The California Wine Institute launched its first ‘Cook with California’ competition in May of this year which culminated in five finalists taking part in a ‘cook off’ at the end of September for a specially selected panel of Judges. We are delighted to announce that ‘Team Noble Rot’ comprising Chef Mike Murphy and Sommelier Joshua Castle, were the overall winners with a fantastic menu of dishes paired with California wines. They will be heading out on a trip to California to enjoy their grand prize.

In California the food is as creative and beloved as the wines – with a vast array of fresh ingredients and cultural influences, it’s fusion at its finest. And as we all know, great food comes to life with a great wine alongside and the California Wine Institute was keen to challenge the vast pool of talented UK Chefs and Sommeliers to come up with their own British menus to pair with California Wine. So ‘Cook with California’ was launched inviting Chef and Sommelier teams to do just this.

For the competition, teams put forward a three-course menu (first, second, main or dessert) with each course matched to a specific California wine currently available in the UK. They had to include a short description of the courses and why the selected wine makes a great pairing with their British menus. An independent panel of Judges comprising Chairman Nick Lander, and food and wine oracles Lisa Markwell, Rowley Leigh and Jancis Robinson MW, whittled down the initial entries to select the five best menus for the ‘cook off’ final at which the chefs and sommeliers cooked and presented their dishes and wines to the Judging panel. After tasting and time to deliberate the Judges unanimously chose Mike and Joshua’s menu as the winner. The details and description of this mouth-watering menu are given below.

Justine McGovern, California Wine Institute Director and co-founder of the ‘Cook with California’ competition was delighted with the quality and variety of the competition entries: “We have been just so impressed with the high standard of entries and the sheer inventiveness and imagination of many of the courses and the wines chosen to match them. It has been a real delight to read through them. We were aware of the great quality and breadth of California wines now on offer in the UK but to see how they can be paired with a myriad of dishes and flavours has been wonderful. Joshua and Mike did a spectacular job on finals day and we are so pleased to give them the prize of a trip to California where they will be hosted at some wonderful wineries and restaurants and experience a taste of California!”

The winning menu from Noble Rot’s team, Chef Mike Murphy and Sommelier Joshua Castle:


Poached Oysters and Caviar a la Thomas Keller
Paired with Matthiasson ‘White Blend’


Quail braised in grapes, Toulouse sausage, braised radicchio and liver toast Paired with Joseph Swan, 'Trenton' Syrah


Baked Peach and 'Hokey Pokey' ice cream
Paired with Tablas Creek, Roussanne 'Vin de Paille'

The four runners up in the competition were:

Sommelier Sam Weatherill and Chef George Boarer from Etch (menu)

Sommelier Beatrice Bessi, Chiltern Firehouse and Chef Sven-Hanson Britt, Oxeye (menu)

Sommelier Zsofia Kiss and Chef Chris Marzec from 67 Pall Mall (menu)

Sommelier Matteo Furlan and Chef Aaron Blais from The Ritz (menu)

The California Wine Institute plan to hold an annual ‘Cook with California’ competition with the next one to be announced early in 2022.