Salt in Wine, Oyster Pairings + Real Talk with Your Sommelier

Jun2nd

Introduction

Is food and wine pairing the ultimate goal of every dining experience? Is it okay to tell sommeliers if you don’t like the wine they recommended? What’s it like serving famous captains of industry like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Seattle-based wine writer, educator and sommelier, Zach Geballe.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

Watch Party

Join me for the debut Watch Party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live-streaming for the very first time on Zoom on Wednesday, June 9th at 7 pm eastern.

You can save your spot for free right here. I’ll be jumping into the comments as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.

I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?

 

Highlights

  • How can sommeliers help patrons feel comfortable talking about wine?
  • Is successful wine pairing the ultimate goal of every dining experience?
  • Should you tell the sommelier if you don’t like the wine they recommended?
  • What’s it like serving famous captains of industry like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates?
  • How did Zach get started with his private wine classes?
  • Which characteristics should you look for in a wine to pair with oysters?
  • What does saltiness mean as a wine descriptor?
  • What unique wedding ritual did Zach and his wife partake in instead of traditional cake?
  • Which unusual wines did Zach select for an Amazon event he led?
  • How did a trip to Moselle vineyards surpass Zach’s high expectations?
  • What surprised Zach when visiting Parmesan producers in Italy?

 

Key Takeaways

  • I thought Zach’s tips on pairing crisp, mineraly wines with oysters were spot on, and he should know coming from Seattle where oysters are popular and so very fresh.
  • I agree with Zach that food and wine pairing doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal of every dining experience. Sometimes, you just want to enjoy a wine that you love and a dish that’s your favourite, and the two don’t necessarily go together. My suggestion, take a bit from a bun in between and relax.
  • I was glad to hear Zach say that it’s perfectly fine to tell sommeliers if you don’t like the wine they recommended. They’ve got a personal stake in your enjoying your wine and meal and coming back again.

Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips

 

About Zach Geballe

Zach Geballe is a Seattle-based journalist and educator focused on the beverage alcohol industry. He is the co-host and producer of the VinePair podcast as well as the founder of Disgorged Wine, a wine education and events company in Seattle. He is a Certified Sommelier and has over 15 years of restaurant industry experience, most recently as the wine director for Tom Douglas Restaurants in Seattle, Washington.

 

Resources

 

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Thirsty for more?

  • Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.

 

Transcript

Natalie MacLean 0:00
It’s always interesting when people talk about the salinity or saltiness of wine. Is that a taste for you? Or is it just something that’s akin to acidity?

Zach Geballe 0:08
There are examples with Ireland or coastal wine regions where there is perceptible salt in the wine,  like there issalt on the grapes when they come in from the vineyards, you are getting the effect of salt as a flavour enhancer in the wine. Sometimes it’s a perception thing, but I do think that you can taste the salt. It’s like the only mineral we can taste. So it’s the one case where minerality is actually a thing,

Natalie MacLean 0:29
Right? Like the eucalypt oils can settle on the grapes.

Zach Geballe 0:33
Yeah, or  you find it with sort of resinous herbs in the south of France or even lavender; what is growing around the grapes can have an impact.

Natalie MacLean 0:46
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? 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!

Is food and wine pairing the ultimate goal of every dining experience? Is it okay to tell sommeliers if you don’t like the wine they recommended? And what’s it like serving famous captains of industry like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates? You’ll get those answers plus lots more wine tasting tips and stories in part two of my conversation with Zach Geballe, a Seattle based wine writer, educator and sommelier. You don’t need to have listened to Part one from last week first; but I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one.

I wanted to let you know that I’m hosting an online tasting on Thursday, June 10, of some wonderful Rosé wines that you’ll want to sip all summer long. I’ll also give you tips on pairing them with food and serving them in the right glass for maximum pleasure. There is no cost for this tasting, but space is limited. So please register today at nataliemaclean.com/rose. That’s Rosé without the accent aigu. I’ll include this link in the show notes along with a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in our free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/131.

Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show, this past Tuesday, Miles and I had another couple over. They were folks outside our family bubble and it was the first time in more than a year that we had done that. We were all vaccinated and we kept physically distanced. I really don’t like the term socially distanced because I want to socialise again, even as an introvert. It felt so good to have a conversation about things Miles and I are not talking about every day. It was like when your teacher gave you an interesting assignment in grade school that you actually liked, for example, talk with your neighbour about your favourite toy, rather than how I spent my summer vacation, although I’m looking forward to summer vacation. We also shared some great wines; o;urs was new to them, and the bottle they brought was new to us. It really felt like our minds, our spirits, and our palates were reviving from some dark barren place. Have you had this experience yet? Let me know. Okay, on with the show.

Natalie MacLean 4:12
Let’s go to before times the happier times. Yeah, firstly, restaurants, whether it was Dahlia Lounge or another restaurant, what were some of your most memorable experiences while working on the floor, anything related to a restaurant, wine list and so on? Do any of those experiences, particular experiences stand out for you?

Zach Geballe 4:32
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that, looking back on it was so interesting about what I did, and about the job, was that wine is viewed by so many people as this incredibly intimidating, almost impenetrable subject that nonetheless they’re supposed to know something about. The number of people on a night who would tell me “Oh, I know, I should know more about this right”

Natalie MacLean 4:55
Wine shame.

Zach Geballe 4:57
Yeah, and they would in the same breath, like I said, express “Oh, wine; it’s so complicated, but I should know something about it.” And I mean, I think that knowing something about wine is great, I mean, obviously, you everyone watching and listening to this, presumably is interested in knowing things about wine, so you all agree that knowing things about wine is great. And wine, it can bring a lot of pleasure in a lot of different ways, including an intellectual pleasure. But the thing that, for me, was always such a fun experience was, whenever I could kind of disarm that fear that shame, you know, I think that the sommelier profession got, well not a bad rap; it was a deserved rap in a lot of cases. Because there are so many people who saw, I think, that role as an opportunity to impress the guest, right, to say to the guest, allow me to show you how much more than you I know, and let me potentially bully you into buying a wine that you may or may not like, that you may or may not know anything about, but I have bullied shamed, coerced you into buying. And then if you don’t enjoy it, it’s because you’re a bad wine drinker.

Natalie MacLean 6:02
Right? You have no taste.

Zach Geballe 6:04
Yeah, and I grew up in and around restaurants. After the restaurant review phase, or at least after the meal at Dahlia Lounge, my dad ended up getting remarried to a woman who owned a restaurant in Seattle, I spent a lot of time in and around that. And then obviously, working in restaurants. And I really came to being a sommelier as a service professional first. It’s not as if that’s what I set out to do. You know, I really thought when I started working in restaurants, my goal was eventually to own my own restaurant, to run it as the, you know, owner General Manager. And so I worked as a busser, as a server, as a bartender, you know, all those parts of the job, I mean, briefly as a cook, but it was not for me. And it wasn’t until I really started find myself getting more and more interested in wine that I became a wine focussed professional. But I think, when you work in restaurants, that emphasise service, besides really customer focused and oriented service, then when wine is a facet for that, you know, you bring a degree of trying to put the guests at ease and comfort.

Natalie MacLean 6:58
How did you do that? What would you say specifically? Can you remember?

Zach Geballe 7:02
I think what I tried to do were a few different techniques. One is, without being dismissive, trying to be as informal as possible. So you know, one of my favourite things to do with tables was to be as candid as I could reasonably be; to say, “Hey, you know, look, especially with a wine programme that I bought, was like, hey, look, you know, I picked all these wines, I think they’re all quite good. But not every person is going to like every wine. So that’s totally fine. Tell me what you like. And we’ve got wines on there.” I also this is maybe a tangent or a broader topic. I believe in food and wine pairing in the sense that I certainly believe that certain foods and certain wines go well together. And certain foods and certain wines maybe don’t go as well together. But I don’t believe in food and wine pairing as the ultimate goal of every dining experience.

Natalie MacLean 7:45
Why not? I was just curious

Zach Geballe 7:46
Because I think that for a lot of people, people know what they like to eat for the most part, right? They have a pretty good sense, because people eat three meals a day, every day. Wine, you and I have a tremendous experience with wine and so I can sit down and say, I know I’m having this dish, and I have a pretty good idea for what kind of wine is going to go well with it and I’m probably going to  want the wine that pairs well with it.

