An archive of notes from 2015—2019
Good thing I finally got my heat turned on a few weeks ago. After suffering through 40-degree nights, buried under at least seven blankets, and shamelessly begging Hudson to lay on my feet, I finally got the pilot light lit in my new place and was ready for some major lounging action. By “action” I mean me, Hudson, and Better Call Saul with a glass of something comfortable and cozy. Cut to 90 degrees and sunny, and not that I’m complaining about a little summer heat wave in the middle of winter, but kind of, I am.
It’s been so hot and I can tell Hudson is super confused by this random shift in weather. Where is El Niño?! He hasn’t even been able to wear the raincoat my mom got him. Actually that’s more so because I lost the raincoat when we moved. And by that, I mean I accidentally threw it away (and by accidentally, I mean on purpose – I was lightening my load in the packing process). Sorry, Mom. But I digress.
The point is this: we’re confused about what to wear – I just put all the summer clothes in the spare bedroom but these wool-blend knits are not working. Hudson has a fur coat on and he can’t do anything about it.
Luckily, I am zero percent confused about what to drink. Because I found the very definition of refreshing, and it’s a smiling, sunny glassful perfect for mid-winter heat waves. It honestly tastes like you’re drinking one of those still-life paintings, where a wildflower bouquet sits on a farmhouse table, Herbes de Provence scattered around a small dish, on which sits an apricot kissing a lemon, as a ray of perfect afternoon light pours through the window. Who paints these?! Oh. AND: Only one barrel was made of this stuff! But I’ll get to that.
This is a California wine made from Picpoul de Pinet, an ancient grape (the grape itself is piquepoul, pronounced the same) native to the Languedoc, France. The coolest thing about this wine (besides the fact that it is truly like jumping into a swimming pool on a hot summer day) is that the name translates to “lip stinger.” I love that little fact. And it delivers on its moniker! It tickles your lips from the very first sip, a taste so immediately quenching that you can almost hear the sound effect of a Coca-Cola being opened and poured over ice nearby. Now, I’m not suggesting you pour it over ice, but has there ever been a more thirst-inducing sound effect in the history of time?
Anyway, lip-stinger refers to Picpoul’s super crisp acidity, which is the very maker of zest and refreshment when it comes to wine. And when combined with these bursting yellow citrus flavors, a pinch of salt, and all those blossomy things, you are just swept away to bliss, floating on a raft somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean with a glass in hand.
But don’t forget we’re talking about California wine here. And this wine has a very honest sense of place – pure, laid-back Cali sunshine and sand. Things to note? This is the very first vintage made, organically, grapes stomped by foot in our very own Sonoma Valley. And in case you missed it, ONLY ONE BARREL WAS MADE! Need I say more?
THE WINE: The i.e. Wine Company, Picpoul Blanc, Snow Vineyard, Sonoma Valley CA 2014, first vintage
THE GRAPE: Picpoul de Pinet (Pick-pool-de-Penay)
HOMETOWN: Born in the Languedoc but moved to Northern Cali to pursue its dreams of organic West Coast life
TASTES LIKE: I once secretly left work midday during a very busy lunch service and took a 10-minute jump in the ocean, then went back to work with the ocean and sand in my hair and warm sun on my skin. This wine tastes just like that.
GOES DOWN EASY WITH: Especially well good with seafood – whole roasted fish, oysters, crab, clams, anchovies and mussels are total no-brainers. But it’s also great with cured meats and some greens, a grain salad or a tuna sandwich. Drink Cold, in any weather. Stellar on its own, but it really comes alive with food.
IF YOU LIKE: Umm, delicious small-production white wine? This tastes like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio had a baby – it grew up to be the cool kid.
In Burgundy, the land is all chopped up into vineyard sites and ranked based on things that happened a long time ago (and because the French love to rank things). This wine is from Pinot Noir vines planted in 1960, from a village that should be far more recognized for its red wines than it has been. This situation goes back to Middle Ages – here’s a quick synopsis: back then, the guilt of the Catholic Church compelled dying landowners to bestow their holdings to the monasteries, a kind of insurance policy for getting past the pearly gates, I guess. Not a bad move.
