Best Wine & Food Pairing Tips + California Wines with Chuck Cramer



Which California wine should be at the top of your must-try list? Which simple tips can you use to identify successful food and wine pairings? What should you know before starting a podcast?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Chuck Cramer, host of On The Road With Mr CA Wine.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • Why did I start the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast?
  • What was the motivation behind Chuck creating On The Road With Mr CA Wine?
  • Why was time the biggest challenge in producing my podcast?
  • How do you keep content fresh over hundreds of episodes?
  • What are my favourite wine tips?
  • How can you use the butter/lemon test to help with food and wine pairing?
  • What’s the weirdest successful food pairing I’ve had with Rosé
  • How can food alter your perception of a wine’s taste?
  • What makes asparagus and artichoke difficult to pair with wine?
  • What do you need to know about the Canadian wine industry?
  • Which Canadian wines should be on your must-try list?
  • Are California wines popular in Canada?
  • How has my perception of California wines changed over the past 10 years?
  • Why is Paso Robles at the top of my list of California wine regions to visit?
  • What’s the best-value California wine I’ve tasted recently?
  • What advice would I give to someone thinking of starting a podcast?
  • As a child, what did I want to be when I grew up?
  • If I could have any celebrity guest on my podcast, who would it be?
  • If money’s no object, which bottle of California wine would I open with dinner tonight?



Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips


About Chuck Cramer

Chuck Cramer is a 4th generation Los Angeleno, living in London for the past 22 years. In addition to hosting a wine podcast dedicated to CA wine, On The Road With Mr CA Wine, Chuck is the director of European sales & marketing for Terlato Wines, managing a gorgeous portfolio of CA wines across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. He’s also the proud dad of two beautiful women, plays tennis four times a week and bleeds Dodger Blue!




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  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on, and other country-specific Amazon sites;, and other country-specific iTunes sites; and



Natalie MacLean (00:00):
I love taking people into the wine world through food. With my online course students, the focus is all about food and wine pairing because food is so much less intimidating than wine. We don’t need to worry about vintage charts for cantaloupe and so on. But even those who feel like they’re experts or knowledgeable about wine still feel like, wow, I really would love to explore food and wine pairing more. So it’s not just the beginners who come along to the courses, but also I have lots of sommelier in my courses. So favorite tips. Pair the wine to the diner, not the dinner.

Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean, and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.

Welcome to episode 233. Which California Wine should be at the top of your must try list? Which simple tips can you use to identify successful wine and food pairings? And what should you know before starting a podcast? In this episode of Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, Chuck Cramer, host of On the Road with Mr. California Wine is interviewing me on his terrific podcast. I’ll be sharing stories and tips that answer those questions and more.

Now, a quick update on my memoir Wine Witch On Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much. As I mentioned last week, the book just launched in Canada.Woo hoo. And it will launch in the US and around the world on June 6th, though it is available for pre-order right now online. Launch week. Last week was a whirlwind, so on Monday I spoke with Jeff Sam, host of the popular radio show, Canada Now on Sirius XM Radio. You can listen to that full conversation on Channel 167. Then on Tuesday I spoke with the hosts of the CBC drive home shows from coast to coast, 14 of them until my lips almost stuck together. On Wednesday, I hosted a launch party in Toronto at the Clio Club, which is a stunning venue, very chic. There were about 70 people in attendance, which was amazing, especially since we only had about a week or so to sell tickets.

Then on Thursday, it was CTV/s The Social. And I was so nervous because I’ve only ever talked about wine on the show, but this was so personal and the subject’s so much more serious than our usual banter. However, the hosts were so supportive and I was really happy to underscore the book’s message of resilience. As I explained to the hosts, a witch is a wise woman who’s been through the flames and come out on the other side, stronger, wiser, fiercer. I got a whoop from the audience when I said that. After the show, I got on the road to Hamilton, and while driving there I did a 15 minute interview with Steph Vivier, host of Weekend Edition on News Talk 610 which is a I Heart Radio affiliate in Niagara. We chatted about my tips for how to moderate your alcohol consumption while still enjoying wine, which many early readers have found very helpful.

