For Adrian, becoming a winemaker and creating Joseph Jewell was not an overnight decision. It was a series of unforgettable moments that led him to his passion. One of those aha moments happened over 15 years ago, at his birthday dinner.
The location was John Ash’s restaurant. The dinner was for Adrian’s 25th birthday. The bottle was a 1978 Iron Horse Cabernet Sauvignon. At first sight the bottle was special because the vintage was Adrian’s birth year, but on closer inspection, Adrian discovered himself pondering the time and effort that really goes into harvest and the wine making process. “I turned the bottle around to see the back label, I was already excited because of the vintage, but then I saw the grapes were harvested the third week of October, which is right around my birthday. That was a complete aha moment for me, that harvest could be so specific, down to the day and week and required so much effort. I wanted to be a part of that.”
With that memory and his first vintage of Joseph Jewell that followed shortly after, Adrian went on to lead many harvests and produce award-winning wines. Earlier this summer Adrian’s winemaking journey turned full circle when Shiloh Hill Farms approached him with an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. He was invited to help raise money for local non-profit Free to Be by teaming up with two-time James Beard award winner and the “father of wine country cuisine” Chef John Ash to create a special dinner paired with Joseph Jewell Wines. Adrian’s first response to the request was, “I’m going to do a winemaker dinner with the John Ash?” He was thrilled to have this rare opportunity.
For those not familiar with Chef John Ash, he has set the standard for fine dining here in wine country. When he opened his restaurant, John Ash & Co. in 1980, he was the first chef in Northern California to focus on creating cuisines to complement the wines of the region by using local, seasonal ingredients and many chefs still aspire to his skill and vision. A man of many talents, he co-hosts KSRO’s Good Food Hour radio talk-show, is the author of several award-winning books, and shares his knowledge as a teacher at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena.
From their first meeting, Adrian knew the dinner with John Ash would be memorable. John Ash called a “meeting” to finalize wine pairings before the event, but it was not your typical meeting. Instead, John whipped up an unbelievable four-course dinner for Adrian and his family. To find the perfect pairings, they tasted each course with several Joseph Jewell wines.
Adrian’s wife, Lily, shared Adrian’s enthusiasm for the upcoming dinner. Passionate about cooking, Lily spends most of her spare time reading cookbooks, browsing the local farmers markets, and honing her cooking skills. So, when Chef John Ash asked her to be his sous chef that evening, she was thrilled for the opportunity to cook by his side. John had Lily chopping and plating food, and to her surprise, he asked if she wanted to grill asparagus for one of the courses. She emphatically answered “yes”, but told Adrian later that it was the most nervous she’s ever been grilling. Chef John Ash was extremely gracious and made the evening most memorable—a blissful night full of great people, great cuisine and, of course, great wine.
Below is a look at the menu of the Joseph Jewell wines paired with each course and the recipes that John Ash was happy to share with us.