Extraordinary views, exquisite food and impeccable service is what makes this experience memorable, off course paired with delicious wines. Celebrating a birthday was the perfect occasion to visit Auberge du Soleil Restaurant for the first time, arriving 30 minutes before our reservation did not result in a problem for our hostess, she offered us a great table for two on the terrace with a breathtaking view of the Napa Valley.
Auberge du Soleil restaurant is nestled on the Vaca Range Mountains, a privileged property in the valley. The majestic valley views inspired French-born restaurateur Claude Rouas to open the first Napa Valley’s fine-dining establishment. The restaurant opened in 1981 and gained immediate recognition as one of the finest restaurants in Northern California, not only for its excellent dishes, but for its fantastic surroundings.
To start the celebration we ordered bubbles, a bottle of Cava Avinyó Reserva Brut Nature, a classic sparkling from Catalunya, Spain. This wine is made using the méthode champénoise with Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello grapes, aged 26 months before being disgorged. No dosage on this bright sparkling wine, aromas of green apple, lychee, brioche and floral notes. On the palate excellent acidity and creamy texture, with flavors of green apple and pear, finishing zesty and refreshing. The Cava paired well with the crostini amuse bouche, Dayboat Scallop (English Peas, Pancetta, buttermilk, spring onions, almonds) and Kurobuta pork belly (Jasmine rice congee, quail egg, uni, Ponzu, pickled rampst) courses.
We brought a bottle of an elegant mountain fruit Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2007 J. Davies (Schramsberg Vineyards) from the Diamond Mountain AVA, it had been open for 45 minutes when the second courses arrived: Veal sweetbreads (hearts of palm, chanterelles, basil, orange glaze) and Seared Ahi tuna (spring vegetables, fava tapenade, Bagna càuda). The 2007 J. Davis was remarkable (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot).
This wine displayed a fragrant bouquet of dark ripe cherry, red currants, dried cranberries, sweet spices and cocoa powder. On the palate felt silky with pleasant tannins, complex and rich with flavors of dark berry jam, sweet vanilla, cinnamon and hints of black pepper. The finish was long with traces of dark chocolate, ripe plum and delicate oak. The second courses paired very well with this wine as well as the main dishes: Liberty Farm duck (bing cherries, endive, pistachios, cocoa nibs) and Spiced local lamb (chickpeas, curry, Niçoise olives, yogurt, pastis). The wine showed perfect harmony with these four dishes, it was dancing in my palate from start to finish.
To finish, we both had the warm chocolate tart (peppermint ganache, garden mint ice cream). As a gentle touch in Julie's plate, the chef wrote Happy Birthday in chocolate and a lighted candle. We saved a little bit of the J. Davies wine to have with the dessert, just amazing until the very last drop. A memorable dining experience indeed!