Two dynamic women came together for one a memorable evening of fine wine, food and camaraderie. The evening starred two trailblazing women in the world of wine and food: Robert Mondavi Winery Chief Winemaker, Genevieve Janssens and Michelin-Starred chef and James Beard Nominee, Elise Kornack.
Genevieve Janssens, a mentee of Robert Mondavi, has been crafting wines of the highest quality since her arrival in the Napa Valley from France in 1978. A highly regarded winemaker in her own right, she has led the charge as the winery’s Chief Winemaker since 1997, carrying forth a holistic approach to winemaking that “starts with the earth, the legacy of what we have received from our ancestors and what we are going to leave for future generations.”
Chef Kornack is the creator of the widely acclaimed, Michelin-starred restaurant Take Root in Brooklyn, which she ran with her wife, Anna Hieronimus, from 2013-2017. During that time she was thrice nominated as a James Beard “Rising Star Chef,” named one of New York Magazine’s five “Best New Chefs NYC,” was recognized as one of Conde Nast’s “10 Young Chefs To Watch,” and appeared on both Forbes and Zagat’s “30 Under 30” lists.
The memorable evening was hosted at the chic Haven’s Kitchen in NYC. Kicking off the reception was a presentation of carrots with polenta and sumac and foie gras with vegetables. I had met Genevieve Janssens earlier in the year in Napa Valley and was excited to met her. Her unique background and humble presence was refreshing and alluring. She had picked the 2016 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve To Kalon and the 2015 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve Carneros to kick off this very special evening.
The Fume Blanc was a perfect pairing with the carrot polenta and sumac. The 2016 Fume Blanc is boldly expressive, this wine reveals the weight and complexity of fruit from the noble To Kalon vineyard where deep-rooted, old vines consistently produce Sauvignon Blanc of great depth and flavor. Wonderful notes of Meyer lemon, tangerine and verbena on the nose. The wine was bright fresh and elegant on the palate with a long lingering finish. The wine is a perfect blend of 94% Sauvignon Blanc and 6% Semillon.
Foie Gras and Pinot Noir maybe one of my most favorite pairings. Chef Elise Kornack did an exceptional job with the presentation and pairing. The 2015 Pinot Noir is made from two renowned vineyards in the Carneros AVA: Rancho Carneros and the Hyde Vineyard. The Pinot Noir was vibrantly intense with red plum and dark cherries. The wine is highlighted by sweet clove, cinnamon and vanilla. Concentrated and silky in texture.
After the reception we headed into the dining room where we had the first course, celery, turnip and pear with ginger, almond and sheep’s milk cheese, which was paired elegantly with the 2016 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve, Carneros. Carneros is home to some of Napa’s finest Chardonnays. For the 2016 Reserve, the fruit was hand selected from the appellation’s renowned Hyde ranch. The region’s climate, combined with clay loam soils, provides ideal conditions for the development of deeply flavored Chardonnay. The Chardonnay was simply stunning on the palate. There are notes of pear and apple on the palate. The wine is rich and concentrated on the palate with a beautifully long finish.
The second course was Beluga lentils and wild mushrooms with cranberry, coffee and truffles. Chef Elise Kornack brought together very different textures, and flavors in a harmonious dish. Colorful and elegant on the plate with a touch of earthiness from the mushrooms, made it a perfect complement to the earthiness of the 2015 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Franc Oakville. The Cabernet Franc shows off its mouth-watering acidity here with juicy dark fruits highlighted by a hint of violet floral and toasty, savory complexity. The chewy texture was the perfect complement to the mushrooms and truffles.
The main course was a New York strip with rutabaga and a sauce of smoked corn, peppercorn and mustard seed. The steak was paired with a recent vintage Cabernet Sauvignon and a library selection Cabernet Sauvignon. Both complementing the steak with its firm yet velvety tannins that cut right through the rich texture and taste of the steak. The 2015 Robert Mondavi “The Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon, Oakville is a testament to Napa’s grand cru vineyard site. To Kalon’s signature dark-fruited, dried herb complexity is seamlessly integrated with sweet oak spices of vanilla bean and toasted almonds, sending a wave of deliciously intense flavors across the richly dense palate in a tasty expression of power and elegance. Genevieve went on to explain that this wine was made in a way that Robert Mondavi would approve. Robert always said you must “make Cabernet Sauvignon as soft as a baby’s bottom and powerful as Pavarotti.”
Dessert was especially interesting, apple and fig leaf tart with seeds, turmeric and honey. This was an exotic dessert with the addition of turmeric, that made it sweet and savory, with all sorts of flavors and senses exploding on the palate. The dessert was paired with the 2017 Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro, Napa Valley. The wine had notes of perfumed nectarines, wild peaches, white blossoms and honey. Nice acidity made the wine delicate and not too sweet.