Report from the Road: Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Workshop 2006

Its been a big year for Cakebread Cellars. cakebread logo The label was recently named the number one most frequently ordered wine label in American restaurants by Wine & Spirits Magazine, and the winery just wrapped up the 20th anniversary of its 20th annual American Harvest Workshop. I was lucky enough to be invited to cover the event this year, and have come home full of recipes, pairing tips and new ideas about the role that local, seasonal food and great wine play in a full life. (I also came home with a few extra pounds, but they were well worth it!)

The event is a gathering of chefs, local growers and food purveyors, and media. In recent years, the Cakebreads have expanded the attendance to include about ten members of their wine club as well. All of the events attendees are treated to a variety of educational seminars covering wine and food pairing, winemaking from harvest to bottle, and vineyard management techniques. A local farmers market is set up at the winery, and the attending guests and chefs meet with local growers and shop for ingredients for two special dinners that take place the last two nights of the event. From the ingredients available, each chef crafts original recipes to be paired with Cakebread wines and served to a gathering of more than 70 attendees each night. These special dinners are prepared in the Cakebread kitchen at the winery. AHW attendees work side by side with these innovative chefs, acting as their prep team and sous chefs. The dinners are attended by the AHW guests, friends and business contacts of Cakebread Cellars, and local Napa residents who have purchased tickets in advance. The dinners are hosted by the Cakebread family, along with Bill Shoaf, who co-founded the workshop. Michael Weiss, wine and spirits professor at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York, acts as Master of Wine, explaining the pairing choices made for each of the four or five courses served throughout the evening.

The invited chefs in attendance came from a wide variety of up and coming restaurants from as far away as Scotland. This years roster of chefs included:

Albert Bouchard of Restaurant Bouchard, Newport, Rhode Island
George W. Brown, Jr., of GEORGE Catering in Dallas, Texas
Jody Denton of Merenda in Bend, Oregon
Stephen McLaughlin from the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland
Bruce Woods of Centro Restaurant and Lounge in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Look for future recaps from this event, including wine and food pairing notes from Weiss Pairing seminar and original recipes created especially for the event.

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