On Saturday, May 12 hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the 4th Annual ZD Wine Crush Challenge. The event organized by ZD Wines was established in 2014 in an effort to support a number of beneficiaries that include The deLeuze Family Endowed Professorship for the Non-Toxic Cure for Lymphoma, The Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s and the Boys & Girls Club of the Napa Valley.

About 175 riders participated on the Crush Challenge ride along the Napa Valley, which included Rep. Mike Thompson and Olympians Connie Carpenter and Evelyn Stevens. Also, a few hundred visitors gathered at the barrel tasting and the Food & Wine Marketplace.

While the barrel tasting was hosted at ZD Winery on Silverado Trail with bites from Chef Rock Harper, the Marketplace was at the Veterans Home picnic grounds. A number of Napa Valley wineries showed up to support the cause and showcase their wines. Amongst the wineries were Silver Oak Cellars as well as Twomey Cellars, its sister winery, Vineyard 29, Truchard Vineyards, St Supery Vineyards, Clo du Val, Baldacci and the host ZD Vineyards.

Guests also enjoyed an array of some Napa Valley’s most popular eateries, including Il Posto Trattoria, Celadon, Eight Noodle, Heritage Eats and Kollar Chocolates.

The celebration then continued into the Exclusive Wine Dinner at Las Alcobas Resort in St. Helena. The popular dinner started with a reception in the courtyard, which included wines and even a couple of Sake selections with an acoustic set by Justin Diaz. After mingling for a while, the dinner got rolling, hosted by chef Chris Cosentino, a bicycle aficionado and known for a number of TV appearances. Consentino is also the chef/partner at Cockscomb and Boccalone Salumeria in San Francisco, as well as Acacia House in Napa Valley and Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon. He was joined by chef Justin Cogley, executive chef at L’Aubergine in Carmel, chef Rock Harper from a number of Washington, D.C. eateries as well as winner of the third season of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, Chef Chris Kollar from the celebrated Napa Valley chocolaterie and Chris DiMinno, head chef at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon as well a lead chef for Cosentino’s Jackrabbit.

I was invited to oversee the wine service for the evening alongside Acacia House’s team of hospitality professionals. The lineup in charge of the culinary arts made for a fantastic evening, but we are in Napa, you might contend, and you’re right. The wine selection did not disappoint. There were a good number of mouth-watering selections to complement the food.

The dinner started with a colorful market vegetable salad with black truffle and Jamón Ibérico by chef DiMinno beautifully complemented by the 2016 Truchard Vineyards Roussanne from their Carneros vineyard. Chef Cogley took the next course with a memorable Dungeness crab salad with smoked trout roe and Shiro dashi. The wine served alongside was the 2015 Vineyard 29 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, which made for a stellar combination between brightness and smokey notes from the salad.

The next course consisted of a delicate yet flavorful poached chicken dish with spring vegetables and pickled chili, paired magically with the 2016 St. Supery Estate Virtu, a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend with a touch of oak.

Chris Cosentino showed up with the goods. A pairing of smoked meats served with scallops, watercress and horseradish, and the wine to balance was the 2014 ZD Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.

During this course, I had the pleasure of walking around with a six-liter bottle of the 2010 ZD Cabernet Sauvignon, which, aside from great exercise, it made for an epic comparative tasting and pairing.

The final course consisted of a tribute to the late Rosa Lee deLeuze with the elusive Rosa Lee Sweet Whim Port style wine, which added a fun and satisfying pairing to Chef Kollar’s Chocolate Sushi dessert plate that was most likely the best dessert I’ve enjoyed to date. The thoughtfully created dish consisted of rolls of sushi made of several chocolates and sweets with a chocolate-wasabi ganache, crystallized ginger and a side dish resembling soy sauce made of chocolate dipping sauce.

There were moving speeches throughout the dinner, including a few words by Davis Phinney‘s wife, Olympian Connie Carpenter-Phinney, who spoke on behalf of the Davis Phinney Foundation focuses on Parkinson’s research.

A live auction followed dinner showcasing highly sought- after lots such as a South African safari adventure, wine inspired art that included a wine barrel piece by Will Jamieson, Master Cooper at Demptos Napa Cooperage that sold for more than $9,000 as well as a silent auction that featured two boxing gloves signed by Carl Weathers and a handful of rare wines made for fun lots.

The proceeds this year topped $100,000, which exponentially tops last year’s $38,000, with 100 percent of the proceeds go to the beneficiaries.

The celebration was originally scheduled for October 2017 but the wildfires that affected the region forced a postponement.

Eduardo can be reached at eduardo@sakedrinker.com.