Raise your hand if you’re tired of reading about which wine goes with turkey. The food ranges so wildly—low-rent green bean casserole and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes to turkey with oyster stuffing—it really should be paired by course.
Last Thursday I got a big lesson on how it should be done as a guest at Hammersky Vineyards in Paso Robles. No, you can’t make a reservation for holiday dinners there although I would pay big bucks for the experience. Winery owners, Kim and Doug Hauck of Newport Beach, graciously invited us to their family dinner when they found out we would be in wine country that weekend.
When we asked what to bring they simply requested two bottles of wines we thought the guests would find interesting. Pressure was on, but I made my selections and was completely at ease the minute we arrived. The setting was so stylish. Casually gorgeous like something out of a Bon Appettit photo shoot: vineyards surrounding a vintage farmhouse, an enormous table set in the barn with grape leaves as place cards atop pewter chargers.
The best part? A self-serve wine table on one side of the room almost the size of the buffet table. There must have been at least 30 bottles open at once. Hammersky estate wines provided a grand centerpiece. I love these. They are big and bold with powerful tannins and therefore ideal for sipping by the hour because they continue opening, getting softer and more supple, releasing incredible aromatics. My favorites were Open Invitation, a Paso blend in which the zin sings through, and Party of Four, a Bordeaux meritage with scents of leather that can take you right through to that after-dinner cigar.
Other delicious wines on the table included Provence, a dry rosé from Peju in Napa where their niece Brittany is working—vines run deep in this family. It’s a blend of red and white varietals that perks up the appetite with strawberry notes and hints of rose petal. To go with spicy-creamy pumpkin pies baked by Kim’s dad there was a golden Sauterne. I found it fun to go back and forth between this one and the wine I brought, a Didier Dagueneau sauv blanc. Same grape varietal but entirely different stylings.
We hung out for hours. Got a tour of the future site of the tasting room and the limestone hillside, soon to be caves. One of the best parts was meeting the family. Now we know Hamilton and Skyler, the Hauck’s two handsome sons, who inspired the name of the winery.
So when you’re picking out bottles to drink with your Christmas turkey, just grab your favorites and serve them all. Guests will be thrilled to mix and match food and wine. The debate about the best pairings just might become a treasured holiday tradition.—Anne Valdespino