The Benedictine Monks (who loved the luxe life as it turns out) took over the vineyards, and, with meticulous attention to detail (and no shortage of time), cultivated and logged every detail of each vine, vineyard, and site along the way. They discovered the nuances that led to even slight variation among wines. Later, the Cistercian order got in on the action and so, men of the cloth created the classification system based on the intricacies of terroir that are still used to divide Burgundy today into Grand Cru, Premier Cru, and Village level. Napoleon then came along and complicated the shit out of everything by mandating equal inheritance, which means the most famous vineyard sites can have dozens of different owners – imagine sharing one ham sandwich with all of your cousins and siblings.
So, while this Pinot Noir is from Burgundy, it’s technically village level, that is like saying this delicious pizza is village level pizza. So what? Pizza is ALWAYS good. Especially when made with good ingredients. When the raw material is epic, and the winemaker is a skilled hand, it’s going to be good you’re only ranking it if you’re being a jerk. I mean, you’re not going to be checking Yelp before you order pizza at the spot you’ve wandered into while on vaca in Naples, are you? ARE YOU??
This is a robust, cherry-flavored wine full of something deep and lasting, that goes beyond a checklist of qualifications to justify its worth. Like eternal love. It’s got all sorts of power and vigor for the long haul, but also comes with a quiet satisfaction, one that doesn’t need too much dissecting or analyzing. No need for filler chat. A you-play-Candy-Crush, I’ll read my book, and we can have Sports Center on in the background, on mute, while we wait for our home-cooked meal to be delivered kind of quiet. Comfortable but not boring at all. Again, like pizza.
Or a good song. Or a good woman. This is a wine you should drink with all of the above. Even if you are the good woman and even if the pizza is not from Naples. Because after all, aren’t love, music, pizza and wine really one and the same?
THE WINE: Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Mes Vieilles Vignes’ Burgundy, France 2011
THE GRAPE: Pinot Noir
HOMETOWN: Burgundy, from the village of Chassagne-Montrachet
TASTES LIKE: Deep red cherry, meaty, properly savory and contemplative as a good Burg should be.
GOES DOWN EASY WITH: Guys, Burgundy sounds fancy but it’s Pinot Noir. A familiar friend from a far away place. There’s room on the dinner table for whatever you’re in the mood for (especially braised beef, lamb, or pork ribs, just sayin)
IF YOU LIKE: James Bond movies, this is the wine version.
WINE HACK: Open it up 20 minutes before you want to drink it and let it stretch its legs. It’ll have more stories to tell. Or save it for 30 years and learn all the secrets – it’ll only get better.
Who is Marissa A. Ross you ask? Well I’ll tell you: first she’s an amazing friend. I am truly excited about our shared love for soft clothing, good music, and delicious wine. But beyond that, she is hilarious, honest, and just downright enjoyable to be around. We’ve done some hanging – manicures, girl talk, drinking, she’s bonafied legit. She’s also a badass writer – see: contributing editor to Bon Appetit, her own book, UNWINED, in the works, and of course, her blog Wine-Allthetime.com. Marissa and I instantly saw glass to glass, so we sat down to do something fun together and share it with you. Besides an awesome box filled with delicious wine, here’s what came out of our last hang session:
The scene: Us, taking pics of ourselves, laughing (but real laughter), and drinking Italian wine – one from the Marissa A. Ross box – while discussing how to buy a couch, how awesome pets and super soft sweatshirts are, and how to make the best out of things in life. Listening to J Dilla ‘Donuts’ on vinyl, in her gorgeous Silverlake home, no less.
ME: At this time last year, you were?
MR: Probably picking up outfits for Mindy Kaling (assistant stuff). Sadly my job with Mindy very rarely involved wine…
Me: Except when you were drinking your sorrows away as a comedy writer and Hollywood assistant? Ok, let’s skip that part – thankfully, you used your talent and wrote about it, thus bringing much good fortune into your life (like us meeting!). You get wine, wine gets you. You’re made of the same stuff. So, IF you were an actual wine, what would you be?
MR: Gamay – it’s really light and bright and fun, which is how I try to keep my vibes at all times.
ME: Ok finish this sentence: A good bottle of wine is like ________________________
MR: a drawn out seduction that never quite climaxes and leaves you aching for another bottle.