Friday morning was CHCH Morning Live TV with an interview with a host, Annette Ham. The book really resonated with her, and as I mentioned, even though the specifics of our stories may be different, the feelings are the same, and I do believe it can be healing to read someone else’s story when they’ve put into words what you felt yourself. Then it was back on the road to Niagara with pit stops at bookstores along the way to sign the copies they had in stock. Saturday morning was glorious in Niagara and I enjoyed a gorgeous breakfast of eggs Benedict at the River Band Inn. Then I walked over to Peller Estates Winery where I hosted a tasting with winemaker Katie Dickinson in the cozy cellar room for one group, and then a three course pairing lunch with Chef Jason Parsons for another group. Then I drove home to Ottawa on Sunday with more pit stops at bookstores. And I don’t think I actually needed any gas as I was still riding high from that week.

The book hit number one on Amazon and was sold out there and on Indigo Chapters for almost a week until they quickly reordered more books, which are now being shipped out by those helpful little robots. Thank you again for all your support for this book. If you enjoyed it, please leave a review on a bookstore website and or post on social media and tag me. I’ll share it with my followers so that you get more followers. You don’t have to have finished the book to do this. If you like what you’ve read so far, I’d love to see a picture of the book with your favorite wine paired together. If you haven’t read the book, you can still help by posting on your favorite social media channel that the book is on sale now or by telling a friend about it. If you haven’t got your copy yet and would like to support the book and this podcast, please order it from any online book retailer no matter where you live.

Buy copies for your friends and family. Every little bit helps spread the message. I’ll put a link in the show notes to all the retailers worldwide  at

All right, here’s a review from Leslie Preston, an early reader who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. “If I were describing this book to a friend, I would say  imagine the worst time in your life when the [inaudible] hits the fan and you feel so bad about yourself. Imagine learning so much from that facing your foes with an innate and beautiful strength becoming the you are meant to be. And that’s what all this book is about. Oh, if you love wine, if you’re frustrated with social media, bonus points. Read the book. Anyone who has felt wrong or betrayed would feel validated reading this book. There is no perfect life. We all feel wronged and betrayed at times, but there is an unleashed power that rising from the ashes of hurt and injustice can trigger and put us on a new trajectory and force some self-examination and change. I read this book quickly. It could be described as an easy read, but that would not do it justice. It’s also very poetic and lyrical at times, and it’s an important book Natalie can write. She’s an excellent writer. She took me on an emotional journey almost, but never losing me. We are very different people. I’m far from a perfectionist and spurn snobbery, whether based on class, looks, education, overachieving, her height. She is every woman. Her story is universal. The book made me sad and angry, but most importantly, powerful and that it is human to be flawed. Many of us can relate to the damage that people feel free to inflict on social media. It’s brutal and it can be fatal and it needs to end. I enjoyed riding alongside the author on her journey. The very things I criticized early on as I read the book, what I saw as Natalie’s snobbery and drive for perfection. What I saw as her fatal flaws, she eventually viewed when she turned the mirror on herself. We are all flawed humans, and that is absolutely perfect. The imperfection is exactly what makes us interesting. Honestly, I don’t know another book that’s similar. You might say Eat Pray Love, but it’s only similar in one aspect of rising from the ashes. What I loved about this book is I learned all these interesting facts about wine and would like to learn more, that it took us on an emotional journey and that exposed the mental physiological, not to mention economic impact, the misuse of social media can have on a person. A few things changed for me reading this book, I found that I enjoyed learning about wine with an emphasis on certain things, what gives wine its characteristics, the terroir, the history of older wineries, women in wine. I will be reading more about wine and the stories surrounding it. Five stars.” Thank you, Leslie. That was very heartfelt.

On with the show.

Chuck Cramer (08:55):
So wine columns, wine books, a new memoir that’s coming out, TV personality, and you’ve got this amazing podcast Unreserved Wine Talk with Natalie MacLean. When did this first launch and then you know got so much going on. When did you decide, well, I need to do something else? How did this come about?