But for a lot of people, their wine drinking is relatively narrow, you know. They drink a lot of full bodied red wines and that’s what they like in wine. And they know they want to have wine with their meal. But if they’re going to order halibut, or they’re going to order salmon, or they’re going to order lasagna or whatever, like it doesn’t matter what the food is. Sometimes they may say to me, or they might have said to me, what do you think pairs well with this, but the honest truth is that most people really want to drink a wine that they know  they’re going to  like, eat a food they know they’re going to  like, and as long as it’s not absolutely the worst combination possible and sometimes even when it is. Like the tables that would sit down and order two dozen oysters and a bottle of Cabernet, like, I wouldn’t want to do that. But it’s not my place to tell the guests that they shouldn’t do that. That’s their business. It’s just like, I wouldn’t order a well done steak. But I also don’t tell people, they can’t have a well done steak, if that’s what makes them happy,

Natalie MacLean 8:55
Exactly. Pair the wine to the diner, not the dinner, whoever said that

Zach Geballe 8:59
Exactly, and so to me, it’s really just, it was always about making people feel like, as best as I could. And obviously, you know, you never can be 100% this way, because people are going to  think what they want, but it’s like, I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to try and bilk you out of, you know, I’m going to  recommend sometimes less expensive wines, like the wines you’re thinking about, I think the less expensive one is a better wine for you, I’m going to recommend that you know, those things all pay off in terms of buy-in from your guests over time.

And to me, it was really just about, you know, my job was to try and put someone in a position where they were going to enjoy their experience wholly, and if they enjoyed the wine, particularly, that’s great. But if after having a meal with a bottle of wine and dinner, the thing they were most excited about was the dessert; it’s a team effort in the restaurant and so my job isn’t to try and be the star every game. You know, sometimes it’s just to be in the background and sometimes, you know, it  happens that people walk in, they know exactly what they want wine-wise, and my job was exclusively, as sort of in the background as possible, open the bottle of wine,  poor it for them and  get out of their way because they’re doing other stuff.

And so I think that a problem that people who come to the sommelier profession from outside of the restaurant industry, largely don’t have a lot of restaurant experience before they move into a role like that, is they think they’re supposed to be the star of the show. It’s same thing with service, right? I mean, it was true as a server too, right? Sometimes you are the star of the show to a table, sometimes they want you to be the entertainment, they want to talk to you, they want to know about you, they want your recommendations. And sometimes they don’t, sometimes it’s a date, sometimes it’s business, sometimes it’s just people who aren’t interested in you, they’re interested in the people they’re dining with.

And that’s, I mean, again, fine, it wasn’t my job, you know, if I wanted to perform, I would be in the performing arts. I mean, I like a certain amount of performance, it was sometimes fun to have tables that were interested in that. But if they were all that way, it would be exhausting. And it would, you know, I’d be in the weeds the whole night.

And so the same thing with wine, you have to find and learn to recognise when to step it up a little bit for people because they want that and when to be as unobtrusive as possible so that they are not caught up in your thing. They’re enjoying their experience. So for me, the other piece of it that I would try and do with people, is like, make it very clear to them that if they were unsure about a wine, what I would always say is like, Look, if you don’t like this wine, I’ll drink it. And we’ll get you something else. And like, so many people are so unfamiliar with how these things work in restaurants, and are so afraid to turn away wine. And I think there’s a difference. This is a long conversation, and we can have this but if you want, but I think to me, my feeling was always as a sommelier and wine director, if I recommended a wine,  if I said, you know, you’ve told me what you like or what you’re interested in, and I say, I think you’ll like this wine and you don’t like it, then tell me please, don’t drink it because you feel obligated to. I’ll drink it, I’ll sell it by the glass, there’s nothing wrong with it. You just don’t like it,  I’ll use it for staff training, whatever. And we’ll get you something you do like.

Same thing with the food.  I’d say, Hey, you know, you’re going to  really love the duck, you don’t like duck, we’ll get you something else. Like, that’s not a problem. You know, it’s a little different if someone comes in and orders a wine and then refuses it without kind of consulting with me. But you know, even then, you know, we’re not here to antagonise the guests for the most part. And I think for a lot of people just kind of being upfront about that, like, hey, look, you know, if this isn’t what you want, tell me, we’ll figure something else out for you. It’s not a big deal.

