CNN Food and Health

gazpacho California's wine country offers more than wine

October 18, 1995
Web posted at: 6:06 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Carolyn O'Neil

RUTHERFORD, California (CNN) -- It's the middle of harvest in California's wine country, a busy time for wine makers. So far, they say, it looks like 1995 is going to be a very good year for California wine. But it's not just the fine wine that attracts thousands of visitors to Napa Valley.

glasses California's wine country has become a mecca for food lovers, as well."Everywhere we've gone the food has been fantastic!" one visitor said. "Of course food and wine go hand in hand, but this is a foodie's paradise here in the Napa Valley," another said.

Even professional chefs go there for inspiration. Each year at Cakebread Cellars, the winery hosts the American Harvest Workshop, a "cook and learn" camp of sorts for chefs and food producers from around the United States. (528K QuickTime movie)

workshop dinner At a recent workshop dinner, the meal took shape as visiting chefs collaborated in the kitchen. And course after course, from rabbit with country mashed potatoes to Napa Valley lamb, palates couldn't have been more pleased.

"I mean you can't beat it," said Chris Pyun from the Green Room in Dallas, Texas. "You have everything at your disposal ... the best wine, some of best food, the best restaurants, people who are knowledgeable about food."

Catahoula Jan Birnbaum liked it so much he moved there. Birnbaum, originally from Louisiana, now operates Catahoula, a restaurant in the historic Napa Valley town of Calistoga. He calls his cooking "Southern inspired American."

Also inspired by the beauty and bounty of this region are chef Andrew Sutton's creative menus at Auberge de Soleil, where diners find shrimp cocktail or a tomato gazpacho salad for their pleasure (77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound).

And in the little town of Yountville, they'll find Thomas Keller, who used to be a big city chef in New York and Los Angeles. What chef Keller is doing at the French Laundry is lavishing his guests with small portions of big flavors in meticulously prepared multi-course dinners.

cheeses The high standards for food and wine in the region influences grocery stores, too.

"We probably, right now, have about 80 cheeses in this case and do change and rotate throughout the year depending on the season," said Joyce McCollum with the Oakville Grocery.

Whether they're just having wine and cheese, or are looking for a full gourmet meal, sophisticated diners won't be disappointed in the Napa Valley.

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