October 16, 2018 -- From mid-fall to spring, visitors come to the Napa Valley to enjoy Cabernet Season. Once the grapes are harvested and the temperatures are perfectly mild, the region becomes a haven for cozy getaways, and of course, the wine. It's a time when a slower, intimate atmosphere emerges, creating personal experiences and a chance to explore all the culture (and Cabernet) the valley has to offer.

Cabernet Season is also when the valley’s chefs offer heartier menus and meals, which pair perfectly with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

From Calistoga to the Carneros region in Napa, chefs and restaurateurs from several of the valley’s towns have offered their thoughts on how the valley’s prized red wines complement seasonal menus. Recipes for each dish are featured at the end of the release.

In Calistoga, chef/owners Jenna Hodges and Shaun McGrath of recently opened Lovina Calistoga enjoy working with local produce on their menus during Cabernet Season. One of their favorite seasonal dishes is their Lovina Bolognese, which pairs well with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  “As the nights cool off, there's nothing like a classic Bolognese made with dark, rich Napa Valley Cabernet to make a comforting, wintery meal for your family and friends," they added.

Chef/owner Chris Cosentino of Acacia House in St. Helena looks forward to creating his menus during this time of year, and says, “I like cooking during Cabernet Season because the crisp weather allows for the warmth and richness of Cabernet to blend well with heartier foods that I tend to cook during this time of year.” Chef Cosentino offers his Quail with Salsify, Pink Lady Apples, and Rose Geranium, adding, “This dish is hearty, seasonal and pairs perfectly with rich cabernets,” chef adds.

Chef/Owner Cindy Pawlcyn of renowned Mustards Grill enjoys Cabernet Season, saying, “It’s a treat to be able to cook in wine country. As each season unfolds, I’m able to change gears and create menus that match the season by utilizing ingredients available from local ranches and farms, including our own gardens at Mustards." Cindy offers recipes for her famous Mongolian Pork Chops with Braised Red Cabbage, Mustards’ Mashed Potatoes and Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce. "When the weather turns crisp, like most Napa Valley chefs, I start to think about robust, hearty dishes like our Mongolian Pork Chops that work with the valley’s great Cabernets and other red wines,” she adds.

Chef/owner Charlie Palmer, of Charlie Palmer Steak and Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar at the recently opened Archer Hotel in downtown Napa welcomes Cabernet Season, saying, “It’s a time to enjoy a more relaxed pace and hang out in our favorite tasting rooms. It’s also when the valley’s chefs get creative with heartier dishes that sync to our cooler weather.” Chef Palmer offers a recipe for his hearty Colorado Lamb Chops with Fingerling Lyonnaise Potatoes, which he says, “goes great with a glass of our valley’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon - rich, robust and bursting with local personality."

Cabernet Season is an ideal time to visit the Napa Valley for its slower pace, fewer crowds, and beautiful scenery. For fans of hearty cuisine expertly paired with rich and bold red wine, it’s the perfect time to get away to America’s preeminent wine region.

(Images available upon request)


Lovina’s Bolognese
Chef/owners Jenna Hodges and Shaun McGrath, Lovina Calistoga

2 # ground chuck

4 # oxtails, braised and picked, liquid reserved

2 cups mirepoix (chopped onions, carrots, and celery)
4 garlic cloves

3 cups Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

6 oz tomato paste

1 dried Chili de Arbol, stems removed

4 oz whole peeled tomatoes, crushed

1/3 tsp fennel pollen

1 bay leaf

3/4 cup heavy cream

6 1/2 cups veal stock

1 1/2 cups oxtail liquid

1 TB thyme, washed and chopped

2 tsp rosemary, washed and chopped

1 TB kosher salt

- Braise ox tails barely covered in veal stock (325 degrees for 2-3 hours, or until very tender)
- Brown beef in a large skillet, then push to one side of the pan
- Add mirepoix and garlic to skillet and sauté in beef drippings
- Add bay leaves and chili de arbol
- Add tomato paste and Cabernet, then reduce until nearly dry

- Add stock. Simmer until halfway reduced and add picked oxtail meat

- Simmer 30 minutes, then add salt, heavy cream, fennel pollen, and fresh herbs

Best made at least one day in advance.