ME: Whoa that’s sexy. And romantic. Two things I believe apply to wine for sure. What wine would be the one you would take to a desert island, if you had to pick?
MR: Jean Foillard Morgon Cote du Py, easy.
ME: I feel like the bottles I get attached to are just as much about sentimental value as they are about being good wine. I mean, there’s lots of good wine, but the ones we remember usually have meaning somehow. If this is your desert island bottle, there must be a good story behind it, hit me with the romance:
MR: I feel the same! That’s why I so rarely talk shit on wines I don’t like, because I don’t want people not trying something that they may still have a great connection to. So: First of all, I fucking love Morgons so much; secondly, it was the wine Ben and I drank the night we got engaged. Cheesy? A little. But I don’t care! It’s so good anyway, and drinking three bottles of it at A.O.C. being super in love and excited made it that much better. I’m sorry that it was actual romance a haha.
ME: Right!! You got engaged this year! Congratulations, duh. Also, that means you’ll be playing entertainer more, that’s what married couples do, right? What’s your personal house wine? The one you just like to have on hand at all times.
MR: I love have R-13/14 on hand because it’s funky but very drinkable and food friendly.
ME: Ok, speaking of food, what is your go-to comfort food?
MR: This sounds sad, and maybe it is, but a Chipotle Burrito Bowl.
ME: NOT SAD. But what are you drinking with this non-homemade delicacy?
MR: Coca Cola. And a shit ton of —
ME: AHHH ok I see what you’re saying. This is your wine break meal, you’re hungover and need a Coke and a doobie? Ha, I said doobie to make it retro, which I picture you as.
MR: I like it. I mean you can drink whatever you want if you’re stuffing your face with garbage but I would certainly have no problem drinking Champagne with Chipotle.
ME: But do you ever take a day off from wine?
MR: Well sometimes I need to just veg out in my sweats and be left alone, and I want to be filled to the brim with Chipotle. That, or my fiancé’s Schnitzel.
ME: That sounds private. But, go Ben (the fiancé). Ok, so what about when you’re not in hangover mode and wanna get a little serious? Pairings are pretty formal, but do you have a go-to food / wine combo?
MR: This is something I decide case by case – I think it’s important to note who you’re dining with, and the general vibe of the evening. I am also always taking suggestions.
ME: Ok on the subject of food, what kind of food would you most love to be immersed in? Mine is warm bread. Baguette specifically (I want a bread bed so bad). Anything you’ve always dreamt of physically get into a pool of?
MR: Outside of wine, I would love a tomato soup jacuzzi.
ME: I’m not gonna lie, I secretly thought you would say you, too have always dreamt of getting in a sleeping bag-sized warm baguette. For the record, I’d use a King’s Hawaiian roll for the pillow. But fine, I’m still intrigued by your answer – I would like to know what you’d be drinking if you were in a jacuzzi of hot tomato soup. Are you at least dipping bread in the jacuzzi?
MR: I may be a bit claustrophobic and a baguette bed sort of feels like I could get trapped in it. I just don’t like being wrapped in anything haha. I would be drinking the tomato soup, of course! Dipping in it a grilled cheese with sharp cheddar on sourdough, drinking Vini Rabasco Vino Rosso “Cancelli.”
ME: Yes!! I love that wine! So good. And both agree that cheddar should always be sharp. That is a great scenario to strive for. Ok, let’s play a game: Wine Association. You pick your favorite and then associate it with a wine*:
MR: “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans” by Mac Demarco and R-14
ME: Ice cream Flavor:
MR: Strawberry cheesecake and Punta Crena Lumassina
MR: Rome and Angiolino Maule Masieri
ME: THAT’S MY FAVORITE CITY IN THE WORLD TOO. Ok, sorry. Clothing item:
MR: Sweatpants and Stolpman Sangiovese
MR: Baked potato (ahaha) and Catherine & Pierre Breton “Trinchi!”
MR: Wet concrete and Arca Nova Vinho Verde
MR: You’ve Got Mail and Broc Cellars’ Valdiguie
ME: That wasn’t a test but you totally passed. Any words for the wine peeps out there who love to drink it but can’t take all the stuffiness and feel nervous around a wine key?
