Aspen Times Weekly: The Twelve Days of Christmas — A celebration of food and wine at Napa’s Meadowood Resort | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: The Twelve Days of Christmas — A celebration of food and wine at Napa’s Meadowood Resort

by KELLY J. HAYES

There are few places more magical for a Christmas sojourn than the California wine country.

In the Napa Valley, the pace of life tapers as the vines rest between vintages and the throngs that come for summer and harvest season move on to other places. The smell of smoke hangs in the heavy air; the sun passes low in the sky, casting a winter's light. It is a time for both celebration and relaxed contemplation.

No place is better equipped for both than the Meadowood Resort, which annually celebrates the season by inviting 11 of the world's most accomplished chefs to join Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow in a series of special dinners called "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Each of the 12 nights, running Dec. 6 through Dec. 21, the exquisite Restaurant at Meadowood serves as the stage as each chef, paired with a Napa Valley winemaker, produces a distinctly extraordinary meal to mark the holidays.

This year's collection of chefs includes current raves like Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta's in Brooklyn, SPQR's Matthew Accarrino from San Francisco, and David Kinch from Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif. James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef Southeast, Ashley Christensen, who toils in the kitchens of three Raleigh, N.C., eateries including Poole's Diner and Beasley's Chicken + Honey, will bring the taste of the South to Northern California.

Chef Rasmus Kofoed, the winner of the 2011 Bocuse d'Or competition designating the "worlds best chef," will wing his way from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he presides over the Michelin two-starred restaurant Geranium. And from South America, chef Rodolfo Guzman will present the flavors, techniques and foods of his native Chile.

Each evening guests will also taste the labors of legendary Napa winemakers like Mike Grgich, Larry Turley and, on the final night, H. William Harlan (Bill), who will pair the wines of Harlan Estate with the cuisine of Kostow, the host chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood.

Recommended Stories For You

An interesting twist this season is the inclusion of a trio of Asian-inspired chefs. Tim Cushman, who created a masterpiece in the leather district of Boston called o ya and won a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef Award in the process, will bring his incomparable Japanese-inspired dishes to Meadowood on Dec. 11. Cushman's single-bite dishes in a 17-course omakase at his restaurant make for one of the world's most sublime dining experiences. His offering at Meadowood should be, well, insane.

Pok Pok in Portland features the cooking of Thai-obsessed chef Andy Ricker. He will open The Twelve Days with a blockbuster pairing with the wines of Grgich Hills. Then, from New York, the guy who many say has had the greatest influence on American cuisine in the last five or so years, David Chang from Momofuku, will set up shop with the aforementioned Turley in what should be once-in-a-lifetime pairing.

If you have been to Meadowood, you will never forget it. If you have not, cross something off your current bucket list and replace it with this gem located in its own tiny valley just off the Silverado Trail.

Developed by Bill Harlan, proprietor of Harlan Estate, in the 1980s, Meadowood is centered around a classic lodge that has been updated with contemporary California comfort. The resort features dozens of cottages, each with the feel of an elegant private treehouse, scattered in the nooks of the surrounding hillsides.

There is a par-three golf course that winds through the valley, ringed by towering trees. A perfect, impossibly green croquet pitch glistens in the morning dew that dissolves with the rising sun. An enticing health spa sits adjacent to a steaming pool that early each morning hosts many of the most well-known names in the wine world who come for their daily workout. And, at the front gate, the vineyards of the Napa Valley Reserve remind you that you are in one of the world's premier wine regions.

Yet, with all this on offer, it is the kitchens of The Restaurant at Meadowood that may have brought the property the most acclaim. Since Kostow arrived on property in 2008, and a remodel was completed this past year, it has become one of the most talked about restaurants in America. Awarded three-stars by Michelin in 2011, it is a tough ticket indeed.

And the Twelve Days dinners require the fortune of three kings to attend. Prices for individual seatings begin at $395 for the meal, with chef's table seats running $750. There are lodging and dinner packages available starting at $1,315 per couple that includes rooms (you'll want to stay) and dinner for two. To book a dinner or get more information, email reservations@meadowood.com or call 855-953-2435.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, Meadowood makes a charitable contribution of $2,000 in honor of each of the 12 chefs, plus 20 percent of every dinner ticket sold, to a pair of charities that benefit children in need in the Napa Valley. They have already raised in excess of $230,000 for various charities in the five previous years of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

A seat at the table is the best Christmas gift one could ever hope for.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

Chefs and Winemakers

• Friday, Dec. 6: Andy Ricker(Pok Pok in Portland and NYC); Mike Grgich and Violet Grgich, Grgich Hills Estate

• Saturday, Dec. 7: Rodolfo Guzman (Borago, Santiago, Chile); Juan Mercado, Realm Cellars

• Tuesday, Dec. 10: Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta’s and Blanca in Brooklyn, N.Y.); Andrew Mariani and Adam Mariani, SCRIBE Winery

• Wednesday, Dec. 11: Tim Cushman (o ya in Boston); Stephen Martin and Dennis O’Neil, Checkerboard Vineyards

• Thursday, Dec. 12: Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, N.C.); Freddy Constant, Constant, Diamond Mountain Vineyard

• Friday, Dec. 13: David Chang (Momofuku Restaurants in New York); Larry Turley, Turley Wine Cellars

• Saturday, Dec. 14: Matthew Accarrino (SPQR in San Francisco); Tuck and Boo Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards

• Tuesday, Dec. 17: Mark Ladner and Brooks Headley (Del Posto in New York); Glenn Salva, Antica Napa Valley, Antinori Family Estate

• Wednesday, Dec. 18: Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium in Copenhagen, Denmark); Spring Mountain Vineyard

• Thursday, Dec. 19: Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine in San Francisco); Lily Berlin, Oliver Berlin, and John Berlin, El Molino Winery

• Friday, Dec. 20: David Kinch (Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif.); May-Britt and Denis Malbec, Notre Vin, Malbec and Malbec Cellars

• Saturday, Dec. 21: Christopher Kostow & Sous Chefs (The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Calif.); H. William and Deborah Harlan, Harlan Estate