Posts From April 2007
April 30, 2007
News from Go Fish
Cooking for the Health of It
ST. HELENA CHEF VICTOR SCARGLE
ANNOUNCES EARLY SPRING MENU FOR GO FISH
Just one look at 32-year-old Go Fish Chef Victor Scargle tells you he’s cooking for the health of it. California born and bred, he took to the stoves and gardens of Go Fish upon discovering in founder Cindy Pawlcyn a true kindred spirit. “This is my opportunity to work with someone who shares my feelings about food and life,” explains Victor.
Ingredient-driven cooking is common talk these days. For Victor, it shapes the very core of his kitchen. While chefing at Julia’s Kitchen in Napa, he and garden curator Jeff Dawson formed a seamless alliance enabling them to source 80 percent of the restaurant’s summer produce from the COPIA gardens and 60 percent the balance of the year.
At Go Fish his year-around garden harvest augments local farm produce deliveries and compliments the fish he and sushi chef Ken Tominaga receive fresh daily. Victor and Ken work in tandem to offer parallel menus to locals and wine country visitors who immediately embraced a menu rich in fruits of the sea.
Victor’s culinary skills were honed in the fast-paced kitchens of Michael Minna, Traci De Jardins and Doug Rodriguez to name a few. In his new Napa Valley kitchen, he savors the rush of team spirit in an atmosphere of challenge and respect. The challenge he speaks of is considerable at Go Fish where the aim is to have something for everyone day and night.
While St. Helena’s population is just shy of 6,000, it is a culinary mecca. Go Fish keeps the dining casual, while working to deliver:
- A quick bite, be it a dozen oysters and a glass of Sancerre; a plate of sushi and a glass of sake or a bowl of noodles and a cup of green tea;
- Special-occasion dinner for two in a quiet corner or for a crowd on the patio;
- Fish dinner from salad to a wood-grilled seasonal catch alongside a seasonal vegetable and followed by one of a lush array of home-style desserts.
French technique defines Victor’s Go Fish style. The simplicity of a few bright flavors and a clean presentation are hallmarks of his cooking.
The Go Fish menu is unquestionably “fish-centric” but meat lovers will find a few “no fish,” listings including: Red Wattle Pork, Watson Farm Lamb and Reichert Farm Duck.
Victor makes his home in Napa with his wife, Kimberly, who works for the Napa Conference and Visitor’s center and their toddler, Cameron.
April 23, 2007
Alder Yarrow on Quixote Winery and Petite Sirah
It seems to me that as people get older, especially those who we might consider accomplished and successful, they might feel a bit more license to lighten up or to stir the pot, having already proven themselves a bit to the world. I certainly plan on being a bit more frivolous, eccentric, and quirky if I can afford to in my old age.
Napa is filled with a generation of winemakers that could easily rest on their laurels. Over the past thirty years, this group of men and women have created an industry, and most have made their own fortunes. Rather than fade into the shadows of the next generation, many of these winemakers are striking out in new directions, prompting me to coin a new bumper sticker: "Old winemakers never die. They just keep fermenting."
By all accounts, Carl Doumani has nothing to prove. The founder and original owner of Stags' Leap Winery nearly 35 years ago, Doumani has not just been around the block, he was there before the streets were paved. In those days Napa valley was such a small community that when Robert Mondavi wanted to buy some of Carl's grapes, he just showed up one day and knocked on the door. Doumani didn't know who he was, but agreed.
Even before selling Stags' Leap to Beringer in 1997 for a hefty sum, Doumani had begun planning his own personal winery with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. He had no desire to create another Stags' Leap, and instead envisioned a winery that would exemplify his interest in architecture, art, and natural form. Six years later he had a winery that looked nothing like he ever imagined, and everything he could have dreamed.