MR: Don’t be afraid to just love it. You don’t need anything else but that joy you feel when you’re drinking a good glass of wine. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
ME: Preach. So glad I found you. At this time next year, you will be:
MR: Probably still writing about wine, and laughing about it all. And you’re pretty great, too (she didn’t actually say this last part, but I am just assuming she likes me as much as I like her).
Marissa is not only a good friend, the kind I see being around for a while, she is also an awesome writer. She is currently working on her book, UNWINED (Plume, 2017), and is also now exclusively contributing to Bon Appetit. Her work can also be found on Manrepeller.com, Vice Munchies, and her blog Wine-Allthetime.com – she’s pretty much accomplished all of the writing goals I’ve had since acquiring massive debt in Grad School. And I’m genuinely happy for her.
(to purchase my M.A. in Journalism, please email me directly, I’m offering it at 50% off).
*For more information or to purchase any of Marissa’s wine picks mentioned above, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This recipe is special to me for so many reasons. It soothes my soul both in flavors and process and it just has so much depth. I once gave it with someone I really admired, “in confidence” secret-recipe style, but that didn’t go so well. More on that another time. Still, the recipe was given to me in the first place, and the whole point of cooking is to share anyway. You’d be hard-pressed to convince some of the Chefs I’ve encountered of this (also more on that another time), but no one invents a recipe. So no one can really steal it from you, either.
Last time I cooked this, it was an amazing night over looking the busy Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA. I was in my dream kitchen with music blasting, incredible wine, and some very awesome friends, including Mickey – also known as The Sabah Dealer. (Check out his amazing shoes)
When you make something, it is its original self in that moment only, varying each time you make it again, according to the company, your mood, and the bottle you’re drinking. Now I want to share it with you, because it makes me so happy to think of you falling in love with the same flavors I did, but in your own home with your own people. Pay attention to the details: I’ve learned some tricks of the trade standing in the kitchen during service, where I had no business being, dipping my fingers or bread into nearby fat drippings or pan sauces.
The small things you can do to elevate this recipe require only patience and attention, not the skill of pro Chef. I’ve also learned that if you enjoy process and you’ll find the dish tastes so. much. better. And always, always, cook with a glass of wine in hand. Preferably the same wine you’re cooking with.
*these three vegetables comprise the sofrito; you should have nearly equal parts of all three once chopped
Mix the flours together and get a nice, clean, smooth work surface. Make a volcano shape out of the flour mixture, and then with your index finger, make a little well at the peak. Pour a small amount of luke warm water to fill the small well, and swirl it around with your fingers to incorporate the flour. Repeat this process until your flour all becomes incorporated and you have a flakey ball to work with. Then add small amount of water and knead it with the palm of your hand until it becomes smooth, a little springy, and totally incorporated. This is a bit of physical labor – be prepared to work the arms out. Press down through your palm, and keep folding it in on itself. Let the dough rest at least 30 min wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge.
Make long ropes and then cut into two inch segments. Drag your fingertips across the segment HARD. Press down and pull toward you with force, the dough should be able to handle it. You can also use a butter knife. Check this out:
Here’s how to make the Capunti shape:
NOTE: spread all the little pasta out on a baking sheet sprinkled with semolina – if you stack them, you’ll end up with a big globby mess. You can do this a day ahead, and cover with a damp dish towel and let it sit out overnight. I prefer to cook the same day.
Now for the meaty part: This is my go-to recipe that just makes anyone happy, every time. Except vegans. Be warned: It’s a process. But so worth it. Really it’s not that hard, it just takes time. And love. That sounds corny, but you cannot cook if you are feeling negative emotions in any way. It gets into the food and just F’s things up. Take your time, this is a full day of work. Hopefully you’re just drinking vino and chillin while the magic happens. I recommend doing this a day ahead, and then heating up when you’re ready to serve. Be prepared to have your whole house smell like your long-lost Nonna’s villa in Puglia.
The lamb shoulder has to be bone-in. Bone adds flavor that you just can’t recreate any other way. BONE. IN.
