Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Berryessa Gap Paella Cook-Off

There is something beautiful about watching paella being cooked over an open fire in a large open pan. This image was magnified this past week where at least a dozen different paellas were being made for the Berryessa Gap Paella Cook-Off, the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Berryessa Gap is a winery based in Winters, in Yolo County, California, located 30 miles from Sacramento and 60 miles from San Francisco. Owned by the Martinez family who originates from Spain, they celebrate their Spanish heritage each year with the annual Paella Cookoff and Dinner. This year marked the 11th annual event and more than a dozen local chefs came out to make paellas, many from their own family’s recipes.

The paellas came in all flavors. There were traditional paellas made with chicken, chorizo and seafood but there were other versions as well. A few had chicken wings in them, which they called “party wings”, one had antelope. There were a few seafood paellas, including one with a big lobster on top and another with black rice from the squid ink. There was also a paella made with artichokes and was so creamy and surprisingly was one of my favorites.

To enjoy with the paella, we sipped wines from Berryessa Gap who specialize in Iberian varieties.

As the paellas were cooking, we tasted the 2016 Malbec, 2016 Zinfandel, 2016 Petite Sirah and 2016 Durif. Berryessa Gap is located in a hot region, however, due to the vineyard’s location that overlooks a gap between the hills, east of Lake Berryessa, there is a diurnal shift and winds that blow through. This allows the grapes to ripen but not over-ripen and the resulting wines are fruit-driven, but not overblown, and have beautiful acidity.

The wine enjoyed with the paellas was the newly released 2016 Berryessa Gap Tempranillo. It was a perfect pairing, not only because Tempranillo is a Spanish grape, but also because the wine has dark fruit aromas, bright acidity and soft tannins that made it easy drinking with the paella.

With my belly full of paella and Tempranillo, I would say that it was the highlight of my week and that is why the Berryessa Gap 11th Annual Paella Cook-Off was the Please The Palate pick of the week.