If you've been following the blog for awhile, you know that I love frequent trips up to Napa. The fact that wine country is only an hour from my house is one of my favorite parts of living in San Francisco. I, of course, have my favorite go-to places but am always excited to discover something new.
This weekend, I was invited up to Round Pond to visit their winery for a tasting and their olive oil mill as well. I had been to near-by Frog's Leap (one of my favorite stops) several times but I hadn't stopped by at Round Pond before.
As you turn into the entrance, you immediately know this is a special place. The palm tree-lined drive leads to a huge key-hole window and a large estate. While the building is relatively new (2007) the winery has been in business since the 80s. They have sold and still do sell about 85% of their grapes to other wine makers. Fairly recently they have opened up the winery for tastings of their own wines and their olive oil mill for tours.
The winery is family owned and run by the MacDonnell family. It is currently in the hands of the second-generation MacDonnells. The land spans the valley floor and, as our guide told us, there are many different types of soils on their property. Other wineries typically grow their grapes in different parts of the valley ie the valleys, mountains, coast but because there are so many different types of soils and climates on the property, they can grow everything in one place.
I was surprised at how much I liked the first wine, the Sauvignon Blanc. I typically steer away from white wines and order red. What is interesting about their Sauvignon Blanc is that it has three different stages of the grape in it. The same varietal is picked at three different times to make up the complex flavor. I enjoyed it so much, I ended up walking away with a bottle for myself.
Next we tried a blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon (which they are known for) I love reds that come from this part of Napa, the Rutherford area, because they have this earthy, complex flavor to them. It was no surprise that I really enjoyed both of these wines. I was leaning a little more towards the blend but my sister preferred the cab.
One of my favorite parts of the wine tasting was the food pairing. They have an executive chef on the property, who creates seasonal pairings from the gardens around the winery.
On the menu that day was a cucumber melon soup with prosciutto, green olive arancini, and a masa and short rib tartelette. It was fun to see how the flavors of the wines shifted when you ate the food. I personally love food with my wine so it was a nice exercise to see what pairs best.
I can't continue to write this post without mentioning the beautiful interiors. They were inviting and struck a perfect balance between rustic and modern. I could just imagine lounging on that couch after a few too many glasses of wine.
But there wasn't time for lounging...we were off, across the street to the olive oil tasting. I was so excited because it wasn't something that I had done before. I was curious to see just what an olive oil tasting entailed (other than simply guzzling olive oil)
We sat down with our small group of 6, including my sister and I. Three jars were placed in front of us. Our guide was very helpful at explaining different things about olive oil like "What is extra virgin?" (it means it is the first press of the olives) and "What about the color?" (it actually doesn't tell you if the oil is good or not) I never knew I had so many questions about olive oil.
I'll give you one of the handy facts I learned...did you know that all olives eventually turn purple? There are no such thing as green olives? They are just purple olives picked early.
After sitting down, we proceeded to take a sip of our first oil. He had instructed us to let it roll down your throat. Upon doing so, I had a burning sensation and choked a bit. Later, he explained that when the oxygen from your body hits the antioxidants, it causes that burning, choking sensation. I promise it wasn't harmful, just a interesting little science experiment.
After drinking the olive oil (and vowing never to try that again) The brought our our food pairings. These food pairings were to show off the three olive oils we were trying: the Italian, the Meyer lemon and the blood orange.
The food was incredible. First was a burrata (how can you go wrong) drizzled with olive oil, fresh pesto and asparagus. The second was a smoked salmon, goat and cream cheese lollipop with the Meyer lemon olive oil. And the last was roasted beets with Hawaiian sea salt and the blood orange olive oil. It was so delicious.
After finishing our first pairings we discussed vinegar. They have just started making vinegar from their wine. We got to try two different kinds which varied by grape varietal. He explained that the professional way of tasting vinegar was to use a sugar cube which you quickly soak in the vinegar and suck out of the cube. It was a little odd to try but I love vinegar so I enjoyed the process.
Served with the vinegar was this beautiful brined pork with huckleberries. The meat was so tender because of the vinegar. I'm going to have to try this method soon!
Lastly came dessert. We were served an olive oil cake with the Meyer lemon olive oil, a blood orange olive oil brownie and a pomegranate jelly from the pomegranate syrup they sell. Also, they feature all of the recipes online so you can create them yourself at home.
Before heading outside to see the olive trees in person, he showed us how to make a shrub. I've been hearing quite a bit about shrubs at the hipster bars around SF. I was curious to what a shrub actually was. It turns out it is fruit soaked in vinegar for a few days then strained. For our mocktail, he mixed the shrub with simple syrup and soda water for a refreshing drink. You might be seeing more of this shrub business soon on the blog. I am dying to try making it at home.
If you can't tell, I had the most fabulous time at Round Pond. From the beautiful decor to the wines to the amazing food pairings, it was a unique experience in wine country. I also loved doing the olive oil tasting because it is something different and unique. When we head up to Sonoma for Thanksgiving, I can't wait to take my parents to do their own olive oil tasting. I highly encourage a visit next time you are up in wine country!
This post was created in partnership with Round Pond winery. Thank you for supporting the brands featured on this blog.