Buy the meat the day before you plan on making the whole shebang, rinse the meat, dry it off, and then salt it generously with kosher salt. Then let the meat rest on a rack in the fridge overnight. Why? Because. This will form a slight crust that will give you a better sear (read Maillard Reaction and “fond” in Harold McGee if you want to nerd out – yes, I am giving you homework but no test). It will also build deeper flavor, produce a better sauce, season the meat more fully, and just all of that secret meat jazz you never knew till now. Details matter. You’re welcome.
Okay, you’re ready to cook (glass of wine in hand, music LOUD – Click here for epic cooking playlist – or hit play on the Spotify Widget):
Remove the meat from the refrigerator before you start chopping any vegetables and assembling your mise en place. You guys! You’re speaking kitchen! Mise en place, Mise for short, is all of your things in order. Like, get your shit together.
You’re letting the meat come up in temp (this is called tempering) so that the surface of the meat is not fridge cold when you place it in the hot oil to sear it (a cold piece of meat will cool the oil and just dog your overall process, not cool).
So, assemble your sofrito (mirepoix in French but this is an Italian dish, so it’s sofrito), consolidate it into a bowl, open your wine, and take a swig – FROM THE BOTTLE yes, and side note: if the wine you’re cooking with isn’t at least swiggable, you need to up your cooking wine. You don’t want dyes, artificial ingredients and other added crap interfering with your vibe. I’m a purist, and I know every chef I’ve worked with would agree.
Find a decent bottle, not expensive, just like more than $3 a box. Something in a bottle, something Italian.
Pull the leaves from the rosemary and chop it, get your salt out in a small container for easy access, open the tube of tomato paste, and get your pan coated with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and set it on high. Once the oil is smoking, put the lamb in the pan and let it sear – you want a super dark, golden, crispy brown on every possible surface. The key to this is to let it sear for a minute or two before checking it. If the bits on the bottom of the pan are getting burnt (black, bitter smelling), lower the heat of the pan by 25%. Oh, and listen: This process produces a large amount of smoke. A LOT. Open your windows. I cannot emphasize this enough. First, your neighbors are gonna think your house is on fire (because your smoke alarm is going off if you don’t open the windows like I said), and then they will be insanely jealous because of the delicious smells coming from your open windows. You win. Fan on, too. Use your tongs to pick the meat up and rotate it so that every possible inch gets a nice deep brown-golden sear.
Once the meat is completely seared off, remove it from the pan, set it aside, and pour off some of the fat – you want a decent amount but not more than a half cup left in the pot. Add your sofrito (this is where being prepared comes in handy – you’ve already chopped and consolidated it, so its ready, go you!), a sprinkle of salt (more than you think is appropriate, but nothing crazy), and turn the flame to low, cook slow and move it around regularly. This is also a crucial step. One that’s easy to skimp on but I swear an extra 15 minutes makes a huge difference. You want to cook the vegetables down until you don’t smell celery, onion, and carrot as individual things anymore, but one singular smell that has a little more depth and flavor aroma. 30 minutes is usually about right. Feel it out. That’s how the grandmas did it.
Next, add a whole tube of tomato paste, raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly until the paste becomes a deep, rusty color and the smell has become more complex, sweeter, and more fragrant than when it came from the tube. Add your chopped rosemary, stir throughout, and now jack the heat up to high again, take ANOTHER swig of the wine, and dump the whole bottle in. Cook off the alcohol on high (the smell of booze will evaporate after about 5 min), and then reintroduce the lamb (remember, it’s been resting). The lamb should be ¾ submerged in liquid. If you need more liquid, add a little stock (NOT broth, make sure you’re addin stuff that has no added sodium), water works, too. Bring everything to a boil, season with salt to less than where you want it to be – it reduces and concentrates as it cooks so go conservative or don’t salt at all. Then turn it down to a bare simmer, cover and cook for at least 3 1/2 hours. You can do this on the stovetop, or you can put the oven on 250 and let it simmer covered in foil – just make sure the foil is tightly sealed – a few layers to be safe.
