Wine Ink: Wine and dine at Meadowood

Kelly J. Hays
Wine Ink

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

And for wine lovers there may be no better place to spend the holidays than the Napa Valley. More specifically, at Meadowood, the ultra-luxe, wine-centric destination resort that is perhaps the most authentic representation of all that Napa has to offer.

Year-round, a focal point of the Meadowood experience takes place in the three-Michelin-starred “The Restaurant at Meadowood,” helmed by executive chef Christopher Kostow. But come each December, chef Kostow pulls out all the stops to host the annual “The Twelve Days of Christmas” culinary event. Over 12 nights, a dozen renowned chefs from around the world come to The Restaurant’s meticulously appointed kitchen to prepare foods reflecting both their diverse specialties and techniques, and the vast bounty of the Napa Valley.

Each evening, a different visiting chef creates not just a meal, but also a succession of standout epicurean journeys. For those who hold the culinary arts and the crafting and pairing of fine wines in high esteem, The Twelve Days of Christmas is the pinnacle.

This is the 10th year that chef Kostow has hosted the event and the lineup for the 2018 edition is as eclectic as it is far-flung. For example, opening night, Friday, Dec. 7, will see heralded chef Jose Enrique bring his Culinary Institute of America training and the chef’s toque from his eponymous Jose Enrique restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Napa. Chef Enrique will warm up the kitchen for a plethora of international stars who will travel from places as distant as Paris, Poland and Slovenia. There is even an Aussie from Singapore.

Some will merge cuisines from different regions. The “Dane of the Andes,” Nordic chef Kamilla Seidler — who found her way to La Paz, Bolivia, where she earned accolades as “Latin America’s Best Female Chef” — will share her interpretation of the bi-hemispheric influences that inform not just her cooking, but her views on the role of gastronomy, as well. Chef Byung-Jin Kim, who received a third Michelin star in 2017 for his Korean-inspired cuisine at Seoul’s Gaon restaurant, will follow on Friday, Dec. 14. Kim will collaborate with the staff at The Restaurant on what can best be described as a seven-star meal — six for the honored chefs combined and one for the sustainable ingredients that Kim treasures.

Not every chef travels so far afield. From Carmel’s beloved Aubergine comes Justin Cogley, who Aspenites may remember from his star turn when he was a 2013 Food & Wine Magazine “Best New Chef.” Jessica Largey, who just opened her widely anticipated SIMONE in Los Angeles, will take a flight north the evening of the 11th. And on the 12th night, Dec. 22, chef Kostow will take charge of his own kitchen for a final act before the holidays.

And, of course, there will be wines. The wine list at Meadowood showcases the finest vintages from Napa’s most outstanding wineries, and wine director Micah Clark has been tasked with pairing local wines with the international cuisines. “Our wine team spends months researching our visiting chefs to learn about their wine programs, specifically looking at what they like to pair with their cuisine and menu in their own restaurants,” he explained. “Then we look at the event through the lens of California; what wines could our team select that are closer to our home and still similar to our visiting chefs’ own beverage program?”

An evening at the table does not come cheap. Prices for each dinner start at $350 per person, and let’s face it; you are going to want to spend the night. But if an unforgettable food and wine experience is what you are looking for, and you have the means, this is an unparalleled opportunity.

As the home to the Napa Valley Auction, which raises millions each year for charitable causes, Meadowood is also an establishment with heart.

“It is important for us as a fairly exclusive restaurant to have a positive impact and relationship with our immediate community,” chef Kostow said. “Since the inception of this annual event 10 years ago, we have tried to steer (donations) towards local charitable partners.”

This year, $2,000 will be donated in the name of each visiting chef, along with 10 percent of proceeds, to the Saint Helena Preschool for All, Inc. The local nonprofit provides scholarships to children in the Napa Valley and is a favorite of chef Kostow’s. “The St. Helena Preschool for All, Inc. gives us the ability to see the benefit of our partnership with families in our community for whom these dollar amounts have real and immediate value,” he said.

Happy holidays, and bon appetite.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at

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