Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

Last night we held a “Meet the Maker” diner with Joe Wagner from the Caymus family of wines.  Great turnout, lovely guests, amazing setting–the sun falling behind the Mayacamas mountains, casting an orange glow over our lawn and spring flowers and the first roses.


I’m not a pastry chef by trade or training, but my favorite pairing of the night was the Caymus Conundrum (whose varietals and percentages are famously secret) with a parfait of lavender-poached apricots, goat’s milk cheesecake mousse, almond streusel, and lavender gelee.  The white Rhone notes and varietals of the wine were PERFECT (IIDSSM–to coin a text-message abbreviation?) with the apricot, almond, and lavender, and the cheesecake mousse added just the right amout of richness to the parfait without being too sweet, because the Conundrum is more of an off-dry wine than a true dessert wine.

What a pleasure and a treat to cook with those wines in mind–something as unique as the Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay, as unctuous as the vineyard-designate Belle Glos Pinot Noirs, and as iconic as the Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  Flaubert, who I’ll go ahead and say was wrong about a great many things, tells us that “Idols are made to be seen and not touched; the gilding comes off on the fingers.”  I’m not saying you should touch Joe Wagner, but his wine is made to be enjoyed.  IIDSSM.

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