After four hours (it’s totally fine to go a little over) the meat will be ultra-tender, fall off the bone tender. This is how to be sure it’s done – the shoulder blade should be super loose, and feel like you could pull it right out. Don’t. And also: DO NOT remove the meat from the braising liquid! This will only dry it out and ruin all your hard work. Let it cool in the liquid – it will absorb some of the braising liquid (aka flavor town) and be an altogether better braise. Cooling takes awhile, at least an hour. Once it’s cooled (you should be able to comfortably put your hand in the liquid and have it feel cooler than your skin), pull the meat out, take out the bone (it should slide right out) and then pull the meat apart slash chop it. This part is super messy. You’re basically pulling the meat from the bits of fat, skin, tendon and not tender stuff.
Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, or at least a pasta strainer over a large pot. This step isn’t mandatory, but it’ll yield a glossier, more refined sauce. This is the step you take if you’re a perfectionist. If you skip it, you might just get a bit of rosemary or have visible celery skin or carrot in your sauce, which is not bad, it’s just a little more rustic. Not the biggest deal in the world. Skip it if you’re the one who puts the empty milk carton back in the fridge. Basically one is the restaurant technique, one is the Italian Grandma technique. I’ve done both. Either way, you’re good.
Put the pulled meat (should be free of gelatin, skin, fat etc) back in the strained sauce, and bring it up to a gentle boil, lower the flame and reduce it uncovered. Salt to taste as you go. Depending on how much liquid you have this could take a little while. Allow yourself at least an hour to be safe. You’re going for a glossy, deep, thicker-than-water but thinner than ranch dressing. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still slide off the back of it.
Now you can cash in on your hard work. Prepare to accept gifts of all sizes.
If you made the handmade pasta, bravo. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop those cuties into the boiling water, and as they float to the top, pull them off and set in a bowl. Then toss them with the epic crack sauce you just made and shave some parm over the top. Holy F*** I am starving just thinking about it!! Polenta, dried rigatoni (cook according to the package), and even just warm baguette also make the perfect nest for this otherworldly sauce. It’s SO GOOD. Top with shaved or grated Parm or Grana Padano.
Expect anyone you share it with to immediately offer you diamonds, profess love, or take their clothes off. Even better on day two, like a good red wine.
You remember that vacation you wanted to take to the South of France? Well, we’re bringing it to you (you’re welcome). Only this escape is not by way of rosé and bouillabaisse.
Just because it’s not yacht season doesn’t mean you can’t transport yourself to one of the most romantic, luxurious places on earth. But instead of nautical stripes and boat shoes, pack for the mountains because we’re taking you to the Languedoc hillside where it’s a bit more rugged. Influenced by both rocky terraces and the Mediterranean sea breeze, the Terrasses du Larzac is an appellation that is so unique, it’s been classified as its own subdivision in the Langudoc. Dope, right? It’s important to note that in 1970, there was a great exodus from the Languedoc – a loss of faith in the vineyards, if you will. But while many fled to make a living in easier terrain with more well-known grapes, Jean-Pierre Jullien stayed and named his domaine “Cal Demoura”, which means one must remain.
So we bring you Mas Cal Demoura, a blend of the five regional grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan, which result in a red blend that is restrained in its youth, not overly aggressive, but exceedingly well-balanced and drinkable. This wine’s got loads of black fruits and licorice, and an amazing freshness. Roast beef and mushrooms are perfect matches. And it will slowly unwind and evolve from the first glass to the last.
We could bore you and go on with wine-y things and lavish it with praise for its lilac and thyme notes, blue and black fruits, and substantial body with soft tannins, but c’mon. Just imagine a wine that is familiar enough to drink without having to ask too much, with a little bit of a wild streak that is a welcome surprise. It’s like getting flowers for no reason. Or taking a vacation in the off season. Like now.
This wine is a departure from what you might drink everyday, but it doesn’t stray too far toward foreign that you won’t immediately refill your glass and pretend not to see your buddy’s empty one. Yeah, wine is about sharing, but you snooze you lose, right?
THE WINE: Mas Cal Demoura, ‘L’Infidele’ Terasses du Larzac, Languedoc, France 2009
THE GRAPE: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault (Sin-so, a grape local to the Languedoc) and Carignan (Care-in-Yan, another native grape)
HOMETOWN: Languedoc in Southern France
TASTES LIKE: Deep purple and red fruit, floral notes like lilac and subtle savory aromas like olives, thyme and rosemary; substantial weight and body—almost chewy, meaty texture.
