Holiday Recipes that Pair Well with Friends: Amici Cellars Celebrates the Season

‘Tis the season for gathering around the holiday table, sharing a toast of fine wine and a festive meal with family and friends. Designed for stress-free sharing and pairing, this smart make-ahead menu from Amici Cellars saves holiday hassle while still being a show-stopper!

Amici Cellars is a winery that is, at heart, a story of friendship: Amici’s owners are all great friends with an equally great enthusiasm for making and enjoying great wines together. So they invited Napa Valley Chef John Adamson to create a menu of dishes that can be made or prepped in advance, leaving the cook with plenty of time to be part of the festivities.

“I’m always looking for elegant, holiday-worthy dinner party dishes that can be made ahead and leave me with time to enjoy the evening with our friends,” says co-owner Celia Shepard. “These three fit the bill perfectly!”

A stylish yet easy do-ahead hors d’oeuvre, Baked Chèvre in Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce is perfect for entertaining. The bright acidity and hint of citrus in Amici Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley are a refreshing complement to the creamy goat cheese. Best of all, you can simply pop it in the oven just before guests arrive and enjoy the party!

A sophisticated soup makes a wonderful first course for a dinner party. Chef Adamson pairs his “Wild and Tame” Mushroom Soup with Crispy Shallots with Amici Cellars Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. The wine’s lively raspberry and black cherry flavors provide a nice balance to the hint of cream in the soup, while its subtle earthy notes harmonize beautifully with the soup’s deep mushroom flavor.

For the main attraction, a classic Beef Wellington with Cabernet Reduction is an elegant dish with a presentation that makes it worthy of a special occasion. Prepped in advance, it’s only a half hour from oven to table. The fine tannins and dark fruit flavors in the Amici Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley provide a lovely balance to the rich pastry, and layers of mushrooms and pâté in the Wellington highlight the wine’s savory notes.

Download all three recipes and learn more about Amici Cellars wines at www.amicicellars.com/recipes. Happy Holidays!

Welcoming Uchi Restaurant Group to Amici’s Home

It was our pleasure to host Uchi Restaurant Group of Texas at our winery guesthouse last weekend. Renowned Napa Valley chef Morgan Robinson of Smoke Open Fire prepared a fantastic meal outside under the oak trees and everyone had a wonderful evening.

Chef Tyson Cole has brought his Uchi Restaurants (Uchi in Austin and Houston, Uchiko in Austin) to national prominence serving fresh, inventive and beautiful dishes at his Japanese restaurants.

A great example of Chef Cole’s fresh and creative cooking, courtesy of Chef Cole and the Wall Street Journal, is his recipe for Asparagus Three Ways with Fried Capers.  It’s not always easy to find a wine pairing for asparagus, but with the addition of briny capers and creamy eggs yolks, this dish makes a lovely pairing with the 2012 Amici Sauvignon Blanc.

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Tyson Cole’s Asparagus Three Ways with Fried Capers

Adding a Southwestern Flair to Recipe Pairings

We live in a big country, and it’s fun to explore our many interesting and delicious regional cuisines.  When summertime comes, there’s something about the flavors of the southwest, with their deep, earthy notes of chilies and spices balanced with the fresh, lively flavors of cilantro and lime, that lends itself to outdoor summer dining.  But if you also love your wine (as we do), pairing these two sets of flavors takes a deft hand.  Too much heat in your peppers and those smooth tannins in your Cabernet Sauvignon suddenly get a little less smooth; pack too big a punch with your boldly flavored seafood and gone are the delicate tropical notes of its Sauvignon Blanc pairing partner.

But you can successfully pair the nuanced and subtle flavors in wine with some incredibly delicious southwestern-style meals, and as in any good pairing, both the wine and the food benefit.  “Wine is often traded for beer when pairing with the flavors of the Southwest, but there’s no reason that needs to be the case,” says Chef John Adamson.   Amici co-owner John Harris grew up in Texas and he loves the flavors of his childhood, so when cooking for winery events, Chef Adamson often pairs Amici Cabernet Sauvignon and Amici Sauvignon Blanc with food that highlights the complex and bold flavors of the Southwest.