Natalie MacLean (09:15):
I think I have shiny object syndrome. Ooh, that’d be interesting. A podcast. So I launched it in 2018, but I’ve always been an audio more than a visual person. So I listen to books. I don’t read the physical artifacts. I have always been into audio. I don’t know if it goes back to when my mom read me stories at bedtime and just listening to her voice, which was the most beautiful thing in the world to me when I was a child, and even when I grew up before we had all of the technology we do today with smart speakers, I used to have a shortwave satellite radio and listened to the BBC at night when the reception was clear and the voice would blow in and out over the ocean. But I loved hearing someone so far away tell stories. So that’s always been part of who I am. But I find podcasts, and I’d love to hear your take on this, Chuck, are a different way to express yourself. They’re a creature of your own curiosity. You’re scratching your own itch. You get to interview people. You’re curious about topics that you want to dive into. It’s kind of a very self-driven, but ultimately I hope still of service to others. But I would be curious why you started your podcast.

Chuck Cramer (10:32):
Well, I started my podcast, I think 2020 during the Pandemic.

Natalie MacLean


Yeah. I just carried on working, never stopped selling wine, talking about wine, but limited in terms of what you can do or I guess how effective you could be because you couldn’t really travel. Businesses, restaurants were closed. I mean, in the United Kingdom, I mean we’re a lockdown. We almost felt like being held in prison or something like this for nine months out of the two years. And then I just thought, well what can I do in terms of how can I talk about wine, get the messaging across, and then I thought, okay, I’m going to start a podcast. Like you said, shared experiences. You get to talk to people you wouldn’t normally get to engage with me. I use it as a business tool, selling tool, but for me it’s a learning experience.

I mean, I’m just constantly learning new things about my home state, about California, chatting with people like you. It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s hard work, but I’m working Monday nights now with the podcast, and then on the weekends in the morning. So before I used to sleep on the sofa, watch a movie or a game, and then go play tennis. Now, Saturday and Sunday mornings are just up until maybe three o’clock in the afternoon I’m working on this. But it’s fun. Yes, I still enjoy it, and I think the best part for me is the actual interview. I just talking to people.

Natalie MacLean (11:50):
Yes, exactly. And so it’s great, you know, and I get to engage with people, ask them nosy questions we could never ask them in person. But also audio, for the listeners, I think is such an intimate medium. We’re kind of in people’s ears whispering just less than an inch away from their brains. I mean, it’s the theater of the mind that I think you have to kind of co-create with the conversation. You have to imagine what they’re talking about because you don’t have a movie screen. But I think there’s magic in that.

Chuck Cramer (12:23):
And I agree, and whether it’s a 30 minute podcast or a 60 minute podcast, I mean you can listen while you’re walking around in between meetings, doing the shopping, in the gym, out for a run. Yeah, it’s great. In the car. It’s accessible, highly accessible. So what was 2018 when you launched? What was the biggest challenge when you first started up?

Natalie MacLean (12:45):
Time. As you said, it takes a lot of work to produce a podcast. Perhaps those who don’t produce one may not be aware, but it’s a good 10, 20 hours of work for me to do this thing from researching guests to coming up with the questions, doing the interview, but also all the stuff on the back end too. I mean, I have help now. I do have a podcast editor, but it’s a lot of work just to get one episode done.

Chuck Cramer (13:13):
Yeah, it is it, but it is enjoyable. So you’re approaching now 200 episodes, right? Congratulations.

Natalie MacLean (13:20):
Yes, thank you.

Chuck Cramer (13:21):
That’s huge. How do you keep your content fresh? Because obviously at the end of the day you want downloads to increase, you want your ratings to increase. How do you keep your listeners engaged as you approach 200?

Natalie MacLean (13:34):
Well, I’ve continued to follow my own curiosity, and I love talking about the cultural aspects of wine. So it’s not always a deep dive into just Cabernet. I love talking about things like how did you know the most famous fraudsters in history create fake labels of Chateau Petrus, the esteemed Bordeaux wine. Or non-fungible tokens. what’s that all about? How would that apply to wine? But also I just take a deep plunge into all the different possible pairings with charcuterie or cheese. So it’s whatever catches my attention. I also interview a lot of authors with new books because they’ve got a deep dive in whatever their topic is, whether it’s Italian wine or whatever they’ve got on the go because they tell good stories. And of course, winemakers as well as long as the winemaker can tell a good story. I’m not interested in the different types of oak barrels they’re using, but there are a lot of good storytelling winemakers.

