From The French Laundry to France: I’m digging the continuum this week.
Hall is one of those small-scale wineries that make tasting your way through the Napa Valley so enjoyable: intimate, artisanal, organic, they produce fourteen-odd varietals each season, two of which you might find in your local liquor store – if you’re lucky. Because they’re such a diminutive producer, the majority of their wines sell out via subscription. Which means to taste the breadth of their fabulous Cabernet, you really need to visit theÂ St. Helena estate vineyards. Though currently in the throes of constructing a major new guest experience facility – of which I’ll tell you more later – I still got the chance to relax in the dappled sunlight of the tasting garden and sip my way through a handful of choice bottles. Cabernet is like the Chardonnay of reds: people either love it or loathe it. If your palate falls into the latter camp you might be surprised, however,Â by the pure and vivid flavors Hall achieves. Unfined and unfiltered, these wines are layered, expressive, and totally delicious.
Chef Cindy Pawlcyn is one of the original Napa Valley trailblazers. On the eve of her pioneering eateryÂ Mustard’s GrillÂ celebrating it’s 30th anniversary of dishing up heaping plates of honest American fare with worldly sophistication, she took time out to take me through her gardens and sound off on what it’s like for a one-time hippie to suddenly find herself part of the establishment, the importance of educating diners about what’s on their plates, and why she can’t stand reality shows likeÂ Top Chef. Alas, you’ll have to wait until the story is published later this year; I can’t give awayÂ everything hereÂ for free.
It’s been an enjoyable (if terse) time in and around the Monterey peninsula. (Though passing the wreckage of the Air Asiana as I arrived into SFO this morning was a doubly disturbing sight.) I can’t say I’m looking forward to trading in the cool Pacific breeze for an East Coast heat wave, yet as George Harrison is currently crooning on my iPod, “all things must pass away….”
Unlike the tourist trap of the same name in San Francisco, the old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey retains a flavor of its commercial past. Sure it’s pockmarked with t-shirts shops and all manner of snow globe sellers, but dayboats still head out in the early morning hours to troll for the seasonal catch of the day – making it an arresting setting for a big bowl of seafood chowder.