Quail, Salsify, Pink Lady Apples, & Rose Geranium
Chef/Owner Chris Cosentino, Acacia House
Serves 4

4 semi boneless quail
2 pink lady apples
2 lbs (900 g) fresh salsify roots
juice of 1 medium lemon
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch grated fresh nutmeg
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup rose geranium leaves
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
¼ cup chicken jus
black pepper

To start, remove the wings in the quail leaving the drumsticks still attached, then remove the thigh bones. Then trim around the base of the legs and pull the bones to French the legs. Repeat this process on all 4 quail, then cover with a freezer ziplock bag and pound the bird flat everywhere so it cooks evenly.

Rinse and brush the salsify first because the roots can be very sandy and dirty. Then peel them.  Rinse them well under cold running tap water again. Make sure that all the sand and dirt are completely washed off. While peeling the salsify, let the peeled roots soak in some water with half of the lemon juice. This keeps them from oxidation that makes the white salsify yellow once they are peeled.  Then cut the peeled salsify into 3” long batons. Pour the olive oil in a large saute pan and place it over high heat. Add the cut salsify and season with a little pinch of pepper, salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Saute the salsify until golden brown then deglaze with the wine and cook until dry. Add the lemon juice and then place in the oven. Bake the salsify in a preheated oven at 400°F 25 minutes until the salsify is soft and golden. Gently stir the vegetables halfway through cooking time. Remove the salsify from the oven, and reserve for the finished dish.

In a large sauté pan over high heat add the butter and let melt once melted add the birds breast side down letting the butter brown. Cook for 4 minutes on each side.  Add the salsify to the pan with the quail, making sure that the timing is correct with the prep of the salsify. While the quail is cooking, julienne the pink lady apples and set aside. Remove the quail and salsify from the pan and place on a platter. Top the birds with the julienne apples. In the pan with the brown butter add the rose geranium leaves and brown crisp, add the apple cider vinegar and reduced chicken jus then dose the quail.  Serve immediately.

Mongolian Pork Chops with Braised Red Cabbage, Mustards’ Mashed Potatoes and Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce
Chef/Owner Cindy Pawlcyn, Mustards Grill
Serves 6

Jerry Schlink and Herb Schmidt, two of our original regulars, patiently stuck with me as I experimented with different pork chop marinades for about a week. When I hit on the perfect match, the guys wrote their compliments on a napkin and my then-partner, Bill Higgins, framed it to remind me that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. During March 2000, which was not a particularly busy month, we sold 1,581 Mongolian Pork Chops. Yikes! In the winter we serve them with Braised Red Cabbage, hot, sweet Chinese-style Mustard Sauce, and mashed potatoes. In the summer, we might switch to sugar snap peas or haricots verts. You’ll have extra marinade, which keeps well, refrigerated, and can be used for baby back ribs or chicken (especially chicken wings, which when smoked then grilled are great). There are two special ingredients that really make the marinade: hoisin sauce, which is a slightly sweet Chinese bean paste, and a black bean paste with chiles that is pretty spicy. Look for them in Asian markets. Try to find brands that do not contain MSG.

6 (10-ounce) center-cut double pork chops
Mongolian Marinade
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 scallion, white and two-thirds of the green parts, minced
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Lee Kum Kee black bean chile sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, minced
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Trim the excess meat and fat away from the ends of the chop bones, leaving them exposed. Put the pork chops in a clean plastic bag and lightly sprinkle with water to prevent the meat from tearing when pounded. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound the meat down to an even 1-inch thickness, being careful not to hit the bones. Alternatively, have your butcher cut thinner chops and serve 2 per serving. To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Coat the pork chops liberally with the marinade and marinate for 3 hours, or up to overnight, in the refrigerator.