Chuck Cramer (14:27):
You definitely want stories. And then in terms of the podcast, are you tweaking it or has it stayed the same since 2018?

Natalie MacLean (14:37):
The format structure is very similar. I do try to get better at my interview style. I try to ask the question beyond the question, keep digging like you are doing right now. It’s not just tell about your memoir and then lob another question about something completely different. Its exactly what you’re doing, Chuck, and trying to dig down and down and down to get to the interesting bits. So that’s another art form that I really love trying to get better at.

Chuck Cramer (15:07):
I’m just curious, talking to people I mean a lot of episodes under your belt. Have you had repeat guests on? I didn’t go back and look at the early ones, or is there somebody you’d want on again that you enjoyed having on so much?

Natalie MacLean (15:19):
Well, I’m going to interview Karen McNeil again because her new edition of the Wine Bible is coming out soon. And I mean, she’s a wealth of information but she’s one of my heroines in the wine industry. So erudite. I’ve had Anne Sperling on twice. She’s a winemaker in Canada who really pioneered biodynamic and organic winemaking here in this country. And she also formed the very first appellation the world for orange wines. So she’s visionary, she is a rebel, and she makes really good wine. Southbrook is her winery and then she has another in Ontario, and then she has Sperling Vineyards, her own family winery in BC.

Chuck Cramer (16:01):
Okay, wow. Fascinating. And so she’s coming back on again Karen McNeil. I had a chat with Karen last year. I had a lot of fun chatting with her. I mean she’s, like you said, she’s so knowledgeable. And yes, I sat on a couple tastings with her in Napa, and I mean she knows her stuff and she knows how to taste.

Natalie MacLean (16:19):
She does, and she is I think taken a position of leadership in the industry. She’s one of the people I quote in my memoir because she’s not afraid to take controversial or strong stands on issues like sexism in the wine industry. So I really look up to her not just as a writer or an authority, but as a leader and as a woman.

Chuck Cramer (16:40):
Great guest. I look forward to hearing that episode when you have her back on. I know you taste wine as well in your podcast, but obviously you write about wine and I like your approach to tasting wine. Drinking wine should be made difficult. I find it to be it’s very subjective. I tell people you either like it or you don’t. What do you get out of it? And so what’s your approach or overall philosophy to pairing food with wine? Any tips that you can share?

Natalie MacLean (17:13):
Sure. I love taking people into the wine world through food. So with my online course students, the focus of the courses I teach is all about food and wine pairing, because food is so much less intimidating than wine. I mean we don’t need to worry about vintage charts for cantaloupe and so on, but even those who feel like they’re experts or knowledgeable about wine still feel like, wow, I really would love to explore food and wine pairing more. So it’s not just the beginners who come along to the courses, but also I have lots of sommelier in my courses. So favorite tips. Pair the wine to the diner, not the dinner. Somebody said that. I wish I remembered who, but I love that. Drrink what you like, in other words.

But I also love the butter lemon test. And so if you would normally put a slather of butter on your dish, on your food, maybe a steak, look for something rich and full-bodied. Thats probably a Cabernet but it could be a full-bodied oak aged Chardonnay. But if you would do a squeeze of lemon like on a nice light fish dish, then look for something with bright acidity like a Sauvignon Blanc or something similar. But I love the butter lemon test.

Chuck Cramer (18:25):
A butter lemon test. Okay, I got to remember that. And what’s the weirdest or say quackiest thing you’ve paired with wine?

Natalie MacLean (18:34):
Ketchup chips and Rosé, which is just bizarre. So ketchup chips are kind of a Canadian phenomenon, though I understand they’ve now been exported to the US and elsewhere. But I think we are the originators, who knows? But I figured ketchup. Ketchup has more sugar per ounces than ice cream. That’s probably why we love it so much. And there’s a lot of salt. I love ketchup. So I figured ketchup chips are going to be sweet, it’s going to require an ice like a dessert wine or something. I’m thorough for my people, but I did a lineup of different styles of wine, and it was a dry Rosé that worked and it’s because the chips were not as sweet as I thought. They were kind of tomato flavour. And the Rosé had these nice fresh field strawberry notes that had the perception of fruit ripeness, a little bit of touch of sweetness even though the Rosé was bone dry. And it worked.