“Southwestern flavors, with their mix of chilies, cilantro and lime, pair well with Amici ImageSauvignon Blanc due to its palate-cleansing, crisp tropical notes,” says Chef Adamson.  To explore these complementary flavors, Adamson created his Amici “Cantina” Fish Tacos, in which snapper or halibut gets a buttermilk batter dip before frying up crispy and delicious, topped with creamy chipotle and lime-laced cabbage and pico de gallo. The lively citrus and tropical fruit flavors and bright minerality of Amici Sauvignon Blanc bring just the right note of mouth-watering freshness for a perfect pairing.

ImageAs for Amici Cabernet Sauvignon, Chef Adamson likes to pair its dark berry and mocha flavors with a juicy, smoky grilled skirt steak and serve it with a chimichurri, highlighting the dark fruit with a palate-perking acidity.  And if you want to walk on the wild side of food and wine pairings, just try John Adamson’s grilled Padrón peppers with sea salt: everything you were afraid to serve with a Cabernet works here.  “The Padróns, with their characteristic ‘some hot-some not’ nature, enhance the wine’s fruit characteristics, while they are not hot enough to clash with its tannins,” says Chef Adamson.  His recipe for Lone Star Skirt Steak with Padrón Peppers and Chimichurri is sure to become a summer favorite for you, as it is for us.

Farmers’ Markets and a Pairing Menu for Friends

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In just one week, one of the first rites of the Napa Valley summer season arrives:  the opening of the St. Helena Farmers’ Market.  A beloved small-town institution, the St. Helena Farmers’ Market is a bustling event every Friday morning that brings together local farmers offering produce fresh from the fields, gourmet food vendors and demonstrations by well-known local chefs.  In short, it’s a foodie paradise.

To celebrate the opening of the Farmers’ Market season and the upcoming release our new wines, we invited Chef John Adamson to create a pairing menu that would celebrate the season and be fun to prepare together. Coming from Amici, a winery created and run by friends, it’s fitting that these recipes are designed for sharing and pairing.  Many hands make light work!  You can each tackle a recipe, or divide the tasks and create the dishes together. Either way, it’s an enjoyable, shared experience, and each course pairs beautifully with an Amici wine. So grab your basket and your best friends and toast the arrival of Farmers’ Market season!

Pour yourself and your friends a glass of Amici Sauvignon Blanc and start cracking on our recipe for Dungeness Crab Cake with Lemon Aioli and Spring Greens.  Serve it with a garnish of micro-greens, simply dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The wine’s lively citrus and tropical fruit flavors and crisp minerality bring out the best in the sweet, succulent crab.

Next up: markets are brimming with spring peas and farm-fresh butter. Put them together in Seared Gnocchi with English Peas, Pancetta and Parmigiano-ReggianoAmici Pinot Noir shows plum and black cherry flavors with a hint of cedar-a perfect pairing with the gnocchi’s earthy notes of browned butter and caramelized pancetta. For a quick and easy dish, you can use any good quality prepared gnocchi, found at many gourmet food markets. For true foodies, break out your potato ricer and try Chef Adamson’s homemade Gnocchi recipe.

For the main course Grilled Herb-Marinated Chicken with Farmers Market Vegetables lets you enjoy the flavors of summer. Fill your basket with fresh herbs and vegetables—parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, asparagus, spring onions and more—and a plump organic chicken.  Marinated overnight then grilled over mesquite charcoal, the juicy, smoky chicken and vegetables are the perfect foil for Amici Cabernet Sauvignon‘s wild berry aromas, supple tannins and dark fruit, toffee and mocha flavors.

Download all three recipes here.