Head on over to DC Wine Week for a Bon Vivant guest post where I share some of my favorite tips on how to achieve an elegant night in, following these 3 simple rules:
1. Keep it Focused!
2. Keep it Simple!
3. Keep it Fun!
What are some of your favorite party planning tips?
A Cal-Italian with a Rich Family History of Winemaking
I recently attended a “Meet the Winemaker” event at Veritas Wine Bar. It was wonderful to taste so many new wines, but it was even more interesting to hear the stories behind the bottle.
Mario Monticelli is the winemaker at Trinchero, a winery located in California’s Napa Valley.
Chatting with Monticelli over a glass of the well-balanced and easy drinking Chicken Ranch Merlot, he told me an incredible history of wine in his family.
His great grandfather immigrated from Italy, importing wine into America before later returning to Italy during prohibition. 2 generations later, Monticelli’s father came to the States from Italy as a child.
Monticelli told me of growing up drinking wine around the dinner table, a glass of water with just a splash of wine mixed in as a young child, progressively graduating to proper glasses of the family grown wine.
Trinchero produces around 12,000 cases of wine a year, including five single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. Monticelli described these single vineyard productions as a “Cabernet for every occasion.” Some skew decidedly old world in style- a nod to the Old Country with subtle and earthy notes. Others exhibit the big, bold, juicier characteristics one would expect from a Napa Cab.
When asked his favorite wine, Monticelli hesitated. He’s obviously proud of his single vineyard productions, as he should be, but described the Meritage as his “desert island” wine. One of the most versatile wines in the Trinchero portfolio, the Meritage is intensely approachable. “You can pair it with anything you like: salmon, steak, chips…”
Tasters at the event agreed, “I would definitely take this to a dinner party if I didn’t know what was being served- it’s easy drinking and hard not to like!”
Visit the Trinchero website for even more family history, photos, and information about their wines.
What would your “desert island” wine be?
So Many Favorites…
I often get asked what my favorite wine is. To which I invariably respond: “What’s the weather? What am I eating? Who am I with? What is the occasion? Am I inside? Outside? On a boat? What is my mood?”
I have a different favorite for each of these occasions and combinations!
On one recent day I was asked- somewhat jokingly- by three separate people what wines to pair with an emotion or life circumstance. There’s a wine out there to complement virtually any emotion or occasion!
1. From a dear friend nearing the culmination of her PhD:
Q: I need some consultation on what red pairs best with abject hysteria upon approaching an impending 5-year deadline?
A: I’m feeling like you need an Italian. They just do abject hysteria better than most! A Barbaresco or Brunello is the way to go!
She agreed that she did, indeed, “need an Italian”!
2. From a sister who was recently given the brush off by a guy she was dating:
Q: What wine pairs best with being dumped?
A: Easy. A cava. It’s light and celebratory! You clearly dodged a dating bullet, plus those bubbles say, “Who cares, I’m fabulous!”
Bohigas cava is a family favorite!
3. From a neighbor whose wife was in the hospital, seeking a wine with which to unwind:
Q. I know you’re not supposed to drink heavy, dark reds when it’s this warm out, but that’s what I generally enjoy.
A. Nonsense! Drink what you like! A heavy, brooding red fits perfectly with your current situation.
I brought him a bottle of Trim Cabernet Sauvignon. For medicinal purposes, naturally.
When was the last time you paired a beverage to your mood?
In Memoriam of Larissa
Throughout history, alcohol in general- and wine- in particular, has carried with it certain rituals, culture, ceremony, and history.
A sommelier practices wine rituals almost religiously: the laying of the cork on the table, the decanting, the swirl, the sniff.
One of the reasons I believe these rituals are important are the strong associations many have with the consumption of wine. The sights, sounds, and smells are often tied to significant life occasions.
The clink of glasses over a meal with dear friends, the pop of a cork at a wedding, the blessing of a silver communion chalice: there are strong cultural and emotional associations with these rituals and the tastes that accompany them.
Yesterday I attended the funeral of a family friend. As one of the few Americans at the service, I was surrounded by the funeral rituals of foreign cultures- in this case, Ukranian and Russian.
Russians take their rituals seriously, and the traditions regarding drinking perhaps even more so. Wine filled many glasses. Cognac in others. Bottles of chilled vodka were scattered liberally around the banquet room where loved ones had gathered after the service to mourn, to tell stories, to honor, and reminisce over a life well lived.
As I listened to stories in a foreign tongue, I could only pick out the occasional word: Grandmother. Very. Love.
Absent from the day’s drinking ritual was perhaps my favorite Russian word of my very limited vocabulary: “na zdarov’ye” or “Cheers! To Good Health!” Its absence spoke volumes, even to my American ears.
These rituals bring us together during times of triumph, sadness, religious sacraments, joy, mourning- an unspoken understanding among people of varying cultures and languages. It is on these occasions when the rituals outweigh any wine critic’s score or marketing pitch.
And so I raised my glass in communion with others to Larissa: a mother, grandmother, sister, and friend to many.
When has the ritual of wine meant more to you than the contents of the bottle?
*Photos courtesy of Yelena Oleynik
‘Cause it’s hot as hell
With DC facing heat advisories for the rest of the week, I could think of no better time to recommend some of my favorite wines to cool down with during these dog days of summer.
1) Grüner Vetliner
- This Austrian grape offers crisp acidity, often with green apple and citrus notes. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, there’s a good chance you’ll like this, too!
2) Provençal Rosé
- Aromatic, with lovely fruit notes on the palette and a dry finish, rosés are immensely food friendly. Gone are the days of syrupy sweet white zins! This easy drinking wine makes it chic to drink pink, and most can be had for well under $20!
3) Vinho Verde
- This lightly effervescent wine from Portugal is perhaps the quintessential warm weather wine. Vinho Verde is known for being refreshing & extremely easy on the wallet! The New York Times recently ran an article on this mainstay of summer libations, calling it “cheap and cheerful”.
- I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this grape, as 2013 has been dubbed the “Summer of Riesling”. More versatile than many people realize, many Rieslings are actually dry! They can be quite refreshing and are immensely food friendly. Try one from the New York Finger Lakes, Austria or Germany!
- If you like your sparkling wine on the crisp side, Spanish cava is a sure bet to cool off these hot DC days!
Want to taste some of my personal picks?
I’ll be hosting a happy hour and teaching a wine class at Tabula Rasa on August 1 featuring wines to get us through the Dog Days of Summer in style! Check out the details on my events page for more info!
What’s your favorite wine to beat the heat?