Chuck Cramer (19:28):
Well. That’s cool. I would love to try that. I love chips or crisp as they’re known over here in the UK with the Rosé. But you know what, when you talk about food and pairing I like that because I get in front of people a lot in the trade to taste wine and food, especially consumers need to understand that when you have a wine and tasting a wine. The food, like you mentioned earlier, the food will alter their perception or their taste of that wine. And a good wine, if it’s matched right, should enhance that dish and vice versa.

Natalie MacLean (20:03):
And one of the things that I do, I offer a free class online called The Five Food and Wine Pairing Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Dinner and How to fix them forever. But one very simple test is take a sip of wine any wine, have a piece of cheese any cheese, go back to the wine. How has it changed? And it’s almost like somebody poured something different into your glass because the protein, the fat and so on is really interacting now with the cheese. And it’s remarkable. A lot of people will try a bone dry white or whatever, and then what comes out is that the acidity has been almost removed from the wine. The fruitiness has been dialed up, but it makes a beautiful combination.

Chuck Cramer (20:45):
Well, yeah, yeah, no, good point. I was just thinking too, as we’re talking about food. I mean, I love food. I like meat, my vegetables, you know, got a lot of vegans and vegetarians out there. What’s the hardest –  I’m going to put you on the spot here –

Natalie MacLean (20:59):

Chuck Cramer (21:00):
How would I phrase this? Pick a vegetable. What’s the hardest wine to match with a vegetable?

Natalie MacLean (21:06):
Yeah, yeah. Well, the problem children of the food world are asparagus and artichoke. They both contain an organic compound called cynarin and it makes everything taste sweeter afterwards. So if you have an off dry or slightly sweet or sweet wine with those kind of vegetables, it’s going to taste cloyingly. Sweet. Conversely, if you go with something bone dry like a say a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or even a California Sauvignon Blanc what will happen is that the wine will taste less austere, less acidic, and it might take on some more fruitiness, little perception of sweetness, but it’s not going to be cloying. So I call them the wine stalkers. Asparagus and artichoke, they’re really mean to many wines, but Sauvignon Blanc can handle them.

Chuck Cramer (21:53):
So bone dry. That’s good. You have a lot going on your website.

Natalie MacLean (21:57):

Chuck Cramer (21:58):
With free wine tips. You have a lot going on. You must put in a long work week. I want to talk to you about California because this podcast is about California, but I want to ask you a question about Canadian wine. I mean, I guess my experience with Canadian wine is ice wine. We’re starting to see some nice Pinot Noirs in the UK coming over from Canada. We got some UK distributors working with some Canadian wine. How would you sum up the category and which great varieties or styles are driving sales not just in Canada but for export as well?

Natalie MacLean (22:35):
Sure. Well, I’d describe the category as growing fast. The Canadian wine industry is small. It produces less than 1% of wine in the world. We have 700 wineries across the country. Four provinces produce grape based wines. The rest produce berry based wines. But it’s a powerful industry as it would be, I’m sure in California. It contributes $11 billion to our economy because of spinoff jobs, restaurants, tourism, all the rest of it, not just those the 45,000 people who work directly in the wine industry. So yeah, it’s a biggie economically.

What our primary grapes and styles are sparkling wines. Traditional method, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier like Champagne. Riesling, Pinot Noir, all the cool climate grapes, Gamay, Cab Franc. What we’re known for of course is, as you mentioned, Chuck, the ice wines. And we’re the single largest producer of ice wine in the world. Germany comes second because they’re not as consistently cold as we are every year. One of the blessings of being in the grape white north were cold every year.

Chuck Cramer (23:40):
So the number one producer of ice wine in the world.

Natalie MacLean (23:43):

Chuck Cramer (23:44):
Wow. Okay.

