Naggiar: “Double Gold” medals, winter food & wine events

“AMERICA’S FAVORITE RESTAURANT,” says Open Table, “is at a winery.” St. Francis Winery in Sonoma recently was named the county’s favorite restaurant by the online reservations service, beating out The French Laundry in Napa and others.

The honor underscores the growing influence of destination wineries that provide exquisite food-and-wine pairings, remarkable views and stylish tasting rooms—a trend we cover regularly.

More destination wineries are popping up in our region, such as Wise Villa in Lincoln, which opened a few years ago. The foothills’ premier and longstanding destination winery is Naggiar Vineyards & Winery in Grass Valley, on a bucolic road off Hwy. 49. And like a fine wine, it keeps getting better with age. “You need to stay ahead of the game,” says owner Mike Naggiar.

Starting 15 years ago, the Naggiars planted 50 acres of vineyards on a large knoll with gentle hillside slopes; built a 3,600 sq.-ft. Tuscan-inspired tasting room with a patio, dining room and commercial kitchen; and created award-winning wines.

Launched more than four years ago, Naggiar’s summer Winefest has gained a reputation for wine, food and music. The winery hosts “tribute bands” and other live music on an outdoor stage and newly expanded seating area, overlooking a pond. The annual wine harvest celebration includes horse-drawn carriage rides in the vineyard.

Now the winery has again “kicked it up a notch.” It hired veteran Chef Georgia Gross and opened Naggiar Bistro, which serves a seasonal menu of farm-to-table cuisine.

This winter it will offer food and music events year-round. It has enclosed the patio for the rainy season and is going to offer light-style live music on Fridays and Saturdays for the winter season.

The food has an Italian-Mediterranean influence, well suited to Naggiar’s wines. “I take extra care to choose meats, sauces and vegetables that pair really well with our wines,” says Georgia.

Medal Winners

This winter, Naggiar won two “Double Golds” for its Don Giovanni and Reserve Syrah in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Naggiar also won a Silver for its Barbera and a Silver for its Sangiovese.

Among other wineries, Avanguardia won Gold for its Tre ‘T’; Ciotti Cellars won a Gold for its Old Vine Zinfan- del; Popie won a Silver for its Barbera Rosato; and Secret Ravine won a Silver for its Cabernet Franc. Montoliva won a Bronze for its Aglianico and a Bronze for its Sangiovese. A full list of the winners is here.

(Photos: Dan Senkbeil)

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