Fine wine and haute cuisine are California’s two great tastes that taste best together. And the winemakers and chefs of the state capitalize on the sublime amalgam, creating unusual combinations to tempt oenophiles to nibble and foodies to sip.
Naturally, Napa leads the way. Domaine Chandon ’s estate includes four-star restaurant Etoile, where the wine list is all in-house vintages and the chefs design unique delicacies specifically to pair with the winery’s bubblies and stills.
In neighboring Sonoma, J Winery  leads a new trend, bringing small bites of top cuisine right into the tasting room. Tasters pay a higher fee, but they get their money’s worth as wait staff bring out plates of tiny but tasty dishes that pair with each taste of J’s wine, giving the wine a needed boost.
In the San Francisco Bay Area , fine wines and cutting-edge cuisine practically litter the ground. One forward-thinking Santa Cruz chef decided that instead of bringing fine wines and great produce out of the fields and into a restaurant, he’d bring the tables, kitchen, and chef out of the restaurant and into the fields. Thus began Outstanding in the Field (www.outstandinginthefield.com ), a series of haute cuisine dinners featuring local wineries and food producers, set out where the food really comes from.
The masters of the food and wine festival reside up the coast in Mendocino and the Anderson Valley. Each January, the week-long Crab and Wine Festival (www.gomendo.com ) brings hundreds of visitors from the Bay Area and beyond up to the chilly and stunning North Coast to taste the best of two worlds — land and sea. Winemakers and top chefs throughout this region pull out all the stops to pair the finest local varietals to the indigenous Dungeness crabs as the crabbing season reaches its peak. Dress up for fine winemakers dinners, pull on your parka to go out crab fishing, then come in and take a cooking class to learn how to cook up your catch to best pair it with your favorite wine.
Santa Barbara has yet to come into its own as a wine region, but at least one local restaurant, Bouchon , is trying to help. Bouchon’s wine list offers almost exclusively local wines — really local wines. Bouchon sticks to wines from the Santa Ynez Valley and other nearby appellations, occasionally straying as far north as Paso Robles  but no farther. The wait staff love their homegrown Rhone varietals and will happily tell you not only which wines will fit your meal, but which vineyards to visit on the following day.
The new “red gold” — Italian varietals and Zinfandel wines — has brought a bigger economy and more tourism to Gold Country. Yet the Sierra Foothills have long been a fertile agricultural region, with apples as the star crop. Today, visitors to Apple Hill just past Placerville can gorge on apples, wines, and even apple wines at the more than two dozen orchards and 12 or so wineries. It’s not often that wine tasters get the chance to seek out the perfect vintage to pair with apple pie, but here it’s as easy as.…