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One of Napa's Best Dining Experiences Isn't At a Restaurant -- It's at a Winery

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Signorello Estate is a boutique family owned winery that sits on a west-facing hillside overlooking the Napa Valley.  It is nestled between the appellations of Stag's Leap District and Oak Knoll on the Silverado Trail and is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon.  The winery owns 100 acres of land, of which 45 acres is planted to estate vineyards.

 

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Signorello is also becoming known for the culinary experience it offers visitors.  The estate winery takes food and wine pairing seriously.  They are partners with Snake River Farms in Idaho which produces American Wagyu Kobe-style beef, and Signorello offers tastes of it during its various epicurean experiences.

A winery creating food and wine pairings for guests is nothing new, and Napa Valley certainly has plenty of wonderful restaurants.  But I have to say that I was blown away by the pairing that the winery calls Enoteca Signorello.  Usually the food in a food wine pairing is small bites of a few things.  Not at Signorello.  They pull out all the stops, and you get to enjoy what may be one of the best four course meals I've had in Napa, and the best that I've had at any winery.  Enoteca Signorello is the brain child of proprietor Ray Signorello, Jr.  He believes in the marriage of food and wine, and that wine is best understood when paired with food at the table.  Ray's hope is to inspire wine lovers in an experience where they can really get, or taste how the wine can make the food taste better and how the food can enhance the wine.

The two-hour visit begins on the winery terrace, overlooking a swimming pool and the estate vineyards.  I'm with a small group of visitors from Iowa who own a restaurant.  Our first bite of the day is served out here, locally grown golden beets with Laura Chenel goat cheese and chives.  "What we're gonna pour everyone for the tour is a bit of our 2010 Bordeaux blanc," our guide says. "We call this Seta which is the Italian word for silk."  And the wine is as smooth as silk and works beautifully with the goat cheese and beets.  Seta has always been one of my favorite whites, I love the floral nose and the blend of rich body and crispness.

 

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The group moves out into the vineyard, where our guide stresses the importance of estate owned vineyards to the quality of the wines made here.

 

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The real Enoteca Signorello experience begins as we sit down in an intimate dining room in the winery, where we'll have three courses plus dessert.  The first plate arrives, sauteed swordfish with a green olive and sundried tomato tapenade, over a puree of sunchoke and roasted red pepper. This is not a small portion at all - it's really an entree size portion.  We are tasting two wines with this dish, the 2011 Seta and the 2010 Hope's Cuvée Chardonnay.

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The two wines for this first course illustrate how food and wine pairings can be complimentary or a contrast.  The Seta and the Hope's Chardonnay are wines with entirely different styles to show both of those concepts on the same dish.  The Seta, which is a light crisper style of wine, is going to be a contrasting comparison.  The acidity's going to cut through the puree whereas the Hope's Chardonnay is more of a creamy style wine which is going to be more of a comparative match.

 

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The second course is slow roasted pork belly, which comes from Snake River Farms where they raise Kurobuta pork, a heritage pork, said to be a more succulent and tender pork.  The belly has a sassafras rub and is served with a root vegetables puree and braised broccoli rabe.  The wine pairing is a 2009 Cabernet Franc. Signorello doesn't make a Cab Franc every vintage, and usually it's reserved for the wine club, so this is a special treat.  For me, I love the floral and earthy nose, and there's also an herbaceous note to the wine.  I think the pork brings out a little smokiness in the wine -- a good example of how food and wine interplay.  It's not just one way.

 

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By this time I'm already full, but you can't dine at Signorello without tasting the Kobe-style beef from Snake River Farms.  We're tasting two wines with it, the 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2007 Padrone which is a Bordeaux blend, Signorello's signature Cabernet.  It's a quintessential Napa-style Cabernet with big fruit, tannins and chocolate nuances, and  it couldn't be a more perfect pairing, matching the richness of the beef, yet cutting the fat with the tannins.

 

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Dessert follows, and although there is no wine pairing for it (Signorello does not make a dessert wine), it's a sweet ending to an absolutely delicious and harmonious meal.

The good thing about the Enoteca tasting is that it is served at lunch time.  I certainly don't need to eat dinner tonight.  You'll need an appointment for the Enotec, offered year round Friday through Sunday, $110 per person (for all the food and wine and the tour).  There's no other food wine pairing in Napa Valley that comes close to what Signorello does, something no foodie or wine lover should miss.