Thursday, November 1, 2007
Is there nothing better than drinking in the varied magnificent sensory stimuli of the holiday season? Brightly colored decorations cut laser-like through clean air freshened by cooler temperatures and rainy days. Aromas of baking cookies and time honored holiday recipes traverse our olfactory systems to fill our sensory memories’ rooms with faded dreams of eternally happy times. Familiar, comforting music serenades each day’s movements, keeping us dancing through our joy, and around our sorrows.
And of course there is libation.
Wine has always been the beverage of the holiday season. (Yes, holiday season is here—and next year it will start sooner, just after United Nations Day on Oct. 24. But in all seriousness, it doesn’t hurt to start perfect beverage master-planning now.) One need look no further than the presence of wine in many religious rituals and the myriad historical references. It is safe to say that during holiday season, food supports the countless feasts across the globe, but wine fuels them.
The complexity of holiday meals adds to the difficulty of choosing wines, as does the complexity of familial interrelationships, as diverse members from outer limbs of the family tree gather for ostensibly joyous, yet sometimes awkward reunions. “I’ve been hosting family for many years, often 15, 20 or 30 people,” says Mark Buzan, wine director for the Highlands Inn. “What works every time is German Riesling, like a nice Spatlese. For me personally, Pinot Noir—Burgundy—but German Riesling pairs with everything.”
What a concept. George Edwards, proprietor of Wine Market in Pacific Grove, has scientifically studied the art of wine and food pairing for three decades. He recommends precise combinations of food with certain specific wines, at very affordable prices. Thomas Perez, who prowls the outer reaches of the high end restaurant wine pairing menu phenomenon at L’Auberge Carmel, artistically matches wines from around the globe to chef Timothy Mosblech’s creative dishes, using an intuitive science only he and his powerful palate understand. The rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.
Fortunately, there is ample assistance throughout this great community of ours. Long time dry-witted wine wizard Patrick Schrady of Nielsen Brothers Market had this to say: “I don’t like turkey that much. Goose, duck, lamb, with Pinots that are done well. Love the Champers (Champagne) ‘cause that carries it from front to back. I personally think Champagne is under appreciated—you know it’s good on Tuesdays too, and it’ll work with a steak.”
Sweet-smiling Dorothea Probasco, co-owner of Stokes Restaurant in Monterey, agrees: “Obviously I think about Champagne from Thanksgiving all the way through New Years Day and beyond. In fact it should start today.” For Tom Nash, former food writer for The Herald and all around gourmand, “Rosé Champagnes are always some of my favorites—Taittinger, Billecart-Salmon—that’s the time of year I really love those.”
Joe Cingari, whose Brophy’s Tavern in Carmel is the talk of the town, likes “dark ruby red ports, holiday drinks, Dutch oven cooking, comfort food, Italian red, Napa Cab and Monterey Pinot.” All these wines are available right here. Just find a shop where you feel comfortable and get to know the buyer.
At Terranova Fine Wines in downtown Monterey, it’s Bob or Fabia Massaro. Tell them a little something about your likes and dislikes and they’ll get you to a wine that fits your budget and your tastebuds. Michael Burke or Kent Torrey will make it happen at the Cheese Shop in Carmel, as will Jacques Melac at Rancho Cellars. Out the Salinas way, Vince Ciollino at Zeph’s will find you something to like.
Surf n Sand and Bruno’s Market has Brian or Ryan to help. Out in the valley, you can get gas and a good bottle of wine at Kasey’s. Star Market at Blanco and South Main in Salinas bangs out wine like fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Don’t forget John Malloway at Monte Vista Liquors on Soledad or Big Vince Poma over at Bottles and Bins on Lighthouse in New Monterey. Each of these wine professionals can easily guide you to wines that will make your holiday a major success.
Relax. Marc Cutino, caretaker of Sardine Factory’s massive wine cellar, sums it up: “Thanksgiving sucks for wine. Just drink something good and don’t worry about the food. I look forward to Christmas—homemade cookies from my grandmother—then it’s big Zins like Martinelli or a great Sangiovese.”
As you can see, even the pros are divided when it comes to what types of wines work. Find a purveyor you trust and enjoy. Try different things that fit into your budget and remember, no one ever died in a wine emergency. Happy holidays.