Warm weather is in full-effect here in California Wine Country and I can’t complain! After a long, wet winter, I’m happy with sunny days and warm evenings.
My first get together of the warm weather season was the first dinner in Kendall-Jackson’s Farm-To-Table Dinner Series of 2017.
A fun, relaxed event, Kendall-Jackson, one of the largest wine producers in the world, provides guests an unforgettable experience focused on local food, including produce grown in the vegetable gardens that guests dine amongst.
To celebrate their first successful dinner of the season, here are four reasons to love – and to attend – Kendall-Jackson’s Farm-To-Table Dinner Series (in no particular order!).
1. Dine amongst an overwhelmingly beautiful & inspiring place
The farm-to-table dinners take place literally on Kendall-Jackson’s 3-acre farm, which is located at their estate just north of Santa Rosa. The excessively long dining table is nestled amongst organic produce gardens that provide the edible tools that KJ’s chefs use to create tasty dishes to pair with tasty wines.
During the dinner, guests can wander between the vegetable bed rows, explore sensory gardens focused around wine varietals, observe the bees responsible for making delicious estate honey, hang out with chickens, and learn about the sustainable and organic gardening methods they use.
From carrots to California poppies, the gardens are overwhelming, but in a good way. As a gardener myself, I always find inspiration when visiting gardens, and Kendall-Jackson’s gardens are no exception. Oh, they also grow 7,000 TOMATO PLANTS. Did I mention overwhelming and inspiring?
2. Hang with chefs, winemakers and master gardeners
We’re used to fancy food and wine events in Wine Country where chefs and winemaker are headliners. They’re put on pedestals and at events, they often tend more to camera flashes than kitchen challenges. At KJ’s farm-to-table dinner, it was quite the opposite.
The kitchen team at KJ is large – there had to be at least 10 individuals preparing the food for service under the setting sun during the event. Leading the pack was Executive Chef Justin Wangler who welcomed guests while he shucked Hog Island oysters at the opening reception. Justin’s a really friendly, down-to-earth guy who truly loves his work – his hospitality emanates upon first meeting and continues until you say farewell.
Chef Tracey Shepos made everything was just right – from the preparation to the final plating of each entree – in the outdoor kitchen located in the gardens. She’s a ball of energy who is from the Bay Area who has an eye for detail (and a great memory). She is even a television star, having won Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network.
Each farm-to-table dinner features a guest cheesemaker and this time it was my friend Sheana Davis, of the Epicurean Connection. Sheana, who taught me how to make ricotta cheese a few months ago, served guests her new P-1 double cream brie. The brie, which is a decadent, buttery cheese, is named after a mountain lion living in Sonoma Valley. Proceeds from its sales benefit the ACR Mountain Lion Project.
Sheana also served guests her award-winning Delice de la Vallee cheese, which is served at Kendall-Jackson for their daily wine and food pairings and at the French Laundry. It has a cult following, and as you can see above, it looks as beautiful as it tastes!
Estate gardeners, who maintain the farm-to-table gardens, also joined us for dinner. Guests were encouraged to talk to them about the gardens, which they expertly tend to every day.
Finally, winemaker Fritz Meier was also on hand, joining us at the table. He oversees the production of the winery’s Riesling, Muscat, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, the latter which we enjoyed paired with Sheana’s cheeses and Hog Island oysters!
3. Delicious wine – and plenty of it.
Kendall-Jackson makes A LOT of wine. In fact, they make the #1 selling Chardonnay, their Vintner’s Reserve, in the country. This event offered a great opportunity to explore their most recent releases of Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
There were two primary wine highlights for me at this event. The first: their 2016 Vintner’s Reserve Rosé, which is a Pinot Noir-based blend that has all you want for a poolside patio pounding Rosé: low alcohol (13%), a stunning, deep pink color (thanks to Syrah!), and a juicy watermelon-based flavor sensation that is complemented with spring stonefruit. It’s delicious. And a screwcap. And only like $17. Go get it.
The second highlight was their 2013 Jackson Estate Outland Ridge Pinot Noir. Anderson Valley AVA is, for me, Northern California’s premier Pinot Noir region and I was super stoked to try this wine. This Pinot epitomizes the beautiful balance of juicy strawberry and raspberry, and rustic, rocky earthy flavors I expect from an Anderson Valley wine. Suffice to say, I wasn’t driving so I requested multiple glasses of this wine!
4. Delish localvore food
As one would expect from a farm-to-table themed dinner, the food was serious farm-to-table. The majority of the produce was plucked directly from the garden we were eating within and all of the meat and seafood regionally and sustainably sourced.
After a reception, featuring the oysters and cheese mentioned previously, we sat down to a lovely multi-course meal, starting with a beautiful yellowtail jack entree that paired with a nice Chardonnay that was served.
The main focus of the meal was Sonoma County lamb, which was served family style alongside a selection of veggie-based dishes. The kitchen team roasted beautiful, locally raised lamb legs over an open fire much to the fascination of guests.
The dishes to be would be served family style, and included:
Roast Leg of Lamb, Green Garlic, Farro, Fava Beans
Braised Lamb Belly, Spirgarello, Spring Onion
Beets, Pickles Chard Stem, Purple Shiso, Délice de la Vallée
Carrots, Carrot Top Pesto, Pea Tendrils
Farmer T’s Lettuce, Spring Herbs & Flowers, Fennel, Radish, Fines Herbes Vinaigrette
Dessert was served not-family-style (what is the word that?):
Honey Cake, Fennel Pollen Crème Brûlée, Yogurt Mousse, Honey Gel, Candied Granola, Lemon Crémeux
Highlights for me included the beet salad (which used Sheana’s cheese!), the carrots, and the lamb leg. Everyone was full, happy, and satisfied!
After dinner, we moved into the tasting room for coffee and sweet treats, before bidding adieu to Kendall-Jackson for the night.
A must-do Wine Country experience
Kendall-Jackson’s farm-to-table dinner is a must for anyone seeking to have a true farm-to-table experience while in Wine Country. From the beautiful location to the excellent food, personalized service, and tasty wine – it will satisfy the most spoiled of Wine Country visitors.
The Kendall-Jackson Farm-To-Table Dinner Series runs now until October, with an al fresco feast taking place once a month. The next event is June 10, starring 30 day dry-aged duck. Tickets start at $125 for Wine Club members and $175 for everyone else. Learn all about the details here.
I confess: I was a guest of Sheana Davis of the Epicurean Connection at this dinner, however, my opinions are mine and mine alone!