I was researching “Best Food Pairings in Napa” and Peju was on top of the list. Looking through their site for different tastings and experiences, I found it, “Wine & Dine Amongst the Vines.” The description says, “Enjoy your own oasis in the vineyard with private shaded seating tucked into a vineyard row. Indulge in four courses of Chef Nic’s culinary wonder paired to perfection with selected wines.” After briefly viewing the menu (Once I saw “Summer Raviolo” it was a wrap) I sent an email to book it.
For those in Northern California you might be thinking, “Did he check the weather before booking?” You would be right if you said, “No”, but to my minor defense the recent fires made the air quality so poor for the prior two weeks that you couldn’t be outside. The day I booked it the temperature was in the mid-70s and it was the second day the air was clear enough to be outside. I was riding a high that could only be surpassed by the high temperature on the day that I planned to visit.
I woke up the morning of and followed my usual routine, “workout before wine.” It was 7:30am and already 75 degrees. By the time we left for our 12pm appointment it was in the 90s. We arrived at Peju excited for the experience. They were set up outside and organized in accordance to maintaining COVID protocols. Overall, I’ve been very impressed by how wineries have adapted given that not all of them are naturally set up to service so many guests outside. We were greeted by a hostess and given some rosé while we waited. A few minutes later Anne Marie Howle, Director of Experience came out to say hello. She said, “Noël, thank you for coming. We have you set up in the vineyard. It’s almost 100 degrees out there, but don’t worry we have an umbrella and a mist fan.” I think I used every muscle in my face to show my “Kool – Aid” smile and thanked her. I was a bit worried about the heat but she reassured me that Peju takes care of its people.
We were escorted over to our table in the vines and as my wife viewed the setup she smirks and says, “you fancy,right?” She wasn’t wrong! The grapes were ripe and the view was gorgeous. Our Wine Experience Supervisor, Nancy Barbash introduces herself and asks if we are ready to try some great wines. She briefly summarizes the day and says if there is any wine not on the menu and/or that we want to try to please let her know. Soon Chef Nic arrived to review the pairings below:
Togarashi Seared Tuna
wakame seaweed- cucumber salad, sriracha-lime vinaigrette
Calmére Estate Winery
Ricotta, corn, spinach & wild mushroom stuffed ravioli Porcini-tarragon cream sauce
Calmére Estate Winery
Petite Lamb Chops
Summer ratatouille, Italian salsa verde
Mascerated cherries and mulberry gelee
This was such a memorable experience. The presentation, food, and wine were well prepared and delicious. My wife and I were having such great conversations with the various staff members that came by that our 2 hour experience was almost 3 hours. We thanked Nancy for being so knowledgeable about wine, letting us sample a few extras, and keeping us hydrated since the temperature was around 105 by the time we left. The Peju service and wine definitely lives up to its reputation.
Location: 8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford CA 94573
*Sister winery is Calmére Estate