At Crystal Basin Bistro in Camino guests enjoy fine wine paired with delicious gourmet food.
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The perfect pair serving with a smile — Melissa Owen, winery/bistro co-owner, and chef Lisa Scott. Last spring Melissa and Mike Owen opened the bistro next to Crystal Basin Cellars’ tasting room. All three created the delicious menu that includes broasted beef brisket on Texas toast with gorgonzola crumbles, stuffed artichoke with lemon-caper aioli, homemade soups, seasonal menu items made from local products and more.
“It’s been fun, a whole new experience,” Scott said, adding that all the food perfectly pairs with Crystal Basin’s award-wining wine. At the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition held earlier this month the winery picked up a Best in Class award for its 2010 Mourvedre, gold medals for the 2010 Syrah and Petite Sirah and silver medals for the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Tempranillo (ask for the Fugedaboutit from the bistro). Those medals go nicely with others earned by Crystal Basin; each of its vintages has won at least one gold medal at a major California wine competition, according to the winery’s Website: crystalbasin.com.
To make sure her food’s up to par with Crystal Basin’s wines, Scott lets the critics decide. When the winery releases new wines Crystal Basin wine club members are invited to a food and wine pairing, where they grade the combinations.
And while this might be stressful for some chefs, Scott, who has been cooking for family and friends since she was little, said she enjoys the creativity cooking inspires. “Cooking is relaxing to me,” Scott explained. “I don’t really cook from recipes. I do everything from sight, smell and taste.”
Sight smell and taste is also very important on the wine side of this partnership. Melissa and Mike Owen began commercially selling wine in 2000 after almost 20 years of making it at home. They opened the tasting room in 2006.
Calling it “my husband’s dream,” Melissa said her job is to keep Mike on track while overseeing the bistro and working at Crystal Basin’s tasting room. With 25 varietals — from chardonnay to grenache to merlot — Melissa (aka Wine Diva) has something to offer every winery and bistro guest and said she enjoys educating customers while educating herself in what she calls “on the job training.”
“I really like meeting the people, hearing new stories and telling our story,” Melissa said. “There’s always something new.”
Melissa and Mike have been married for 20 years. They’re proud parents of Madeline, 14 and Sophia, 16. The girls work as dishwashers and kitchen support at the bistro. “That’s nice because I work so much,” Melissa said. Turning Crystal Basin Bistro into a two-generation family business means Melissa gets quality time with her kids.
She also enjoys quality time with Scott, who she calls “a blessing.” In fact, Melissa said, she’s lucky enough to work with a “truly fantastic group of people.”
Looking forward to the times when they turn up the ’80s music and dance, Scott said working with Melissa is great. “I’m working with my friend,” she explained. “We learn from each other.”
Crystal Basin Cellars tasting room is located at 3550 Carson Road in Camino. Crystal Basin Bistro is next door at 3590 Carson Road, Suite B. Don’t miss the bistro’s Super Bowl party on Sunday, Feb. 3. Scott’s serving buffalo wings, macho nachos and stadium dogs to go with Melissa’s wine and beer (at Happy Hour prices). For more information call 530-303-3749 or visit crystalbasinbistro.com.