Prepare the cabbage, mashed potatoes, and mustard sauce, coordinating the timing so that the side dishes will all be ready when the chops come off the grill.

Place the chops on the grill and grill for 5 minutes on each side, rotating them a quarter turn after 2 to 3 minutes on each side to produce nice crosshatch marks. It’s good to baste with some of the marinade as the meat cooks. As with all marinated meats, you want to go longer and slower on the grill versus shorter and hotter, because if the marinated meat is charred, it may turn bitter. The pork is ready when it registers 139° on an instant-read thermometer.

Serve the pork chops with the cabbage and mashed potatoes. Offer the mustard sauce on the side for dipping.

Braised Red Cabbage  (Serves 6)

This dish is super easy to make. It is delicious with Mongolian Pork Chops or with smoked duck or grilled squabs.

1 large head red cabbage (about 1 pound)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 large red onion, julienned
1/2 cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise and cut out the core. Cut each half in half again lengthwise, then cut each quarter crosswise into 3/4- to 1/2-inch cubes.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft and golden brown. Add the cabbage and sauté, stirring now and then, for 25 minutes or so, until tender. Add the vinegar, sugar, and cumin. Mix well, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 20 minutes more, until the juices are syrupy and the cabbage appears shiny. The cabbage should be tender but not mushy.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. You can make this ahead and reheat it when needed.

Mustards’ Mashed Potatoes (Serves 6)

4 1/4 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2- to 3-inch chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus more as needed
3/4 to 1 cup milk
1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a strong simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when poked with a fork but not mushy.

Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, if you prefer a lumpier finish, you can mash them with a potato masher). Add 3/4 cup milk, the butter, garlic, and pepper. Mix on low speed to combine, then increase the speed to medium to mix thoroughly. Add more milk if the potatoes seem too thick. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes: Prepare the mashed potatoes according to the above recipe, reducing the butter by half and mixing in 1/2 pound fresh goat cheese (we use Laura Chenel’s chèvre) and 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme at the end.

Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce (Makes about 2 cups)

This mustard sauce is delicious on grilled meats or as a dipping sauce for chicken wings. Some people swear by it as the perfect burger condiment. It’s my favorite on hot dogs.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Colman’s mustard powder
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

Put the sugar and mustard in the top of a double boiler and mix with a whisk. When well combined, whisk in the egg yolks and vinegar. Cook over simmering water, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is thick enough to form ribbons when drizzled from the spoon. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. When cool, fold in the crème fraîche. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Colorado Lamb Chops with Fingerling Lyonnaise Potatoes
Chef/owner Charlie Palmer, Charlie Palmer Steak and Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar
Serves 6

1 each lamb rack, frenched
4 tbsp sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil
fresh black pepper (to taste)

Fingerling Lyonnaise
2 cups fingerling potatoes, blanched
3 tbsp smoked bacon 1" slices
3 each pearl onions, sliced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste 

Colorado Lamb Chops

Ask your local butcher for a cleaned frenched lamb rack. Season the lamb rack with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Coat the lamb with olive oil and place the lamb on a hot grill. Presentation side down. Grill the lamb to medium rare (about 3 -4 minutes on each side), remove the lamb from the grill and let it rest off to the side.

Fingerling Lyonnaise Potatoes

Add the fingerling potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with cold water. Add 3 Tbsp kosher salt to the water. Bring the potatoes up to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender.
Once the potatoes are tender strain them from the water and let them cool on a sheet pan at room temperature. Cut the potatoes in half, length-wise. In a large sauté pan render the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan (reserve on the side).

In the same pan heat the bacon fat and place the potatoes in the pan. Cook the potatoes until they are golden brown and crisp. Add the sliced pearl onions. Cook the onions until they are tender. Add the rosemary and crisp bacon. Cook the potatoes for 2 minutes to infuse the rosemary flavor.