Celebrity Chef Adrianne Calvo preparing her signature Napa Valley, CA dishes

Searching for Maximum Flavor: Napa, California

Napa Valley is known for breathtaking scenery, historic wineries and delectable cuisine. People all around the world visit the famous Napa Valley to experience its amazing flavors straight from the source. In Chef Adrianne Calvo's Searching for Maximum Flavor, she visited Napa, the beautiful region that inspired the beginning of her restaurateur journey. 

Chef Adrianne's Visit to Napa Valley

Visiting Napa was a nostalgic and captivating experience as it is the place that inspired Chef Adrianne to start her very first restaurant, Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Bar. Among the delicious cuisine the restaurant offers, the short rib was especially inspired by this beautiful region. To start off the trip, Chef Adrianne highlighted the importance of family by visiting one of her favorite family-owned wineries, Caymus Vineyard

To make the trip even more special, Chef Adrianne had her family join her for a wonderful meal at The French Laundry. She also had the pleasure of meeting with Chef Thomas Keller at this iconic restaurant, where she reminisced about a time when the chef gave her life-changing advice. 

Chef Adrianne's visit to Napa wouldn't be complete without experiencing the winery where it all began, Charles Krug. She met with the owner of the winery, Peter Mondavi, who shared the story of how Charles Krug Winery came to be. Peter talked about how Charles Krug's love for home winemaking inspired the establishment of the winery that led to the United States entering the wine scene. 

Next was a visit to Stag's Leap Winery. Chef Adrianne sampled the 2017 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine that put Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Napa Valley on the winemaking map. 

Chef Adrianne ended her Napa adventure at the Round Pond Estate, sipping the vineyard's flavorful wine. Winemaker John Wilson shared insights on winemaking and a greater understanding of their process of maintaining the quality of a wine. To top off the Round Pond visit, Chef Adrianne sat down at Il Pranzo to experience the combination of wine and mouthwatering dishes that is quintessentially Napa. The chefs sampled amazing wine and food pairings as well as braised meat that perfectly embodies the flavors of Napa Valley. 

Experience Maximum Flavor With Chef Adrianne

Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Bar offers fine dining and flavorful cuisine in Miami. To taste delectable flavors inspired by Napa Valley and paired with impeccable wines, make a reservation today.   


Video Transcript

Intro (0:00)


Adrianne Calvo: So here we are in a hot air balloon in Napa Valley, and I think hot air balloons are synonymous with wine country and taking in all the scenery. 


Adrianne Calvo: I’m Adrianne Calvo: chef, author, traveler and restaurateur. I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember and along the way, I created a little something called “Maximum Flavor.” That’s my style of cooking. I want to activate all parts of the pallet: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy. Sending delicious endorphins to your brain. And now, I’m on the hunt for inspiration. Join me as I head out in search of Maximum Flavor. 


Family (0:51)

Adrianne Calvo: Hey guys! So we’re here in Napa Valley, California; the place that inspired me to open my very first restaurant “Chef Adrianne’s Restaurant and Wine Bar.” This place not only shares my story, it also shares the story of food, wine and family. 

Adrianne Calvo: Family is something that is very important to Jenny Wagner, whose family owns one of my favorite vineyards: Caymus


Caymus Vineyard

Adrianne Calvo: Tell me, how does it feel to be a female winemaker?

Jenny Wagner: It feels good! I love it but I think other ladies in the industry have kind of paved the path for female winemakers and there’s a lot now.

Adrianne Calvo: Because you’re not just a female winemaker, but you’re a female winemaker with this epic name.

Jenny Wagner: That’s a compliment, thank you to - my dad would be very proud! We’re all family-owned. We run our business - you know - we farm the grapes with our own vineyard team and so we have a very kind of beyond-blood family. We have, like a Caymus family here. We’re just continuing trying to make the best wine we can.

Adrianne Calvo: So family is kind of like the epicenter of everything in Napa?

Jenny Wagner: I think being family-owned and run is very important to us and we continue - we plan to pass this on to the next generation.

Adrianne Calvo: I think that when you can run - no matter how big your operation is or how successful it is, it’s that much more beautiful when you do it with family, with people that you love and care about and help build what the story that it is today. 

The French Laundry

Adrianne Calvo: Building a business with people I love is something I know a bit about, and I’m on this Napa adventure with two people who are very special to me. Bruce, my corporate brand manager, and Egg, my corporate executive chef. But to make this trip even more special, I decided to fly my family out for an unforgettable surprise: a dinner at arguably the most iconic restaurant in the United States. 


Adrianne Calvo: We’re here at The French Laundry and the first time I stood here, I was 19 years old and I had some here with my mom on a trip that changed my life forever and for the better. And I couldn’t even fathom the idea that I would one day eat here. But furthermore, I couldn’t even imagine that I would eat here with the people that would help make my dream come true. 


