Sunday, February 27, 2011

California Cafe Palo Alto 5-Bites Friday hosted P.B. Hein Vineyards

California Café at 700 Welch Road in Palo Alto is hosting their 5 Bites Friday event every Friday.  On Friday February 11, they hosted P.B. Hein Vineyards from Napa Valley who served their 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2004 Napa Valley Charbono and 2007 Napa Valley Trailblazer.  Executive chef Mark Pettyjohn crafted a mouth-watering 5 Bite Tasting Menu to complement each of these wines along with a sparkling wine and a dessert wine.  While the servers provided each tasty dish, the winery educators pour the wine and tell you about each wine.  Meanwhile, Dan Nieckarz was playing Latin and classic jazz to give the dinner a relaxing ambiance.  All this for only $20 makes this a wonderful Friday night excursion.


Paul Bernard Hein, while relatively new to winemaking, has inherited a family history in winegrowing that stretches back for 129 years to when his 4-times Great Grandfather planted 29,000 vines to start a vineyard on Mt. Veeder in Napa.  While winemaking was in his blood, Paul took another direction with careers ranging from a steam fitter in an oil refinery to 25 years in the high tech industry inventing, manufacturing and installing computer systems.  But he was drawn back to his roots, returning to Napa Valley to a 47 acre vineyard above St. Helena where he opened a small boutique winery in 2002 and producing his first commercial vintage in 2005.  He is a hands-on winemaker whose says, “ the job of the winemaker is to do no harm and allow the grapes to do their thing”.


The 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay has a golden straw color with aromas of oak, butterscotch, green apple and pear.  On the palate the fresh fruit flavors shine through leading to a long finish highlighted by the toasty oak.  This night the chef paired this with a Rock Crab Ceviche that included a gala apple slaw and citrus lemon crisp.  The dinners were pleased with how well the wine went with the crab.  The price of the wine was $21 at the winery, but California Café was selling it for $19.


Next on the menu was the 2004 Napa Valley Charbono, a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition winner.  It is a full bodied complex wine bursting with the aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, pomegranate, tea and oak and a bit of a rustic quality.  Charbono is a rare wine in California with only 80 acres left and half this in Napa.  It was paired with a shredded short rib, served with a black pepper flat bread and smoked tomato jam.  The rustic spiciness of the wine worked well with the BBQ style of the dish.  Price of the Charbono is $19 at the winery, $18 at California Café.


The fourth bite for the evening was a black peppercorn beef that practically melted in your mouth, complete with an oven roasted tomato, herb fingerlings and blackberry-chipotle demi.  The wine educators poured the 2007 P.B. Hein Trailblazer, a red blend of 52% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Zinfandel from Napa.  It is loaded with dark fruit aromas and flavors including plum, raspberry, cassis and balanced with spices and black pepper plus baker’s chocolate.  It has a very long finish.  Only 475 cases were produced and this is the biggest production wine at P.B. Hein.  The price is $20 at the winery or $18 at the Café.


In addition to the P.B. Hein wines, 5 Bites Friday included as the first bite a Citrus-Champagne Poached Pear with whipped brie and liquor reduction served with a Yulupa Cuvee Brut Sparkling wine.  The ended the night with the Fifth Bite of a Late Harvest Raisin Bread Pudding in a honey chantelle cream served with a 2007 Hanna Nicole Late Harvest Wine. 


The 5 Bites Friday event is not to be missed and is a wonderful food and wine pairing adventure in a relaxed atmosphere.  Coming up next on February 18th is Robert Hall Winery.


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