You know, again, I wasn’t running a wine programme with $10,000 bottles of wine, where if someone ordered and then turned it away, after opening it, there’s a real problem. When your wines are in the two and three figures, that’s a lot easier to kind of deal with, you know, even on the back end, accounting wise. I will say the other piece of this too, for me, was always that I also really encouraged people to be honest with me about how much they wanted to try new things. You know, there’s also a conception among diners, both food, drink, whatever, that they’re somehow under obligation to try something new whenever they go out. And I tell people all the time, hey, look, if you have favourites, totally fine. I mean, I dine out a lot or did dine out a lot. And some restaurants I would go in and every time I’d get the same thing, and yeah, I’m sure they made other good food. That’s what I was in the mood for. And that’s why I went to that restaurant. And so to me, it was never to tell someone, oh, you know, you have to try something new. Like, it’s totally valid to say, I know I like this wine from this producer, I see it on your list, let’s just have that. And I was like, you know, great, that’s fine with me. I’d much rather you do that then feel like you have to try something new and then enjoy it less.

Natalie MacLean 13:05
Right, absolutely. Did you ever serve anybody famous?

Zach Geballe 13:09
Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, in Seattle, I would say in various ways, in various times. I served kind of all the famous, we’ll call it captains of industries. So you know, Howard Schultz, and Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and all those people

Natalie MacLean 13:19
Oh well, you served them all? Wow, well, any particular wine choices there that stood out?

Zach Geballe 13:25
You know, it’s funny, I think, actually, weirdly, no, the most memorable drink experience I had with a famous guest was actually back before I was a sommelier, I was a bartender, and I made a couple of martinis for Al Gore, which was the most direct one of those. But you know, it’s not like the real captains of industry, at least at Dahlia Lounge, when they would dine, you know, they would have nice-ish wine, but they weren’t ordering our most expensive bottles. And as I said before, we were not carrying first growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru burgundy particularly so it wasn’t like the kind of place where someone would spend 10s of 1000s of dollars on wine. That wasn’t the setup.

Natalie MacLean 14:02
And  none of them showed a particular aptitude or knowledge of wine, like maybe Jeff Bezos with, I don’t know,

Zach Geballe 14:07
You know he’s actually the person who I think I only served one time. It’s almost like, from my experience, at least with people of that ilk, where they’re very, very famous, unless they really make it clear that they want a lot from you, they kind of just stay out of their way. You know, it’s kind of like the show is more for the people who are not going to be like, why is this person? I don’t know, it always just kind of seemed to me that if any person kind of hinted that they want or kind of made it clear that they wanted a level of attention, then they would get it, but usually the very wealthy, if they’re dining out, they just want to be left alone, mostly.

You know it’s the same thing with celebrities who aren’t necessarily Uber wealthy, but are just recognisable, you know, you kind of leave it to them to dictate, for me at least, we always leave it to them to kind of dictate how much or how little they want of your services such as they area, and usually they want less because they’re surrounded by people who do things for them all the time, so they don’t necessarily need that validation from me in the way that maybe just your average diner likes to have. Some of them like to have that feeling of like, oh, here’s someone who is waiting upon me.

Natalie MacLean 15:11
Right, right. That’s true. So I want to share some of the photos that I have here. Okay, that’d be you.

Zach Geballe 15:19
That is me. That is a much younger me. This is I think, one of my very first wine classes that I taught, like a private wine class.

Natalie MacLean 15:26
Oh, great out of your home. Is that where you’re teaching it?

Zach Geballe 15:29
It’s actually at my mother’s. She lives in Bellingham, north of Seattle. Well, I wasn’t living it. I did this class at her house for her and some of her friends. It was one of my very first sort of private venture paid classes. So probably I’m guessing eight or so years ago now. Well, you know,

Natalie MacLean 15:51
Is this at Dahlia lounge?

Zach Geballe 15:52
No, this is in France. The Dahlia Lounge  was nowhere near this horrible. My wife and I are well, I guess at that point, we were just engaged. This is in Avignon in the Rhone Valley. Yeah. One star Michelin restaurant and just me looking fancy, looking at a fancy wine list.

Natalie MacLean 16:08
And what are you doing here?