Adrianne Calvo: Chef, so I have to tell you that, close to like 15 years ago, I was sitting with you at your other restaurant in Buchanan. And this was before I opened the restaurant in Miami and you sat next to me like what you’re doing right now, so I’m kind of super emotional about this, and you said “if people drive for your food it will be a testament to your craft.” And so I opened a restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Miami believing innocently - 22 years old in your words - and it was successful because of that. People drove from everywhere so thank you. 

Charles Krug (4:25)

Adrianne Calvo: Napa isn’t just where my journey as a restaurateur began. It’s also where the U.S. entered the wine scene and it all started here at Charles Krug Winery. So I’m meeting its famous owner, Peter Mondavi, to hear the story. 


Adrianne Calvo: My mic is right here but it’s really close to my heart and I don’t know if you guys could hear my heartbeat, but that’s because I am super starstruck here because I’m standing next to Peter Mondavi.

Peter Mondavi: Charles Krug Winery was founded by, of course, Charles Krug. But he came to the United States and settled in San Francisco, but then got introduced to home winemaking through friends and neighbors that had small vineyards. He fell in love with winemaking and fell in love with Carolina Bale. The reason that’s important is that her family’s a very prominent family. They had like 17,000 acres up here in Napa Valley, and they received a dowry of about 600 acres. And then in December 1861, he pursued his love of winemaking and established Charles Krug Winery. 

Peter Mondavi: My grandparents were born in Italy and they basically came from sharecropper families. They had their honeymoon cruise, which would end up in Ellis Island - a really tight-knit Italian community there and missing their wine during prohibition. They rallied around my grandfather who was dealing in fruits and vegetables. He jumped on a train and came to California during harvest and negotiated some contracts and shipped back fresh grapes and sold them to the locals for home winemaking. So the family moved out in 1922 and built up a kind of nice little empire shipping fresh grapes for home winemaking. And then after repeal, got involved directly with the wine business and then in 1943, because of their financial success, we were able to buy this property: Charles Krug Winery. 

Adrianne Calvo: You have wines everywhere, but where can you go and walk the property and talk to Peter Mondavi?

Peter Mondavi: Yeah we do have a lot of history here, and it has evolved and changed quite dramatically over the years.

Adrianne Calvo: Cheers to amazing stories and amazing winemaker history. 


Adrianne Calvo: Our restaurant is inspired by Napa Valley. It’s inspired by this culture. It’s inspired by this landscape. So the short rib, which was actually rated as Thrillists’ “50 Things You Have to Eat Before You Die,'' is made with a beautifully delicate balance because you can’t cook with anything you wouldn't drink, right? So that’s the foundation of great cooking. 

Egg: And obviously I tasted a few bottles to make sure it was good quality to braise our short rib in. 

Stag’s Leap Vineyard (7:05)

Adrianne Calvo: Yet Napa Valley would not get its notoriety on the wine scene until more than a century later in 1976 thanks to a wine I’m about to try. Well, an older version of it. But you have to work for everything in life, so my producers made me bike ride all the way there. 


Travis Westrope: So this is our 2017 S.L.V. Stag’s Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and this is what really put, not only Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, but Napa Valley on the map. 

Adrianne Calvo: This changed everything once they tasted this, right?

Travis Westrope: It did. In 1976, there was a gentleman by the name of Steven Spurrier. He was an English wine merchant, but he had heard about all this California wine being made and so he decided to come and check some of it out. And in his travels, discovered that there was some - what he thought was some really excellent wines being made out here. So he decided that he was going to set up a blind tasting back in Paris. In that competition, Stag’s Leap Vineyard 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won in a wine tasting and beat out all the other Bordeaux Varietals and was named the best by the French judges. The thing about the judgment of Paris though too is that, as much as Steven had tried to get the word out that he was going to have this competition, none of the media or publications really wanted to show up. At the last second, a writer from Time Magazine decided to come to the competition, wrote a little article about it in the issue of the 1976 Time Magazine, and from there it blew up and that really is what put California and Napa Valley on the winemaking map. 

Adrianne Calvo: So it’s safe to say that a lot of us are here visiting Napa Valley because of this. 

Travis Westrope: Yes, because of this wine right here. 

Adrianne Calvo: Have you seen wine pairings and food pairings evolve?

Travis Westrope: Now, if you ask Steven Spurrier [the gentleman who put us on the map], he has a famous saying where he always says “drink for mood, not for food.” So he’s really big on just drinking for whatever your heart desires. 

Adrianne Calvo: “Drink for mood, not for food.” I like that!

Travis Westrope: So, that is his infamous saying.

Round Pond Estate (9:21)

Adrianne Calvo: Well, in terms of mood, a great wine is always a good choice. But I will say that, as a chef, I do like the idea of a food and wine pairing. We are now headed to an incredible food food and wine pairing experience that is so true to this region. Welcome to Il Pranzo at the Round Pond Estate. First, I’m going to learn all about the wine, then I’m going to enjoy it with some delicious food.