It all began with a disappointing architect. I can imagine Doumani's big, stone-mason-like hands gesturing as he tried to convey a concept to the architect he had hired to do some sketches of his new winery. Doumani is an articulate guy, but architecture is famously difficult to capture in words. For whatever reason the architect wasn't getting the picture. In one of his last disappointing interviews with the never-to-be architect, he happened to notice a calendar on the wall featuring images of sculpture unlike any he had ever seen, sculpture that perfectly captured the spirit that he wanted from his building.
The calendar celebrated the work of the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a man that Doumani would spend years trying to find out how to get in touch with, and still many more months trying to convince that designing a winery for him was a good way to spend his time. What Doumani didn't know was that once Hundertwasser agreed, it would still be many more years before the winery was complete. Without relaying the whole saga, suffice it to say that Hundertwasser was a great, but easily distractible mind.
The finished product, however, is unlike any building Napa has ever seen. Architecturally its closest relatives (and indeed, direct stylistic influences on Hundertwasser) are the fantastical works of Antoni Gaudi, the virtues and fantasies of which which any Barcelona tourist can extol. Trees and grasses grow out of the roof, no two windows are the same size or shape, not a single right angle exists anywhere in the building, and Carl Doumani is one happy camper.
When Doumani hired Hundertwasser, he expected to get an architect. What he got instead was more of a winery with a patron saint -- someone whose philosophies are expressed not just in the physical structure of the building, but in the wineries whole orientation to the world. Partially because of Hundertwasser, Quixote Winery is growing its grapes organically, and the environmental footprint of the winery, from water usage to heating costs is intentionally low. And perhaps most importantly (though the winery owes this as much to Doumani as it does to Hundertwasser), the winery is simply fun.
Quixote winery is a welcome reprieve from the seriousness with which most Napa enterprises approach the world. From the wacky labels, to the walkway up front that is intentionally off-kilter, to the wildly colorful and massively expensive Italian ceramic tiles (that Hundertwasser miraculously received intact after a long ocean voyage and promptly smashed with a hammer to show that perfection was not his goal), Quixote manages to be the proper Napa incarnation of its literary namesake.
If there is one aspect of the winery that is not off tilting at windmills, it is certainly the winemaking, that progresses with deliberation and care under the watchful hands and eyes of Mario Monticelli, a UC Davis educated winemaker who consults on several small labels in the valley in addition to his full time gig at Quixote.
The winery produces around 3000 cases (and will eventually top out at around 5000) of Cabernet and Petite Sirah in 4 bottlings, two of each varietal. The lower priced wines are named Panza, after Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's ineffable sidekick, and the top wines bear the name Quixote.
With the gravitas of a grizzled veteran, Doumani will tell you that in this age of consolidation, the real future of Napa lies in small wineries -- wineries who are not afraid to do things a little differently. Gazing out from his office windows at what seems to be a perfect little ecosystem of oak trees and vines in the shadow of a golden dome of some post-cubist, semi-surreal architectural fantasy, that's pretty easy to believe.
Tasting Notes: Opaque purple in the glass with the density of ink, this wine has a tantalizing nose of smoke and black licorice aromas. In the mouth it possesses fantastic texture, slipping down the tongue with flavors of cassis, blueberry and damp earth. These flavors are supported with a skeletal structure of light, grippy tannins that propel the wine to a very nice finish.
Food Pairing: There's something about this wine that just cries out for Morcilla, traditional Spanish blood sausage, grilled with onions.
Overall Score: 9
How Much?: $55
April 13, 2007
A Quixotic Discovery
Napa Sonoma Magazine
Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or Pamela@studio-707.com
Fun a Priority at Doumani's whimsical winery
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The winery is exceedingly idealistic and impractical, which is its definition and its name. Carl Doumani’s Quixote Winery in the Stag’s Leap District, a mile from Silverado Trail, is an unusual building. Although it contains places for the usual winery paraphernalia, its charm is its design and subsequent execution by the late Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
On a recent spring morning a tour group of 10, many from the East Coast, toured the only Hundertwasser building in the United States.
