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17 Feb 2022 | Randy Kemner


I’ve heard some of our customers think we in the retail wine trade live a life of luxury, always eating fabulous food and drinking expensive wine every night.  I'm here to tell you that's simply not true.  Sometimes we'll sneak out and eat an In 'N' Out Double-Double, and we’ll wash it down with a $15 Beaujolais, not an aged 100-point Bordeaux. 

Still, we drink better wine than most people--we buy our wine at The Wine Country.  And it’s not true that we drink Grand Cru burgundies every night.  We work retail, after all.  No, we drink better because we know the secret recesses of The Wine Country, where all the bargains lie, and we also work with some of the country's best importers, distributors, and winery owners.

As far as eating better, it depends on how good a home chef we all are.  We have some pretty good ones on our staff.

A typical pre-covid Christmas party for The Wine Country staff was a typical display of how we hope to eat and drink all year long, but only do on special occasions (and Saturday nights).

First, we always began our meals with champagne. That's champagne, the bubbly drink from Champagne, not an imitation fizz pretending to be champagne. That other stuff we drink when the rent’s due, after all the champagne is gone, or when we dine with relatives.

One year, Dale threw together something simple from the refrigerator, like sautéed buttery scallops and a puréed cauliflower soup topped with caviar, not your regular mom food, unless mom is a Michelin chef.

There are other appetizers that accompanied our champagne, too.  Crab salad in puffs and a feta, sausage and spinach frittata cut into bite-size squares.

Then we sat down for dinner.  The tables were decorated with some evergreen sprigs and candles, just enough to remind us that December was here, but not enough to lull us into thinking this was a holiday.  We still had three butt-busting weeks to go until Christmas Day.

A lot of water is always poured for everyone.  Wise wine pros will hydrate often because we tend to drink wine in mass quantities whenever more than three of us get together at any one time.

Dale served “Soup and Salad”, a cute riff on a classic, with a thin wedge of romaine topped with bleu cheese crumbles and an amazing vinaigrette.  Alongside were individual custard-sized ramekins of French Onion Soup.  I’ve had this recipe for about 40 years, where chicken stock substitutes for beef stock, and vermouth replaces sherry.  The delicious result is a lighter and sweeter soup, with a crouton baked inside, and gruyere melted on top.  It’s really onion-y cheese fondue for those too hip to do fondue.

I selected a Vouvray Sec to accompany the soup and salad, but I wish I’d brought a Vouvray Tendre instead.  A kiss of sweetness was needed in the wine because of the sweetness of the onions.  I should have known better, but sometimes I get urged (bullied is more like it) into serving drier wines because the women in my life like them that way.  Yes, Dale and Samantha, I mean you.  (Actually, it was to Sam’s credit she felt the same way about the Vouvray Tendre, which rather pleased me.)

Yes, there were always main courses paired with incredible red wines selected from our store shelves.  One year it was oxtails with Rioja, another time, Beef Wellington paired with Bordeaux and Cabernet.  These can be special occasion wines, but they need not be.  Not if you're shopping at The Wine Country.

During the year, it’s always fun to get together with friends for pizza, sushi, Lebanese and Greek takeout, even burgers off the grill.  Most people will pull out their favorite grocery store sipping wines and serve them.  (I know—I’ve seen Trader Joe’s bottles on tables at the Symphony Pops concerts.)  But we're not most people.

For just about the same amount of money, you can drink like an aficionado if you shop with us at The Wine Country.  We’re into this stuff, and we want you to experience what we know. 

You, too, will be drinking better than most people.

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