinot from Russian River Valley. The notes of plum and raspberry made an elegant start to the evening. Our vote: Sonoma.

Pistachio Crusted Beef Wagyu by Chef Paul CervenyThe second course was Crispy Pan Seared Rice Noodle Wrapped Halibut with miso glaze, daikon radish and carrot salad with mango vinaigrette. The pairings were the Napa Cellars 2014 Chardonnay versus the 2013 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay. The Napa Cellars Chard was a strong contender with balanced flavors of citrus and apple. The Chalk Hill appellation gave Rodney Strong the edge with a full body that was creamy yet crisp. Our vote: Sonoma.

It was rally time for Napa Valley. The third course was Pistachio Crusted Beef Wagyu with pomegranate honey yogurt sauce, spring asparagus and chive couscous. Salute to the chef! All the dishes were stellar and this offered an explosion of contrasting flavors. The pairings were Napa Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon versus the Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet.

This was a bit of a surprise for me. I’m a huge Rodney Strong fan, especially of its premium range wines and any wines from Alexander Valley. I expected Rodney Strong to mop up the floor (or the honey yogurt sauce) with the Napa Cellars Cab. However in a split decision I selected the Napa Cellars Cab for its rich flavors of dark cherry and cocoa. The Rodney Strong Cab tannins were a bit too strong. Our vote: Napa Valley.

It was bottom of the ninth with Napa Cellars at bat trailing by one run. Could they rally for a clutch victory? The “pitch” was a Chocolate Pot de Creme raspberry puree with chocolate custard, chocolate ganache and sea salt. This was an amazing dessert paired with the 2012 Rodney Strong Knotty Pines Zinfandel and the 2012 Napa Cellars Zinfandel.

The Rodney Strong Zin is made with grapes from Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek. This power of three, plus a rich and spicy flavor profile, enabled it to top the Napa Cellars wine. Our vote: Sonoma.

Although we had the contest scored a win for Sonoma, when Terry Kretz, district manager of Mainstreet Ventures, announced the final tally which included all diners – it was a tie between Napa and Sonoma.

Who can quibble? Gourmet food, delicious selections from Napa Valley and Sonoma equal a win-win situation for any wine lover. We intend to continue to research the question of which wine region is better, no matter how many bottles of wine it may take!

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