Natalie MacLean (23:45):
Yeah, that’s often what you’ll see as exports and on restaurant lists outside the country. But I think our best wines, the wines I’m most excited about, are all the dry still table wines like Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cab Franc. Those are really worth exploring if you can get your hands on them. Or even better come visit us in one of the wine regions like Ontario and BC in particular, because a lot of the wineries have restaurants and it’s beautiful region to visit.

Chuck Cramer (24:12):
Any pinot noir producer, you want to give a shout out to?

Natalie MacLean (24:15):
So many. So toss in Niagara, Le Clos Jordan. Out in BC, Blue Mountain. It’s a long list of fabulous producers.

Chuck Cramer (24:27):
These 700 wineries, I take it are the majority just boutiquey producing like maybe 500,000 cases of wine, or I do some of ’em scale, or they’re just all boutiquey producers?

Natalie MacLean (24:39):
They’re all boutiquey. I would say they’re mostly all family owned, so you get that generational planning horizon, which is great. They’re not all shareholder, quarterly profit driven. So yeah, I would say the vast majority, whatever 97%, are small, like 5,000 cases or less. Really small.

Chuck Cramer (25:00):
Okay. Wow. Okay. That’s an $11 billion industry, the wine industry in Canada. That’s a cool piece of information.

Natalie MacLean (25:08):
I’d imagine it’s even bigger for California’s contribution because you count all the spinoff jobs of stores and things that are directly like spinoff business from the fact that there’s a winery.

Chuck Cramer (25:19):
Okay. Well, I have some friends who sell, friends distributors here,  sell Canadian wine. And I’m going to grab a bottle of Pinot and try it because like I said, ice wines and I need to try some of your dry wines. Natalie, you’re based on the east coast of Canada, correct?

Natalie MacLean (25:36):
That’s right.

Chuck Cramer (25:37):
Okay. So let’s talk about California. How’s California wine doing in your part of the world?

Natalie MacLean (25:44):
It’s doing really well. I mean, we’re each other’s number one trading partners. But of course far more California wine comes into Canada than Canadian wine going to the US just by sheer volume. But yeah no California wines remain popular. They have not had their day. I think people are discovering new regions, new styles, new producers. I mean there seems to be a lot of growth in new wineries in California as well, as well as lots of innovations even in packaging. You’re getting these paper bottles now and cans of course are popular. There’s a lot of creativity and innovation going on in the category.

Chuck Cramer (26:20):
What are the key price points for California in terms of well driving sales would you say?

Natalie MacLean (26:26):
Sure. So the foreign exchange always is different, but it takes about a $1.30ish Canadian to equal a dollar of US. But I’d say in our prices, $15 to $25 is a great everyday drinking wine. Of course, you’re going to splurge up the scale with more expensive wines. But yeah, very, very popular.

Chuck Cramer (26:48):
So you know, you still make trips to California. I mean, taking the pandemic out of the equation.

Natalie MacLean (26:54):
Yeah. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Chuck Cramer (26:56):
It’s been a while. How has your perception of California changed for you, say over the past 10 years? How is it different say compared to 10 years ago?

Natalie MacLean (27:05):
I think I would still go back to that diversity of taste, the regions, like micro regions, the new wineries, all of that is. I mean, when I used to go up to Sonoma and Napa like 20 years ago, it was just I went to all the big heavy hitters. Mondavi and Silver Oak and those are still great wines. But now it’s really nice to explore the offbeat side road kind of wineries and little regions where they haven’t had as much attention. So that would be my focus now.

Chuck Cramer (27:37):
If you could hop on a flight to California tomorrow, which wineries region would you visit first and why?

Natalie MacLean (27:45):
Paso Robles.

Chuck Cramer (27:46):
Paso, okay.

Natalie MacLean (27:47):
Yeah, everybody’s talking about Paso, just the value coming out of there, but also again the different styles and tastes. It’s one that I haven’t dived into previously, but I’ve had on the podcast people who are from Paso Robles, make wine there, or else advocate for them as writers. So yeah, I’m dying to go to Paso.

