Taste Napa Valley

Imagine the great and powerful Thomas Keller (of French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon fame) handing out snow cones. Literally standing in a throng of people with ball-park vendor’s box strapped around his neck–and here’s where it gets really weird–hawking tomato flavored snow cones topped with a shrimp.

Why not. I’ll bite.

Cool. Tomato-ey. Ew, wait. Cold tomato sauce with limp shrimp. Bad plan. Abort. Abort.

Before I could the taste out of my mouth and my camera out of my bag, Keller had high-tailed it to the back of the tent and waved off my attempts to take a picture. Sigh.

Don’t worry, Thomas, I still love you despite your gazpacho-inspired mishap and camera fickleness.

Moving on, I’m ready to pounce on dozens of other chefs sweltering it out inside the tents of Taste Napa Valley, a pre-auction gathering for Auction Napa Valley where locals and high-rolling bidders elbow it out at the all-you-can-eat nibblefest featuring some of the best food in Wine Country (snow cones aside). Like having sushi-master Ken Tominaga make you a salmon hand roll. Grabbing a plate of baby carrots, fresh peas and pork from FARM restaurant or a white cheesecake bon bon on a stick from Sweetie Pies. Yeah. And the food just goes on and on and on.

But before I start daydreaming of pulled pork sandwiches from Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen again, I should probably mention that something like 100 wineries stand around filling your wine glass as you walk around stuffing your face. I just didn’t want your head to explode.

So what’s all the fuss? Taste Napa Valley is just the warm up to Auction Napa Valley– quite possibly the most lavish wine auction ever conceived, with wine lots that have sold for upwards of-let’s just say, the down payment on your house. Or, uh, your house itself.

Throughout the weekend, wine enthusiasts from around the world converge on Napa to get a gander at what’s on the block, hob-nob, eat, drink and generally look fabulous (see the slideshow). When it’s all over, everyone goes home a stuffed, hung-over and, if they’re lucky, with some serious wine for their collections. More importantly, local charities get the lion’s share of the take. Hey, it’s a win-win.

Check out what’s up for bid at http://www.napavintners.com/anv.

Check out my photo gallery of Taste Napa Valley (with a covert shot of Keller, to boot!) here.