GOES DOWN EASY WITH: Roasted meats, steak, pork and pasta, mushrooms and lentils.
IF YOU LIKE: The dark fruit and smokiness of a French Malbec, this is your new must-drink bottle, a notch up in weight. Pair with a something flame-cooked and a fireside story.
The L word gets tossed around quite casually these days. It’s a hashtag with 28 million posts, and those can’t all be true love. V day is coming, which will inflate the numbers and bring with it a barrage of all things pink-flavored, heart-shaped and overpriced. It’s not that we don’t like love. We love it. All of us (unless you’re currently nursing a break up, in which case, keep reading).
But it’s the pressure swathed in bubble gum hues and social media filters that can really turn our stomaches. Who wants t to feel like their love isn’t as “real” as that frenemie on Insta whose bf is always posting about how lucky he is (heart eyes emoji), with hashtags like #peanut and other food-related pet names. WTF has the in-person romance gone?? (In related news, see Manrepeller’s guide to Instagram accounts to unfollow in 2016 for the healthiest cleanse we’ve seen thus far.)
This Feb 14 is on a Sunday. My absolute favorite day of the week. I wake up slower, I do regular things but on less of a schedule, and I absolutely always avoid brunch and technology. Then, I open a bottle of something good later on (maybe before it’s entirely dark), and just cuddle up and relax. Alone, with a good girlfriend, my guy, or Hudson (my other guy). In all forms, I love Sunday.
I say, this Valentine’s Day, maybe instead of making a dinner reservation – honestly, in all my years working restaurants, Valentine’s Day is thecreepiest – an entire dining room full of two tops and red roses awkwardly looking for real estate on the table. So weird. Instead, make a date to unplug from all of your feeds. Then find some damn good friends slash your person slash your dog, and BBQ. Order pizza. Thai food. Roast a chicken. Make pasta (recipe coming). Whatever. Keep the food simple and the company excellent. Then, Just. Add. Wine. You probably don’t even miss the chocolates (sure every now and then you strike gold with a caramel, but mostly it’s tastebud deflation with some stale flavor like cherry cognac, amiright?).
You’ll be surprised how sentimental you get when you start looking at people’s eyes during conversations and stop wanderlusting about some Tahitian selfie from a stranger that’s probably staged anyway. My heart is a flutter at the very thought. Stock up here so you don’t even have to go to the store for the wine. The February Love Pour is full of all the V-day wine hacks you could ask for – playlist, food pairings, and duh, damn delicious wine – some of it pink, be warned. #loveyoumeanit
A sommelier and a winemaker walk into a vineyard…
Nope, not a joke, just a true tale of some seriously talented, passionate trailblazers making some of the Central Coast’s most unique and delicious wines. Rajat Parr (see: James Beard Award winner, boss Wine Director and Sommelier, lauded author) and Sashi Moorman (East-Coast bred Chef, baker and winemaker now in Cali) started Lompoc Wine Company in an effort to make accessible wine that truthfully represents Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County). The soil, climate, exposure and alternating cool fog and summer heat create one of the world’s most badass cool-climate wine growing spots – and it’s just perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
And this particular Pinot is so right – all of the balance is just immediately apparent. These lush, darker berry tones pop out, all friendly, but with a respectable edge; like that warm friend who knows exactly when to press play on a good, sarcastic joke.
And because geography and wine are as crucially connected as tequila and bad decisions, it’s important to note the miracle of this Cali region’s microclimate: It began like, oh, let’s say 20 million years ago-ish, when shifting tectonic plate deposited marine sediment deep under the Pacific Ocean. Mountains then rose from the ocean – I know, kinda sounds like the first in a Peter Jackson trilogy right?? Well, another twelve million years passed and those mountains did some more geological maneuvering and they created the most clearly delineated transverse range on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Chile!
Word is still out on how grape growing works in Middle-Earth, but if anyone could pull it off, I believe Raj and Sashi probably have the skills.
Each sip is an affirmation of good instincts, intuitive winemaking, and respect for the environment – with abundant heaps of clean, bright fruit. Not too clean, though. One of the things I love most about this wine is that it’s not too polished. I like a dose of grit, evidence that it came from the land and not some sterile factory of scientists in lab coats surrounded by bubbling beakers. There has to be soul.