Chuck Cramer (28:08):
Well, when you go let me know, because I will hook you up with a buddy of mine, Chris Toronto. He’s a communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

Natalie MacLean (28:16):
Oh, great. Yes, I’d love that.

Chuck Cramer (28:18):
I mean, he’s local. Every time I’m in Paso, we get together. And he’s been great. He introduces me to a lot of Paso Robles winemakers and winery owners, which has been a lot of fun. So when you go, just remember and I’ll hook you up with Chris. He’s a great guy.

Natalie MacLean (28:35):
Oh, I appreciate that.

Chuck Cramer (28:36):
What’s the best say value red and white California wine that you’ve tasted recently?

Natalie MacLean (28:41):
Recently? I mean, there have been lots. But recently I tried Joel Gott Chardonnay and Cabernet. And he has a burger joint if I understand correctly down in the States. And those wines really went well with the burgers we grilled out back a couple weekends ago. So they’re great. Priced nicely, too.

Chuck Cramer (29:03):
Priced nicely. And you’re right, yeah, they got the Gotts is it? Yeah. St. Helen. I think they’re on the highway, and then they have one in downtown Napa as well. But I mean, if somebody asked me what the biggest change was like say versus 10 years ago, Gotts used to do just burgers. Now they do tacos and salads and everything.

Natalie MacLean

Oh, wow.

Chuck Cramer

Talk about diversity. They’ve diversified as well. So final question, Natalie, for this part of the podcast what advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about starting a podcast?

Natalie MacLean (29:31):
Scratch your own itch. If there’s something you’re curious about, and Chuck, you took the deep dive into California. I like to do the margins of culture all around wine, but scratch your own itch. You have to be passionate enough. You’re going to need the passion to keep you going because this is not by any means lucrative. It is a passion project, and you’ll need that to get you through the long hours. But that said, have fun with it. Listen first to what’s out there. There are more and more wine podcasts, but there’s always room for more. And as you know, Chuck, people have more than one podcast in their playlist because it’s only once a week episode. So I think the rising tide lifts all the boats, which is why I love that we did this exchange on each other’s podcasts. But I think explore how people are doing what they’re doing and where you might fit into that landscape.

Chuck Cramer (30:22):
Very good advice. And I have to tell you, I’m looking forward. I mean this title this Wine Witch On Fire really stands out. So 2023 next May is a milestone for me as well in terms of birthdays.

Natalie MacLean (30:36):
Ah, good for you.

Chuck Cramer (30:37):
Yeah, I think good for you. I’m looking forward to reading that book.

Natalie MacLean (30:40):
Oh, thanks, Chuck. I appreciate that.

Chuck Cramer (30:42):
Natalie, before you go I’m going to ask you four questions. I called this the bin end Q and A. Just give me the first thing that comes to mind. You ready?

Natalie MacLean (30:50):
I’m ready.

Chuck Cramer (30:51):
What’s your go-to quaffing wine at home this week?

Natalie MacLean (30:54):
Rosé. Chateau d’Aqueria comes from the Tavel region of the Rhone Valley. Love it. Bone dry, lots of cherry, berry flavour.

Chuck Cramer (31:03):
Nice. Yeah, I love the Rhone. I really like the Rhone. So good. What was your dream job as a kid?

Natalie MacLean (31:09):

Chuck Cramer (31:10):
An astronaut?

Natalie MacLean (31:11):
Oh yeah. I was going to be an astronaut. I don’t know why. Just looked interesting.

Chuck Cramer (31:17):
Wow. Okay. Did you ever go to Cape Canaveral or visit any of the.

Natalie MacLean (31:22):
Yeah. Several times. Yeah, got the jacket, got the t-shirt, got the mug.

Chuck Cramer (31:26):
That’s cool. Well, I know NASA’s preparing at some point in the near future to get people, men and women back up on the moon, so that will be fun to watch. An astronaut, that’s cool. If you could interview any celebrity, living or dead on your podcast Unreserved Wine Talk with Natalie MacLean, who would that be?

Natalie MacLean (31:48):
The first person that comes to mind is Jesus, because he could change our water into wine. But actually, I probably also invite my literary heroin, I guess. Collette, she’s a French writer, and she originally came from Dijon in the Burgundy region of France. So I would pour a glass of beautiful pinot noir for her, and I would ask her for writing tips on how to write even more sensually.