Zach Geballe 16:11
This is me shucking an oyster. So this is on the Washington coast. This part of the world,  the Pacific Northwest, is notable for a lot of things, but one of them is the bivalves and oysters in particular. And so this is at Taylor Shellfish, which is a relatively large shellfish farming company here. And this is one of their main farms, and they have a little like shack, basically, where you can buy oysters and you know, go sit out and chuck them. So this is me doing that

Natalie MacLean 16:36
Beautiful day. Do you have a favourite pairing for oysters?

Zach Geballe 16:39
You know, it’s funny, actually, this is a good question. So I think oysters are actually a harder food to pair with wine than people think.

Natalie MacLean 16:46
Why is that?

Zach Geballe 16:47
I think that depends on I mean, obviously oysters can vary a lot in terms of their flavour. I think that their pronounced saltiness, in most cases is actually challenging for a lot of wines, including a lot of wines that are commonly paired. I personally Muscadet to be a not very exciting pairing with oysters, to me, I’m just not a big fan of Muscadet period. It’s kind of, I don’t feel like it has a lot going on in most cases. You know, with the exception maybe of some of that really extended aged, like Lees on  versions and stuff like that. I like sparkling wine with them; but if it’s the right sparkling wine. I think you have to be very careful that there’s not too much brininess, with especially Pacific Northwest oysters, which do lean more into the sort of briny side of things. I mean, if we’re sticking with wine, and I think it’s actually an area where I like something that’s really going to have a lot of saltiness to it. So Vermentino, from Sardinia,  Assyrtiko, from Santorini, like very kind of Islandy wines, where you’re going to get that pronounced brininess. But honestly, my favourite pairing with oysters is either a really crisp beer or a martini is actually what I prefer

Natalie MacLean 17:48
All right,well, that’s interesting.

Zach Geballe 17:49
I just find it to be more pleasurable.

Natalie MacLean 17:52
Well, saltiness, it’s always interesting when people talk about the salinity, or saltiness of wine. Is that a taste for you? Or is it just something that’s akin to acidity?

Zach Geballe 18:02
I mean, I think it depends. I think there are examples you find with some of these really kind of Island or coastal wine regions where there really is perceptible salt in the wine, like there is salt on the grapes when they come in from the vineyards. And I mean, not like huge amounts, but there’s enough that I think you are really getting the effect of salt as a flavour enhancer in the wine. I think sometimes it’s a perception thing. But I do think that you can taste the salt for lack of a better word, in some cases. It’s like the only mineral we can taste pretty much. So it’s the one case where minerality is actually a thing.

Natalie MacLean 18:34
Right? Who is it that talks about airoir? You know, like the eucalypt oils can settle on the grapes. I forget who was bringing up that concept. But yeah, I can see that here

Zach Geballe 18:42
or you find it with some of the other things like some of the sort of resinous herbs in the south of France or even lavender. Sometimes what is growing around the grapes can have an impact. This is my wedding day thing day.

Natalie MacLean 18:55
That’s great. I love that you’ve  got Dom Perignon there.

Zach Geballe 18:59
Yes, we were gifted a bottle as sort of a pre wedding present by, I think actually, some of Caitlin’s coworkers, my wife’s coworkers. And so we had dropped our things off at the hotel we were staying at. And then I just was like, You know what, it’s my wedding day, I’m going to walk down the streets of Seattle on our way to our reception. We drank from the bottle on the way so that was us. No one gave us a hard time thankfully

Natalie MacLean 19:21
And then you had another top notch champagne here, the Taittinger

Zach Geballe 19:28
So what my wife and I decided as part of our wedding, was one thing we were very much in agreement on, was neither of us had an interest in wedding cake. Neither of us really cared, but my wife kind of likes cake, but I think we both felt like it was just, it was one piece of the ritual that we were not interested in. But we wanted there to be some sort of thing that was kind of analogous to the cutting of the cake. And so what we decided to do is get a couple of three litre bottles of Taittinger, as you said, and we each opened one and then that was used for the toast. And so it was kind of a thing that we could do together. But again, kind of equivalent to cutting the cake, but it was a little more true to us.

Natalie MacLean 20:05
Yeah, I love that idea. Get rid of the cake. And I’m sure that’s the best champagne or bubbly that anyone’s had at a wedding.