And this wine, it’s got soul. It’s epic mouthfuls of blackberries and deep cherries cloaked in soft tannin and that little bit of something dirty – an elegant and grown up dirty. It’s like the California raisins traded their bad outfits for a classy French tailoring. They’re still singing Marvin Gaye, but “Sexual Healing” instead of “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” you know?
Speaking of Marvin…
Nebbiolo walks into room wearing a tailored suit, hair perfectly imperfect, and smokes an unfiltered cigarette in the corner of a dimly lit tavern, somewhere in Torino (Italy, folks). Aloof and unpredictable – a lone ranger and Marcello Mastroiani doppleganger (see: La Dolce Vita, Marriage, Italian Style).
Barbera (not your Aunt Barbera, the grape, pronounced Bar-bear-uhh) walks into the same tavern, jovial and boisterous, slaps high fives and exchanges fist pumps with everyone in the joint, and cracks a few easy jokes that have the entire room charmed in minutes (see: John Wayne).
But when the brooding nuance of Nebbiolo meets social butterfly Barbera, we have a tour de force wine that is the perfect anytime red.
This is a wine you can introduce to your parents but still take on a vespa-riding, skinny-dipping kind of good time later. You’ll be finishing each other’s sentences and sharing a hot bag full of fresh zeppole before the moon’s finished rising.
A reliable kind of bottle to have on hand at all times, to pluck from your stash and smoothly offer the perfect glass to the in-laws, another bottle to crack open for game night with the homies, and another to bring to that dinner party at your boss’s house to appear both worldly and unpretentious.
Canavese Rosso also pairs up to any meal, from ribs to risotto, spilling over with red berry, spice, floral-meets-earth kind of vibe. Goldilocks for body in that not-too-light and not-too-heavy but rather just right kind of way…what a keeper.
Drink it out of a tumbler on an early evening when the light is golden and the vibe is end-of-day drinking, or raise a stemmed glass with everyone at the table for a serious toast. Whatever you do, don’t run out.
From a single small vineyard in the Amity Hills comes a Chardonnay so lovingly made and pure tasting, I about fell off my chair in delight. It’s bright and zingy, and electric in the best way. So much energy and zing! So much balance and depth! It might sound like I was surprised, and you know, I kinda was.
Side Note: I was once a bit of a hater of domestic wine. It was a while ago, and I know it’s terribly politically-incorrect to say this about myself, but it’s true. FF a few years and, like most of what I thought in Decade #2 of life, I realized was wrong – about domestic wine and so many other things. So. Many. Remind me to tell you about the time I called 911 on myself. Mistakes aside, we now return to your regularly-scheduled wine programming.
But back to The Oregon Trail. I always felt bad about trying to shoot the little green bear, but I did love naming my family, so that at the end when the little brother dies of dysentery, it says, “Here lies Soggy Bottom Butt. He died of dysentery.” You never did that?
Well anyway, we’re not talking about reasons why Xbox was invented, we’re talking about wine. And if Napa is land of Cabernet Sauvignon, then Oregon is making strides when it comes to Burgundian varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (two of my favs).
And while Willamette Valley is a short drive up from famous Cali wine country, it’s a universe away from the spa treatments and the expensive, big-bodied wines that flow in private tasting rooms and for which Napa has kinda become known for.
This wine is all bright and cheerful and ripe with orchard fruits – so of the season! Apples and pears all jolly as can be, dancing their fall number in the glass, followed by a salty little kiss, a friendly and unexpected gesture. This wine is constantly adding something to whatever is on the table, but then has such a tasteful, elegant restraint. Like the best dinner guests.
Bottom line: This Chardonnay is a beauty. It gets a hint of richness from natural fermented in old barrels, without any heaviness. It’s literally the best of both worlds – texture and nuance, without too much oaky weight holding you down. Speaking of barrels, this wine was made lovingly but Vincent only made a tiny amount – two barrels, to be exact. Luckily for you, I snagged some treats and stashed them away for this very moment because I love sharing the good stuff – now you can, too.
It is always a nice thing to see people excited about what we are doing with Pour This!
Big thanks to Kat Odell and Caroline Helper from Eater.com for the kind words and the feature.