Pinot noir, foie gras, and sweeping vistas

Yesterday we went to this year's Pinot Paradise. Last year this festival of good food and pinot noir from Santa Cruz Mountains wineries was held at the Testarossa Vineyards in Los Gatos. This year, however, it was held at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga.

You may have read something about Mountain Winery here before. We've gone there a couple of times to watch concerts at their amphitheater. It is a very nice venue. It sits on an easily accessible hilltop in the Santa Cruz foothills. Even from the parking lot you get commanding views of the southern Peninsula and Silicon Valley.

Halfway between the valley floor and the winery, you can see all the mansions dotting the Los Gatos and Saratoga hills. In the distance you can see downtown San Jose to the right, Mission Peak in Fremont almost straight ahead, and Moffett Field and the southern tip of San Francisco Bay to the left.

We arrived about 20 minutes early. The organizers weren't giving out wine glasses yet, so we wandered about to case the joint. We had been looking forward to gorging on those awesome kobe beef kabobs again, but unfortunately Forbes Mill wasn't around this year. *sigh*

As soon as we got our wine glasses (which by the way were actually burgundy glasses this year, in contrast to last year's bordeaux glasses), we started our eating and drinking rounds. This year, there were more wines that I did not like compared to the wines I did like. I also paced my drinking, because I promised Bill that I would drive down the mountain so he could taste to his heart's content.

There was a 2004 from Bargetto Winery that I liked. It was very fruit-forward, though a little bit alcohol-y. I also liked the 2001 and 2002 from McHenry Vineyards. Bill said that the Windy Hill and Testarossa ones were good, too, but I didn't taste those. Curse being the designated driver! LOL.

The food offerings were good once again. Il Fornaio had a fantastic spread, overflowing with meats, breads, cheeses, and other antipasti. There was an artisanal chocolate vendor that had incredibly delicious chocolate-dipped espresso nibs (it was so good I bought two cans). A restaurant called Ma Maison had a fantastic dungeness crab salad and awesome paté. A mediterranean restaurant in Santana Row served up suprisingly good roasted pepper and feta paté and chicken souvlaki.

Good food was pretty much available everywhere, albeit in tiny servings. The highlight of the whole shebang, however, was the very weird but very, very delicious offering by French restaurant Le Papillon. They had what looked like ordinary dark chocolate squares. They were far from ordinary, however, as each square had a bit of foie gras inside. Holy toledo, were they good! Who would have thought that dark chocolate and fatty goose liver would make such an awesome combination?

All in all it was a very good Pinot Paradise. I just wish they put up an extra tent instead of cramming everyone into two tents that were too crowded.

One good thing about this year's festival - one VERY good thing, actually - was that they had a booth outside the tents where you could buy most of the wines available for tasting. Tax-free, and 10% off besides! They didn't have that last year! Bill and I bought 5 bottles for less than $100. Well, he got three and I got two.

On the way back home we stopped at a wine shop in downtown Saratoga to get a nice syrah for our dinner. Went great with the roast pork loin!

It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Pinot Paradise rocks! I hope we can go again next year, and the year after that, and the year after...