Adventures in Eating: Aurora Pepi’s Appetizer

Imagine waking up each morning on 70 acres of fertile vineyard, bordered by the Napa River, one mile south of Oak­ville in Napa Valley. That is the place where Rob­ert and Aurora Pepi call home. Their “home” is chateau-like, built in stone and oak to match their all stone winery next door. The Pepis purchased this paradise in 1966, and are devoting themselves to the art of wine, food, and good living.

Paul and I were thrilled when an invita­tion came for us to visit them and tour the winery.

Robert and Aurora are the kind of peo­ple you meet and instantly feel you have known them many years. They extend their warmth and hospitality through their love of preparing glorious Northern Italian foods for friends and family.

The Pepi family accents the importance of food side by side with their wines, and are enthusiastic about wine complement­ing food. Their Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet wines merge in a fi­nesse of dining pleasure.

Aurora is a petite, slender, dynamic woman, energizing her kitchen with a genuine understanding of handling foodstuffs. We started our wine toast with a delicious brie stuffed with pesto (recipe to follow). The first course of superb homemade veal ravioli was followed by a barbecued roast of beef accompanied with oven fried potatoes with fresh rose­mary and garlic, and an assortment of garden vegetables. Have you ever eaten oven roasted garlic? Wow! Fabulous.

The garden provides much of what is placed on the table, as Aurora cans and freezes all summer long. She is an avid gardener as well as an accomplished chef. Robert prepared his version of french toast for breakfast made from sliced Panettone from Italy and topped with homemade blackberry jam.

It was time to hit the road, so we hugged, shook hands, and made promises that they visit Palos Verdes for a round of shish kebab. We waddled to our car and sadly departed for San Francisco.

A unique, delicious, showy, and sur­prise taste sensation was Aurora’s brie cheese with pesto. It is easy to prepare, and a good do-ahead.


1 lb of brie cheese

2/3 cup, packed, fresh destemmed Basil

1 medium clove garlic

1/2 Tb. pine nuts (optional)

2 Tb. olive oil (first-cold pressed is best. Use more if you prefer.)

In a blender puree basil, garlic, nuts and 1 Tb oil. Add the other tablespoon of oil slowly while motor is running to emulsify the pesto. Place pesto in con­tainer to use later. Slice the wedge of brie in half the long way, spread the pes­to on the bottom half, and place the top half on the pesto. Wrap in plastic and re­frigerate. Bring to room temperature be­fore serving with crackers.


– Rosemarie

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