Marjorie Morgan and Whitney Robbins traveled from Bolton, Mass. to see the building after becoming Hundertwasser fans four or five years ago after stumbling onto the public housing project he had designed in Vienna. Robbins teaches her seventh-graders about the Vienna native. She asked her students to research Hundertwasser on the Internet and then write a poem about the passionate aesthetic who turned the world’s architects on their ears. “One girl wrote that he was a very free spirit,” Robbins said, after learning that the passionate Hundertwasser would call a news conference and deliver his address in the nude, to gain more coverage for his ideas. “The students got the aesthetic,” Robbins said.
‘A philosopher and ecologist’
"It is great to be surrounded by an aesthetic that is so complete. I’ve always taught that he is more than an architect, more than an artist, that he is a philosopher and an ecologist, which are different aspects of his personality. I was looking at the irregular shapes and by visiting here we get to live his philosophy and to benefit from it. It’s the best possible scenario and the legacy that he’s left us,” she said. Irregular shapes, brightly-colored mosaics and columns, gently undulating floors and walkways, curving rooflines and golden turrets characterize Hundertwasser’s style. Beyond that, he hated straight lines and loved to bring nature into his buildings, literally. Like the other buildings he designed, Quixote Winery has a natural roof, covered with 30 inches of soil. On it grow grasses, wildflowers, bushes and trees. On Saturday, Feb. 10, the New York Times published Chris Colin’s article on the winery, which officially opened to the public the following day. When the two-person staff (Lew Price, general manager and Liz Ross, executive assistant) arrived at the winery on Monday morning, they were deluged with 269 e-mails. The hundreds of phone calls and e-mails since have slowed to a trickle. “It was an amazing launch and it put us on the map,” Price said.
Planted trees in rooms
Price also talked about the designer’s Vienna public housing project, Hundertwasserhaus. “In Vienna, he made the owners give him empty rooms dotted throughout the building. He filled the rooms with dirt and planted trees, so their branches would grow out the building. He called them his tree tenants. He wanted to bring nature to the bleak environment of the inner city.” Quixote Winery began when Doumani bought 400 acres in 1970 and founded Stag’s Leap Winery. After building the business into an iconic wine brand, Doumani woke up one day and discovered he was managing people, which is not what he wanted to do. Instead, he wanted to start over again, with a small winery. He wanted to have a hand in everything and bring a sense of fun and whimsy back to the wine business, which he felt was taking itself too seriously. Price said Doumani began searching for an architect to build his winery and while he was in the office of a San Francisco architect, he spotted a calendar with a photo of Hundertwasser’s Vienna project. One thing led to another and in 1989, Doumani flew to Vienna to meet the artist. It turned out to be a perfect marriage and ground was broken in 1991.
Sidewalk too straight
Doumani and Hundertwasser worked together for seven years and created the winery, although not without some struggles. Price said workers had laid down the walkway, with its four or five different surfaces and Hundertwasser came to examine it. “We had to rip up the sidewalk because it was too straight and flat,” he said. Today, Doumani said the winery is a great place to come to work. “It’s light, airy and I get to watch people walking up the walkway. Usually by the time they get here they’re smiling, so we’ve accomplished our purpose. We made it a place that’s pleasant to come to, it uplifts your senses and we have fun. That’s what we set out to do.” With winemaker Mario Monticelli and vineyard manager Michael Wolf, Quixote Winery produces 2,000 cases of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Grenache-Mourvedre, Claret and Syrah. The first vintage was in 1999. Doumani said work in the vineyard is ongoing, because “we’re always fine tuning what we’ve got. Really, it takes a long time to zero in on where we’re going to end up. With problems in different blocks, sometimes you can fix it; sometimes you can go with another variety or another clone to fix the problem. That’s what’s exciting to me.” For the future, Doumani said he and his staff have to keep improving on what they’re doing, get more consistency within the vintages and work on growing practices to produce the grapes and the wines that he wants. Is the wine good enough? “I drink a hell of a lot of it, it better be good,” he said with a laugh.
Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or Pamela@studio-707.com