I used to pride myself on being a great resource for where to eat, shop and drink in Napa Valley—I even wrote a book on the subject!. And then I got married, had a child and got a “real” job and now I feel like I’m always the last to know…everything.
For example, a couple of weeks ago I was really excited to attend the Oak Knoll vintners tasting that was part of Premier Napa Valley. It was held at Bistro Don Giovanni in the small room off the patio. It was crowded and warm—perfect given that outside it was cold and rainy.
There were a dozen vintners pouring wine from their vineyards all within a few miles. These are the vineyards I pass in the morning when I ride my bike so it was fun on a couple of levels: tasting wine and connecting the dots between the vineyards I follow through the growing season as I pedal by.
I knew most of the wineries, except for John Anthony. I tasted the Cab being offered. It was a solid wine with all the critical components: fruit, tannins and acid all equally balanced.
I thought I was discovering a new property until I read in Paul Franson’s Napa Life newsletter about the John Anthony wine bar in the newish (at least to me) Avia Hotel. Turns out John Anthony is also a Truchard, an established wine family in Carneros.
I haven’t visited the wine bar yet (no surprise there), but I did drive by slowly and witstfully, and imagined sitting at the counter eating something grown up while sipping a glass of John Anthony Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, I ran my errands and came home and cooked this delicious brushetta and ate it with my husband while our little guy built a town with his legos.
Bruschetta with Spicy Ricotta and Garlicky Spinach
A few summers ago my favorite farmer at the market handed me a few bunches of chard, which I washed and sauteed with a lot of garlic then tossed with linguine and fresh ricotta. It quickly become a staple. The flavors were so good I started to play with other ways to serve it. First there was a frittata and later this bruschetta, which I now make interchangeably with the chard. It’s great as an appetizer, lunch or light dinner.
8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices Ciabatta or Pugliese bread
1 cup fresh ricotta, at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces baby spinach, washed and spun dry
Preheat the broiler.
Mix together the ricotta, 1 clove of the garlic, the crushed red peppers and the salt.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and spinach and cook, stirring constantly until wilted. Remove from the heat.
Toast the bread slices under a broiler until just crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Set on a platter.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the ricotta on each slice of toasted bread. Using tongs, top with equal amounts of the spinach and serve immediately.
What to drink: If you can splurge, John Anthony Cabernet Sauvignon ($56) is a great choice. If you want a more every day wine, try Paul Newman’s Cabernet Sauvignon ($12). It’s at the right price and like all of the PN products, the profits go to charity. Everyone wins.