PEJU Chef Nic Montañez and Winemaker Sara Fowler work closely in creating innovative pairings that celebrate wine and food. Sara's approach to winemaking is one that puts quality first. The wines are impeccably balanced, showcase complex flavors, and feature bright acidity. This means PEJU wines are the perfect match for culinary delights. "When creating a new wine and food pairing my goal is to have the wine and food shine brighter when paired together than when they stand alone." Says Chef Nic. "It's a balancing act between finding the perfect recipe and discovering all the amazing layers and nuances in PEJU wines. Once we find the perfect combination, our taste buds sing." Here at PEJU Chef Nic's boundless curiosity for food shines through with his innovative recipes.
Nicolas Montañez was born and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. Growing up he was surrounded by the flavors of the region. As a child he recalls wandering through the open-air markets where fresh fruits, vegetables and mushrooms were at every stall. Montañez has brought creativity and the inspirations from his early childhood, combined with California’s seasonal bounty to craft delicious selections that celebrate wine and food. He works closely with PEJU Winemaker Sara Fowler, tasting through each dish along with the wines and adjusting to ensure a perfect pairing. He is immensely grateful to work with a winemaker that is as equally passionate about food as wine. Chef Montañez is excited to be at PEJU to share his unique recipes with wine and food lovers.Read More
At the age of 19 his curiosity led him north to explore California. He wound up in Calistoga, at the northern tip of Napa Valley and went to work at a local restaurant. Like many chefs, Montañez garnered hands-on experience working his way up and gaining new skills and responsibilities. By 1993, Montañez was promoted to Chef de Cuisine at the Calistoga Inn & Brewery. His culinary creations took full advantage of the bountiful, seasonal produce of his new home in Napa Valley.
To further his training, Montañez enrolled in continuing education classes at the acclaimed Wine Spectator Restaurant in St. Helena. Over a span of two years, he learned from some of the top Chefs in the country such as Jean Louis Palladin, Rick Bayless, and Charlie Trotter. Those experiences left him yearning to learn more, so he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Montañez embraced and loved the culture of New York City, but realized Northeastern Winters were no joke! When he graduated in 1999, he was ready to return to the warmer weather of Napa Valley. Montañez took full advantage of the expanding Napa Valley culinary scene working at prestigious restaurants throughout the valley while growing his reputation and experience. In 2019 PEJU Winery recruited him to join their team.
Our 30 acre certified organic vineyard in Rutherford is also home to the PEJU Gardens. Here at PEJU we have raised beds that rotate seasonally with fresh herbs, vegetables, and greens. Originally spearheaded by HB Peju, the gardens were a means to grow fresh and delicious vegetables to use in the family kitchen and to share with the PEJU employees. What began as a simple backyard garden has blossomed into a diverse kitchen garden for Chef Nic and his team to gather inspiration.Read More
Early mornings in the kitchen begin with trip to the garden where Chef harvests ingredients for the busy day ahead. Always planning ahead, Chef Nic works closely with the team to decide what will be planted for the upcoming season. Throughout our 6 estate vineyards we have a diverse selection of fruit trees that provide us with a bountiful harvest of citrus fruit, stone fruit, and berries. Chef Nic gets creative in showcasing our estate fruit in different ways. You may see them appear fresh in seasonal dishes, or in a preserved manner such as jams, candied fruit, or dried fruit.