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Drink wines winemakers love with holiday meals

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I always enjoy the weekly food section in the LA Times. My favorite was the one where they asked a winemaker which wine he or she was drinking at the moment. I borrowed the idea, but rather than ask one winemaker, I asked several winemakers what they’ll be drinking with holiday meals. It’s great fun learning which wines have impressed local winemakers, and it leads you to some new wines to discover. One thing’s sure: These artisans appreciate a great wine from someone else as much as they do their own wines. And most passionate winemakers are equally interested in good food. Some of their answers surprised me, but you’ll be able to easily recreate these food and wine pairings. This year I turned to Paso Robles, calling upon winemakers I know who love sharing their wines over a great meal.

CULINARY ROAD LESS TAKEN :  Pipestone Vineyards’ (left to right) Gwen, Bobbi, Jeff, Betty, and Grace Pipes favor less traditional Thanksgiving food and wine pairings. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • CULINARY ROAD LESS TAKEN : Pipestone Vineyards’ (left to right) Gwen, Bobbi, Jeff, Betty, and Grace Pipes favor less traditional Thanksgiving food and wine pairings.

On Peachy Canyon Road, owners Robert and Patty Nadeau of Nadeau Family Vintners specialize in Zinfandel. Most American wine writers think it’s the perfect wine for a traditional Thanksgiving feast because it’s commonly thought of as an American variety. Not winemaker Robert: “We’re primarily a Zinfandel house, which are wines of substance: big, extracted, burly wines that I’d rather pair with Andouille sausage. They’re too heavy for Thanksgiving fare,” he pointed out. “I’d rather serve the Villicana 2010 Rosé (Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, and Grenache blend); it would go with just about anything on the Thanksgiving table. Patty and I also like Jack Creek Pinot Noir with the meal.”

Nearby, on Adelaida Road, Alex and Monica Villicana of Villicana Winery enjoy their house Rosé with the traditional turkey dinner. Monica Villicana said they also like Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé Champagne.

“We like to stay local and often serve Laetitia Brut Rosé, which is really nice,” she explained. “We also serve our estate Grenache with the meal because it’s so versatile with food.”

At Hug Cellars alongside Hwy. 46 East, winemaker Augie Hug produces wines from exclusive vineyards along the south Central Coast. Hug said they favor Rosé and Pinot Noir, too.

- EAT OUT SAVE LIVES:  Here’s a great way you can support this little piece of paradise that we live in: Dine out on Friday, Dec. 2. On that day, these participating eateries provide much-needed funds for the good people at the AIDS Support Network (ASN) of San Luis Obispo County. ASN uses community donations to provide fresh food and pantry items for SLO County citizens living with HIV or AIDS. Eat Out Save Lives, an annual fundraiser honoring World Aids Day, helps ASN stock its pantry for 2012. The current economy has them working harder than ever to help people in need. Dine at these participating restaurants, and they’ll donate 10 percent of the day’s sales to ASN. We can all help out doing what we love, simply by eating out at: -  - • Atascadero: Fig Good Food, Nardonnes Pizzeria  - • Cambria: Robin’s  - • Paso Robles: Chino’s Rock and Tacos, Pappy McGregor’s  - • Pismo Beach: Splash Café - • San Luis Obispo: Big Sky Café, Black Sheep Grill, Buffalo Grill, Chino’s Rock and Tacos, Greenhouse Grill, Jaffa Café, Koberl at Blue, Kreuzberg-CA, Linnaea’s Café, Louisa’s Place, Luna Red, Neon Carrot, Novo, Pappy McGregor’s, Spirit of San Luis, Splash Café, Stewart & Clark, Taj Palace, Upper Crust Trattoria, Vieni Vai Trattoria, West End Espresso, Wild Donkey Café -
  • EAT OUT SAVE LIVES: Here’s a great way you can support this little piece of paradise that we live in: Dine out on Friday, Dec. 2. On that day, these participating eateries provide much-needed funds for the good people at the AIDS Support Network (ASN) of San Luis Obispo County. ASN uses community donations to provide fresh food and pantry items for SLO County citizens living with HIV or AIDS. Eat Out Save Lives, an annual fundraiser honoring World Aids Day, helps ASN stock its pantry for 2012. The current economy has them working harder than ever to help people in need. Dine at these participating restaurants, and they’ll donate 10 percent of the day’s sales to ASN. We can all help out doing what we love, simply by eating out at:

    • Atascadero: Fig Good Food, Nardonnes Pizzeria

    • Cambria: Robin’s

    • Paso Robles: Chino’s Rock and Tacos, Pappy McGregor’s

    • Pismo Beach: Splash Café

    • San Luis Obispo: Big Sky Café, Black Sheep Grill, Buffalo Grill, Chino’s Rock and Tacos, Greenhouse Grill, Jaffa Café, Koberl at Blue, Kreuzberg-CA, Linnaea’s Café, Louisa’s Place, Luna Red, Neon Carrot, Novo, Pappy McGregor’s, Spirit of San Luis, Splash Café, Stewart & Clark, Taj Palace, Upper Crust Trattoria, Vieni Vai Trattoria, West End Espresso, Wild Donkey Café

“I liked that Beckmen Grenache Rosé you shared with us,” he recalled of our last meeting. “We like Rosé and Pinot Noir with the traditional Thanksgiving meal. We may have Alta Maria or Native9 Pinot Noirs on the table this year.”

When I pressed him to suggest the best Hug Pinots for the holiday dinner, he suggested the Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard, and the Cedar Lane. Of the latter, he noted: “It has more mineral-driven flavors that cut through the richness of the turkey.”

On Paso’s Westside, Marc Goldberg of Windward Vineyard makes Pinot Noir exclusively. Several vintages are available at the tasting room, but this year, he’s choosing his 2007 Pinot for holiday celebrations. I recently opened the 2007 and found it outstanding: “It’s velvety and feminine with that great cherry flavor that leads into a peacock tail finish,” Goldberg noted. “Pinot is so versatile with the traditional foods during the holidays.” He added that there will be white wine on the table: L’Aventure Roussanne.

Paso pioneer Kenneth Volk of Kenneth Volk Vineyards now shares a tasting room with Lone Madrone on Hwy. 46 West. Known for being a “super adventurist,” he’s passionate about heirloom varieties, rarities not found among the mainstream varieties on store shelves. It threw me when he, too, preferred dry Rosé and Pinot Noir for the holiday table.

“I choose fairly versatile wines for our traditional turkey dinner,” Volk said. “My three choices are a Rhone Rosé blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah; a Schramsberg Brut Rosé; and Pinot Noir.”

He also makes several Pinots, and this year suggests the 2007 Santa Maria Cuvée, which he notes has delicious Asian spice and ripe berry flavors of cherry, blueberry, and strawberry: “It’s really quite versatile and reasonably available in stores.” It’s also value-priced for Pinot Noir.

At Pipestone Vineyards, winemaker Jeff Pipes is dedicated to Rhone varieties, which naturally made him the contrarian. Even his turkey is unusual: It’s stuffed with oyster dressing and roasted in the outdoor wood-fired oven he built.

“We like our Viognier with Dungeness crab, when you can get it,” Pipes explained. “The oyster stuffing is really savory and holds up well to Syrah. With the turkey, I like Grenache; the mild tannins don’t conflict with the turkey.”

Any of these winemakers’ wines you choose is sure to make dinner a celebration.

Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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