Chuck Cramer (32:12):
Writing more sensually?

Natalie MacLean (32:13):
Yes. Wow. She was a sensualist. She was a master of sensual detail. She brought it all together, and yet it wasn’t overload. So I’d want to take a little bit of a writing workshop with her over dinner. Well, I had her pinned down.

Chuck Cramer (32:26):
That sounds challenging. I guess you’ll really have to go deep to write like that.

Natalie MacLean (32:31):
Yes, that’s true. Be a long dinner. Yeah.

Chuck Cramer (32:33):
A long dinner. Well, if you have Jesus there, you’ll never run out of wine.

Natalie MacLean (32:38):
That’s true. That’s true.

Chuck Cramer (32:40):
You just turn on the tap, you know. You just turn on the tap.

Natalie MacLean (32:44):

Chuck Cramer (32:45):
Money no object, which bottle of California wine would you open with dinner tonight?

Natalie MacLean (32:50):
Mary Edwards, Pinot Noir.

Chuck Cramer (32:52):
Mary Edwards, Pinot Noir. That’s a great shout. Have you ever had her on the podcast?

Natalie MacLean (32:58):
I have not, but I want to.

Chuck Cramer (33:00):
Yeah, she would be good. I was at a shop the other day, or just was it yesterday? I don’t remember. And yeah, I was just staring at her Mary Edwards Pinot Noir. Yeah, pioneer, right?

Natalie MacLean (33:10):
Beautiful. Oh yeah, pioneer woman again. Story behind the bottle is fascinating and her wine is liquid silk. I mean, it’s just beautiful.

Chuck Cramer (33:19):
Yeah. Great Great shout. Well listen, Natalie, great seeing you again, and thank you very much for being on the road with me this week. It’s a lot of fun.

Natalie MacLean (33:29):
Chuck, it’s been great being in the passenger seat with you this time. I can’t wait for our next road trip.

Chuck Cramer (33:35):
Me, too. And when I’m in Canada, we’re going to get together.

Natalie MacLean


Chuck Cramer

For a bottle of Canadian Pinot Noir.

Natalie MacLean (33:42):
That’s what we’ll do.

Chuck Cramer (33:43):

Natalie MacLean (33:43):

Chuck Cramer (33:45):
Thanks, Natalie.

Natalie MacLean (33:46):
Cheers, Chuck.

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Chuck. In the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of my conversation with Chuck, links to his website and podcast, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, and where you can order my memoir online no matter where you live. That’s all in the show notes at Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or would like to be part of the book launch team at [email protected] If you missed episode 27, go back and take a listen. I chat with San Francisco Chronicle wine columnist Esther Mobley. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Esther Mobley (34:36):
I used to use a voice recorder when I was doing in-person interviews. I stopped doing that a couple of years ago. Maybe I’m wrong, but I sensed that people spoke differently when they knew they were being recorded. So I just take notes by hand and then do a lot of follow up if I need to check things. I’m a pretty fast writer, but when you’re driving in the car usually I’m in the passenger’s seat and usually in those cases, I’m not riding at all, especially if we’re like on a bumpy vineyard road. But I find that it’s those long periods of time when you’re not sitting at a table with wine in front of you kind of intensely tasting, when you have a lot of extra time and you’ve gotten past the big questions and now you’re just kind of chatting, that’s when people open up and I seek out those moments. It can take a lot longer than just picking up the phone and doing a quick interview, and frequently, that’s all I can do. I love that car time. I really think that’s when the conversation gets rich.

Natalie MacLean (35:40):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines tips and stories we shared you won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Jessica Kogan, a digital brand marketing executive who successfully launched brands such as Gucci, Prada, Charles Schwab, and Cameron Hughes Winery into the online world. She is now the Chief Growth and Experience Officer at Vintage Wine Estates, a collection of premium wineries that includes Clos Pegase, Kunde and B.R. Cohn among others.

Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine that pairs perfectly with the diner, not the dinner. You don’t want to miss. One juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Meet me here next week. Cheers.