A recent press conference at Thornton Winery was a multi purpose event. It served to introduce David Vergari as winemaker and also to introduce Chef Steve Pickell's new Fall menu for the five star Cafe Champagne. It proved to be a memorable luncheon held in the Thornton's wine cellar. David Vergari has an extensive background including a Master's Degree from Cal Davis as well as winemaking experience in several of California's most prestigious wine regions.
After a glass of Thornton Brut sparkling wine came a introduction by Owner John Thornton and remarks by President Steve Thornton, who recently moved up from General Manager. Then David Vergari fielded questions from press members. Executive Chef Steve Pickell took over to explain the menu for the day, all of which to be on the new Fall menu.
This included a Forest Mushroom Focaccia as first course, sauteed mushrooms over tomato herb Focaccia. The pairing wine was Thornton 2007 Estate Syrah. Next arrived a Bosc pear, wild Arugula salad with crisp Pancetta Gorgonzola cheese and hazelnut dressing. The wine paired was Thornton 2009 Moscato with a nose and flavors that brought ohs and ahs from the assembled.
Third course was spicy sausage and shrimp linguini, a house made sausage, jumbo shrimp, roasted roma tomatoes with extra Virgin olive oil and shaved Parmesan. We thought the paired Thornton 2007 Sangiovese admirable with lively aroma but soft flavors and texture so typical of this varietal. Dessert was a fresh fig tart with Pistachio Mousse and Zinfandel caramel sauce. This original Chef Pickell creation was a wonder and applauded by all. Just as spectacular was the paired Thornton 2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel made from vines, many over 100 years old.
Besides working with wineries in California David Vergari also traveled abroad with stints at Coldstream Hills in Australia and Covisa in Spain. Prior to joining Thornton he made wines under his own label as well as consulting. He is a Californian, born and raised in San Francisco. Executive Chef Steve Pickell has been at the Cafe Champagne for 17 years and was named Chef of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers in 2005.
David said that cooler summer has resulted in a later harvest but that the quality of the grapes is excellent and he expects a truly quality vintage.
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