With my last day upon me, I headed out HWY 29 up to the Larkmead Winery. I met my guide as I walked up to the lovely glass building. It’s decor had splashes of the color red everywhere -I LOVE red, so I knew this was going to be a great place to start my day. I was greeted by a wine “enthusiast” and given a brief tour of the property. It was great to walk through the vineyards and see the vines. At Larkmead, they are just starting to release moisture and will begin to bud over the next 30 days. I also learned about those HUGE/TALL fans that I have seen throughout wine country. They literally are turned on for 3-4 days, during the cooler spring months and bring the warm air down to the vines if there is a concern about frost. They only warm up the ground temperature 3-5 degrees but it helps protect the new buds from frost.
My guide today was definitely a wine NERD and as he talked and talked …I daydreamed and tried to blink until he started to pour the wine! I tried three different cabs and loved each of them. I mentioned to Sunny that I hadn’t seen Larkmead’s wines before and shared with me that they don’t sell to distribution companies because they lose so much profit.
Next up was Joseph Phelps, a larger, more commercial winery. I had a wine and cheese pairing up set up which was pretty great because I have yet to meet a wine that I don’t LOVE. Again, I was solo –so at a table that could have fit 20, it was just me… and the wine guy. He started the session by telling me that he was going to show me a video- I swear my head almost popped off. Video’s are not what people with a short attention span want— we want WINE and CHEESE. NOW! Being the blunt person that I am, I asked — HOW LONG IS THE VIDEO. Thankfully just a few minutes!
Next up, we went through a few wines/cheeses and then moved onto their Insigna label which is their higher end wine. I tried two different years, side by side which is always interesting to me, they totally taste and smell different. Their highest end wine is called “Backus” isn’t offered to taste as it’s only sold to their members. Although I like there wines there – I’m not sure they will be apart of my first order.
After that I drove up the long road to Plumpjack and passed by several workers, who were hand pruning the vines. I entered into the tasting room just before lunch and thought I’d entered a HUGE group of tasters. Instead it was 4 moms- who were having a ball and were NOT spitting out their samples! I tried 5 of their reds and then moved on to Frogsleap. Another large producing winery. When I waited tables in college I sold a lot of those bottles. Their corks say “Ribbit,” which I always thought was creative. This was another wine/cheese pairing and it was a beautiful setting over looking their wineries. I cruised through those tastings and called it a day!
I headed up to Greystone, the CIA. I walk much more confidently into the building then I did on my first day. The students in my class all joke that although all the other chef students KNOW we are rookies the tourists don’t and they think we are REAL CHEFS! Someone told us that the full 24 month program costs 80k! Yes, I said 80k! Chef Durfee had another class to teach that day so we were introduced to Chef Aaron Brown. I think some of the students were bummed as he WAS amazing but I thought it was a great opportunity to meet and learn from another Chef.
For our last class, our plan was to finish up a few things from the day before, (sauces for our Bavarian Cream and Fruit Mouse) then work on tempering chocolate and make soufflés. Chef Brown started our day out with the typical lecture. He is a bread baker by trade and was very detailed oriented and kept us on schedule! We made 4 different sauces and learned how to professional plate our desserts.
Next up, tempering chocolate. This is something that I have an interest in and it was really fun to watch and get a lot more details/ tricks about how to do some “Decor.” Ill be doing this at home! I have tried to make those “cigarettes” before and they just look like chopped chocolate! 😦 After dipping and coating about 100 truffles we headed to dinner, ON TIME! Literally the first time all week that we weren’t the last class to dinner. Tonight’s meal was prepared by the Wounded Warrior program. I don’t know all the details but it’s pretty cool that they offer a program like that. Instead of our usual buffet, tonight was banquet style. So each “Area” served a full plated meal the first one was vegetarian! It rocked! I so rarely get a full meal that is vegetarian and I SO appreciate it.
After dinner, we worked on two different types of soufflés. Who doesn’t like a chocolate soufflé? The Chef gave us the recipe from a famous Chef in NY, who developed the idea of making the soufflé, baking it for 7 minutes and then RUNNING it to the freezer. Then when someone orders it, you bring it out, bake it and serve it— so it has that warm/soft inside. (think molten lava) These were awesome and as a home cook, it’s always so nice to find part of a meal that you can do ahead of time.
Then he said— YOUR DONE! Done early, in fact. Listen, we ALL really wanted to learn and soak up as much info as we could over this week– but literally we were also all so EXHAUSTED after such a long week. We cheered for each other as we were given out “certificates” and said our goodbyes.
Thanks to my husband for his support and encouragement to do this. He travels each week, so to actually get a planned full week at home took some work. Thanks to my mom for afternoon and evening duties- (homework with two boys, isn’t always fun) and to the rest of my village. It’s easy to go across the country when you know you have lots of mom’s who will have your back and your kids best interest at heart.