Kristian StoryLinda Kissam makes things happen. The former head of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association now sits on the board of directors of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association and has co-authored a book with me.  She has also organized the Men’s and Women’s Wine Councils in Temecula and is about to launch a new Co-Ed Wine Council.

We convened the men’s council last month with Roger, Ken, Scott, newcomer Chip, Linda and Corie for an all Napa lineup. Linda sits on the men’s council because, well, she founded it and Corie hosts us and is just plain a joy to hang out with. Each of us was assigned a wine to pair a food dish with. We kicked off the afternoon with Kristian Story’s 2010 Chardonnay, paired with Chip’s skewered shrimp. The wine had a great nose with tropical fruits, was well balanced and finished very nicely. Suggested retail is $28.

Los MolcajetesThe story of Ceja Vineyards is truly inspiring. The Ceja family migrated from Mexico to the Napa Valley in the ’70s and a decade later purchased 15 acres of vineyards. They now have 113 acres planted and have opened a restaurant in Downtown Napa near their tasting room. The 2008 Pinot Noir is a classic Pinot with plum and strawberry on the nose and an elegant mouthfeel. It paired beautifully with the tamales Linda brought from Los Molcajetes. Suggested retail is $40.

I met Scott Tracy at Learn About Wine‘s Stars of Cabernet event in Beverly Hills last year. We tasted two wines from his Gentleman Farmer label, starting with the ’09 Gentleman Farmer Red, a “right bank inspired” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It had a great, fruit forward nose, soft tannins and a lingering finish. Roger brought triple ginger cookies and some cheese and both paired well with this solid wine that retails for $40.

Another Kristian Story wine was next in store, the ’07 Soirée Meritage. I spent a long time with my nose in this glass before tasting it. Sometimes I enjoy a wine’s nose as much as if not more than the wine itself. This wine delivered on the palate what it promised on the nose. Ken brought an assortment of finger foods which all paired well with it. My favorite was the stuffed grape leaves. This wine retails for $45.

Spicy roast chickenThe 2009 Gentleman Farmer Cabernet Sauvignon was our second to last wine. In doing a Google search for foods to pair with Cab, I came across a recipe for Spicy Rapid Roast Chicken. The idea of pairing Cabernet with chicken intrigued me, so I went for it. Guess what? It worked! This recipe doesn’t call for garlic. I added it and would suggest you do, too, should you decide to cook it. The wine presented cherries and plums on the nose. Extremely smooth and soft, this was a great example of Napa Cab. $70 should fetch you a bottle.

Our final wine was Kristian Story’s ’07 Rhapsodie Cabernet Sauvignon. Scott brought smoked Gouda with bacon and dark chocolates to pair with this Cab. I picked up black cherry, plum and a touch of strawberry on the nose. It, too was an elegant Cab and very food friendly. It sells for $60 and is an impressive bottle to look at, too, with a hand-dipped neck and what looks like a hologramon the shoulders. We’ll meet again in the near future with more wines to taste and foods to pair with them.

Chip's shrimp skewers

Men's Wine Council - photo by Roger Paige

Clockwise from the top: Scott Vinton, Roger Paige, Chip Morton, Corie Maue, Ken Barnes and Tom Plant. Linda Kissam is in the center.