For most people winter is a time to chase the sun or the slopes, but a select few know that the real magic awaits in the sparkle of Yosemite. We wanted to elevate the Yosemite winter experience even further by bringing some great winemakers to hang out, share their wares, and let us play with some delicious food pairings. Mission accomplished with our Winemaker Weekend series.
We’re putting our own personal stamp on every Winemaker Weekend, with menus that not only complement the selected wines, but reflect the personality of each winemaker. Our food pairings are born over wine barrels as our very own Chef Tony Lemens travels to each winery to get to know the winemaker and what they’re all about.
During these visits both Chef and the winemakers are free to let their imaginations run wild with ideas on how to share the wine with food in new and exciting ways. You’ll know exactly what we mean with each sip and each bite.
A Toast to Our First Two Winemakers
Starting in January 2017, it was our privilege to bring Napa to the wilderness with Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock, and Michael Trujillo of Trujillo Wines, two distinctive winemakers with equally accomplished portfolios and yet vastly different personalities.
Among other things, Elizabeth Vianna, Winemaker and General Manager of Chimney Rock, is well- respected for her Stags Leap District estate-grown wines from this green-certified Napa Valley winery. A native of Brazil, Elizabeth’s warm smile, love of music, and desire to “surprise and delight” the people she cares about shines through in every glass of carefully crafted wine.
Chef Lemens captured Elizabeth’s strong character and bright spirit with some surprises of his own. Guests were delighted to see some of their traditional favorites on the menu, such as Spice Rubbed Duck, uplifted by a Vanilla Cauliflower Puree that balanced out Leeks, Brussels Sprouts and a Red Wine Duck Sauce that incorporated the Tomahawk Cabernet Sauvignon pairing. Likewise, the Pheasant and Cider Reduction accented with green apple foam played a perfect supporting role to the 2014 Elevage Blanc. (Satisfying substitutions abounded as well for everything from Pescatarian to cheese allergies and more.)
The experience concluded with Chef Lemens’ take on Potted Mascarpone Cheesecake with Lemon Shortbread and Orange Honey Marmalade, bringing a touch of sweetness and a burst of flavor with lemon cookie crumbles alongside Elizabeth’s 2012 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
The following weekend, we hosted Michael Trujillo of Trujillo Wines. Although his namesake wines are quickly gaining notoriety of their own, Michael is known for producing some of the best boutique wines from Napa Valley for over three decades. Growing and harvesting grapes across diverse terroirs in some of Napa’s finest vineyards, Michael’s fruit focused wines create an atmosphere where the “vineyards feel like home and the growers, extended family.”
Michael’s easy going nature and vibrant spirit inspired Chef Lemens to showcase with a menu sprinkled with pops of heat and dishes that shined through simplicity. Our fearless chef attributed the unforgettable Hamachi Crudo accompanied by freshly pickled jalapenos to Michael’s zest for life, which was fittingly paired with his 2015 Madelynn White Wine Cuvee.
Guests loved how the Blackberry Jelly Donuts were a perfect reflection of Michael not taking himself too seriously. Paired with Michael’s 2014 Trujillo Cabernet, both a powerful and elegant Cabernet that is the newest in his long legacy of exquisite Napa Cabernets, added an unforgettable ending to an impeccable dinner. After spending the weekend, eating and drinking with Michael and his wife Terri, everyone agrees that Chef Lemens captured his essence perfectly.
Looking Towards Julie Johnson’s Winemaker Weekend March 3rd, 2017
Here at Rush Creek Lodge we’re looking forward to our next Winter Winemaker Weekend with Julie Johnson from Tres Sabores Winery. Julie and Chef Lemens rendezvoused at Julie’s Napa Valley ranch a few weeks back, and instantly clicked. Both of these talented individuals have a passion for the highest quality, fresh ingredients for their creations and settle for nothing but the best. Chef Lemens was able to walk Julie’s ranch and learn that her passion for quality ingredients carried past the fruit she grows for her wine.
On the small family-owned ranch tucked in the Rutherford section of Napa Valley, Julie and her husband Jon Engelskirger grow organically certified grapes, olives, Meyer lemons, exotic pomegranate cultivars and so much more. During their visit together, Julie and Chef Lemens brainstormed how to incorporate Julie’s ingredients for Chef Lemens’ food pairings for her upcoming Winemaker Weekend.
Vineyard to Mountain Menu
Chef Lemens, who is deeply rooted in incorporating seasonal produce into his work, is very excited by the idea of working with the produce and game birds from Julie Johnson’s farm to pair with her wines. Working closely with Julie and her Tres Sabores team, Chef Lemens has begun to put together the menu incorporating the various ingredients available at the ranch currently.
Although nothing is set in stone yet, chef is drawing inspiration for the dessert course from the juicy Meyer lemons Julie will be providing. Chef is also considering a salad consisting of Minor’s Lettuce foraged from the cover crop in the Tres Sabores Vineyards. But most exciting, Chef Lemens is thinking of combining Rosemary from the ranch’s herb garden with the Guinea Hens left over from the hen run that will be happening just a few days before the actual dinner for the main course, sure to be a true highlight of the dinner. We cannot wait to see Julie’s bright smile, sparkling eyes and warm hugs shine through in the wine poured and dishes plated.
Join Us On Our Winemaker Weekend Journey
It’s our pleasure to invite you to join our Winter Winemaker Weekends! We’re fortunate to get to work with winemakers who not only make good juice, but who also have good hearts and share our core values of social and environmental responsibility. We know that you will enjoy getting to know them as much as we have.
The best part is that you can explore Yosemite by day then relax with great wine, fabulous food and good company each evening. Snowshoeing among Giant Sequoias is just minutes away. Some guests like to venture down to Yosemite Valley for some scenic touring and light hiking. Others prefer to stay at Rush Creek and enjoy the hot tub, Guest Lounge, Tavern and Game Room. Whatever your preference, our Recreation Desk is available to help you figure out how to make the most of your free time, and we offer professionally guided tours and adventures in case you’d rather let someone else do the driving.
Winemaker Weekend Packages Include:
- Two nights lodging in a deluxe Lodge King or Double Queen room at Rush Creek (upgrades available*)
- Friday 5:30pm-7:30pm welcome reception with the winemaker, featuring wines selected by the winemaker, paired with small bites (see our first tasting menu)
- Saturday and Sunday full breakfast in Rush Creek’s Restaurant (check out our Breakfast menu)
- Saturday night 6pm-9:30pm dinner with the winemaker, featuring four courses paired to complement the wines selected by the winemaker (see our first dinner menu)
Starting from $490 per person, plus tax and gratuity. *