November 11th is a special day for us.  Not only is it the date of our wedding
anniversary, but it is also the genesis of Kagan Cellars.  The first barrel of wine we made was a gift for our first wedding anniversary.  As it turns out, making great wine is a lot of fun, and every anniversary gift since has been more barrels of wine! (Please see the  article “The Story of Kagan Cellars”)

In fact, when we started out, and winemaking was just a hobby, we produced our wine as ElevenEleven Cellars.  Unfortunately, when we went commercial, we ran into some trademark issues and consequently, we are, now and forever, Kagan Cellars.

 As ElevenEleven Cellars we were planning to have a big launch party on 11/11/11;
however, when we changed that name, we changed the plans.  So, the question remained this year:  What to do to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary on 11/11/11?  Obviously, there would be food and wine involved, but we needed something special to focus on.

 It’s funny what memories last from a special occasion.  Sometimes you can remember every aspect of a special day, other times your memory focuses on one thing and the remaining parts are a blur.  That’s what happened the first time Mark took me to Napa Valley in 2000.  Being from the Bay Area and a “foodie”, Mark knew a great deal about where we should dine, specifically, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry.  When we learned that the restaurant required guests to make reservations EXACTLY 3-months in advance, we were onboard.  We diligently put the “date to make a reservation” on our calendars.  When that date arrived, we didn’t get around to calling the restaurant until 3:00 PM Central Time.  When the receptionist answered our call, she told us that the only reservation left was for lunch on Sunday…all the evening reservations for 3-months in advance were already booked by 1:00 PM on the west coast!  We went ahead and took what we could get, and three months later headed out to the wine country.  When we arrived, we called The French Laundry to confirm our reservation, and found…that they had never heard of us.  They told us that they would see what they could do, but couldn’t make us any promises.  Needless to say, we were very disappointed!  However, being the “class joint” that is The French Laundry, we received a call a few hours later and were told that the restaurant had a cancellation and they could take us at 7:00 Saturday night.  We could not believe our good luck!  The dinner was nothing less than absolutely magical.  Every single dish was amazing and beyond anything that either of us had ever experienced!  I know that we had wine along with our dinner, but the food was so special, I have very little memory of the wine.  I seem to remember a half-bottle of Opus One, but I couldn’t tell you anything about it today…the food won out over the wine, and the dinner is the memory I hold.

Likewise, I have other memories of special occasions where the wine is the memory and it not only outshines the food, but sometimes the whole day!  I remember Mark opened a half-bottle of Chateau D’Yquem for my birthday one year.  I had never tried dessert wine before and I completely fell in love!  I can’t tell you anything about that birthday…not how old I was…not how we celebrated; but I still remember the magical sweetness of that wine!

Back to the anniversary at hand…we want to create a perfect pairing of food and wine!

Thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law, we have a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook, and thanks to my husband, I have never had to touch it!  The recipes from Thomas Keller’s cookbook are amazing and beautiful and exceedingly precise!  I find them very complicated and am too gun-shy to attempt them.  Mark, on the other hand, has mastered the “Coronets filled with Salmon Tartare and Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraiche”, and the “Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Sage Cream, Brown Butter, and Prosciutto” among other things.  So, for our 5th anniversary, Mark didn’t hesitate to pull out the book and find something wonderful to make.  This year it’s going to be “Yabba Dabba Do” – a Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chantrelles, Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce.

We’re going to pair the meal with a special wine that we think will stand-out in its own right.  For our wedding, some special people gave us a “vertical tasting” of Vineyard 29 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Grace Family Vineyards (1996 –2002).  We have now cellared the wines for 5 years and have read that between now and 2014 is the perfect time to drink this wine.  So, we are opening up 1996 tonight!  Needless to say, we are looking forward to it and we will update you with our impressions of it!  We also send out special thanks Brenda Austin, Barbara and Larry Bellatti, Mary Jane and Jay Holm, Bonnie and Jack Chandler, and Susan and Dennis James for the wine – we’ll drink a toast to you!

 The potential for excellent wine and food pairings are endless and we hope that tonight we hit a home run and are able to recall not only the dinner, but also the wine!  However, if one or the other wins out, we will still remember the evening together…creating, learning, loving, and laughing!

 As I finish writing this, the sun is setting on 11/11/11 and I am waiting for my “chef” to come home and celebrate not only five wonderful years of marriage, but also the ELEVEN wonderful years that lead to marriage!  Happy anniversary, honey!


All the Best,



Happy Anniversary! Love, Mark

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