Adrianne Calvo: So guys, I want you to meet John Wilson. He’s the winemaker here at Round Pond Estate. Basically, you’re responsible for the alchemy here right?

John Wilson: That’s right. 

Adrianne Calvo: So tell me a little about what you do here in day-to-day operations.

John Wilson: We make wine, of course. But we also make olive oil. We grow our own olive trees and have our own olive mill. We’re one of two olive mills in Napa Valley. We have olive groves and the property is pretty big. It’s about 365 acres of vines. We produce off of about 40% of the vineyards that we farm. 

Adrianne Calvo: How much wine can - like, let’s say this section - produce?

John Wilson: It might make a gallon. The goal is to establish balance in the vineyard between how much fruit you’re hanging and how much growth you have. So if you have too much fruit on the vine, you may not develop the flavors you want or you may not accumulate as much sugar as you need to hit your goal alcohol. So we will come through and identify how much fruit is there and if we should remove any. There is some sacrifice to establish quality. 

Adrianne Calvo: That’s so important in everything we do, whether it’s in the kitchen or out here for you: how everything has its purpose but is driven around quality being the epicenter of everything. 

John Wilson: And Round Pond is unique in that we have a very genuine farm-to-table culinary program here at the tasting room. 

Adrianne Calvo: I may look calm right now as I’m standing here, but I am jumping up and down inside like a kid at Christmas for the experience that we’re about to have. 

Round Pond Estate Tasting Room & Il Pranzo (11:30)

Adrianne Calvo: So, Chef Ryan Seal, Executive Chef of Round Pond Estate, I have to say I’m so excited to be here. I’m so excited to experience Il Pranzo. What inspired you to create this?

Ryan Seal: It’s just a way for us to really showcase our wines in a different way. We obviously do our wine tasting and express that to our guests that are coming here, but we wanted to showcase that food has always been a focus of the winery. Farming is obviously very important to us - it’s fancy farming with our grapes. But, to showcase our gardens and our property and to put that into a food and wine setting to really showcase something different and how those wines change with salt and fat and food and how a guest can experience that in a different way. 

Adrianne Calvo: Well, I cannot wait to see what you’ve created here!

Adrianne Calvo: Wow. Pairs perfectly. Brings everything out. I mean, you can’t figure out if the wine brings the flavors of the food forward or the food brings the flavors of the wine forward. I mean, it does both.

Ryan Seal: So, what we try to do is, obviously the wine comes first and we’re trying to showcase that when you’re adding in salt, fat, herbs, different flavors, a little bit of acidity in there as well. It can tone down some of the things that are harsh in wines, like tannins, and bring that acid down so you bring the fruit flavor of the wine, which is obviously coming from the grapes, and really showcase that wine in a slightly different way. 

Adrianne Calvo: So I’m tasting the richness from the brown butter, like the brown butter really comes through. Then, you have just a tad of acid to balance perfectly - I guess deglazing - with the salmon blanc. Perfectly balances this dish and I love the crunch from the sunflower seeds and the bark. Exceptional. I just feel like we’re experiencing the best. This is a living dream right here.

Egg: Definitely bucket list stuff.

Adrianne Calvo: Yes! Bucket list stuff. 


Adrianne Calvo: It’s fork tender. I’ve read Ruth Reichl’s “Tender at the Bone” several times and when she describes eating any type of braised meat, she says that if you can eat it with a fork - it’s the only way that you know that a braised meat is done very well. And the other part is if you could actually taste the wine that it’s cooked in, like you could kind of close your eyes and be like ‘okay, this was made with this kind of wine,’ not just a cooking wine. This just hits all the marks. All of them. This is definitely Napa on a plate. This is where you can savor the landscape. You savor the labor of love that is winemaking and I think this is where the two worlds marry, and it’s here on a showcase for guests to enjoy. I think this is what enriches life, to be able to taste this. You taste the stories, you taste the story of the winemaker, you taste the story of the family that put this all together, you taste the passion of the chef and this is incredible. You have to come here. 

Braised Short Rib (15:03)

Adrianne Calvo: My memories in Napa at 19 inspired my first restaurant and its dishes, especially my short rib.


Adrianne Calvo: So now we’re back in my kitchen and, speaking of wonderful and beautiful interpretations, I’m going to show you how to make that dish I was talking about. Braised Prime Beef Short Rib. Now, that’s a classic dish. They do it in France, they do it in Italy, they do it in Spain, they do it in America, right? But it’s up to us chefs to interpret it and this is what I’ve got for you. 


Adrianne Calvo: So after I filled this up with the braising liquid, I’m going to start layering in the aromatics, which is our fresh herbs. Here we have some rosemary, some fresh thyme, and some fresh oregano. Now, you could add some sage if you’d like but these are my top three favorites: rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Now we cover this up, make sure it’s airtight, and into the oven we go for a minimum of three hours. Minimum, if you’re doing this at home. At Chef Adrianne’s we do these for 24 hours at 250 degrees. And this is how you do braised short ribs ‘Maximum Flavor-style.’

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