Zach Geballe 20:14
Yeah, it’s true that our wedding was noteworthy for the quality of the alcohol in general and also, we didn’t have like a full open bar. I did basically some batch cocktails, because we just kind of wanted to keep things a little more streamlined for the venue. But I made the mistake of just like a typical person who works in the drinks industry mistake, of thinking that people would understand or would read. So one of the two drinks was like a punch of sorts, but it was a true punch so it was made with some spirit, and then some sparkling wine. It didn’t have you know, juice or water or something. So a couple of people definitely had like a few glasses of punch beforehand. And by the time we actually got to like the reception part and all that, there was a little bit more drunkenness for a couple of folks that we cared for ,because they were like I thought it was punch, you know, people think, you know, its juice with a little alcohol. I was like, this is all alcohol. And it was a little bit of a mistake on my part, but you know, it worked out okay.

Natalie MacLean 21:03
Well, sure. Everybody was very festive by the time they got to the bubbly.

Zach Geballe 21:07
You did not get any pictures from later in the wedding.

Natalie MacLean 21:10
Oh, no, I noticed that. This guy is adorable. Who is he?

Zach Geballe 21:15
Yeah, he’s a lot bigger now. So this is this is my son Solomon. I guess he would have been not quite a year old at this point. That’s in British Columbia, actually in the Okanagan Valley at Quails Gate. Oh, he’s doing some, I think some leaf thinning.

Natalie MacLean 21:31
Yes. I was thinking he’s going to be whether you call it ampelographer, or whatever you prefer. Quails Gate, , gorgeous winery, they’re gorgeous. wines. Did you have lunch or dinner at the restaurant there?

Zach Geballe 21:43
On this trip? Yeah, I believe we had dinner there. I think this was probably, I’ve been up a couple of times. This one I think we had, maybe this was an afternoon visit. And then we went back for dinner later or something

Natalie MacLean 21:55
Nice, very nice. Who are these folks?

Zach Geballe 21:59
So I’m obviously the second from the left here. And then on the far left is Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly, who’s a friend of mine. And then to my right, or to the right of me, as you look at the picture is Jess White. She’s just a good friend and wine professional. And then on the far right is Nick Davis, who is now a master sommelier, another friend of mine. So this was us doing an event at Amazon a number of years ago that I put on for one of the teams there. So you can’t quite tell from this picture but they kind of encouraged us to, or I was encouraged to kind of pick some unusual wine. So there’s Muscat from Alsace that Nick has there,  I have a bottle of Assyrtiko from Santorini, I actually can’t remember what all the other ones were. There’s some old German Riesling, it was meant to be kind of like, let’s try some odd wines for people who’s drinking tends to lean towards the kind of more well known varieties. So we kind of picked some not odd balls exactly,  but wines  people are probably much less familiar with

Natalie MacLean 22:47
Great experience and beautiful. Where are you here?

Zach Geballe 22:53
Well come on Natalie, can ‘t you guess?

Natalie MacLean 22:56
Moselle!

Zach Geballe 22:57
That’s correct. Yeah, this is just outside of Bernkastel, on a riverboat looking up at the castle

Natalie MacLean 23:02
Deep vineyards.

Zach Geballe 23:03
Yeah. I will say this. I was there with my wife and actually my son when he was quite young. And, you know, I had been told by many people, you know, the, the Moselle was beautiful and all that. But I was not prepared for just how strikingly beautiful it was upon visiting. I mean, we happen to get kind of as you can maybe tell, we were there in mid October. And it was just absolutely perfect, like, sunny and warm, but not too hot. You know, everything was kind of in that stage. You can see the leaves starting to change in the trees, but not all the way; it was just, it was stunningly beautiful the whole time we were there, which was very cool.

Natalie MacLean 23:34
I just loved visiting the Moselle and I just remember how steep the inclines were, where the terraced vineyards were. And it was like, I don’t know, we were at the top of one vineyard and they said something like, we have to keep hiring new vineyard workers every year. I said Why? He said, because they roll down to the bottom and we never see them again, or something like this.

Zach Geballe 23:59
I  assume that was a joke.

Natalie MacLean 24:02
Yes, yes. Yes, it was. But they couldn’t do any machine harvesting. It was all these people but some of them, some of the slopes were so steep they did wear harnesses, it was just crazy.

Zach Geballe 24:08
Yeah, you go into some of them and you see there’s a whole like pulley system and everything that people clip into and and also for the picking and for the picking baskets. You know, they put the grapes on sort of like a pulley system, because no one wants to carry them up these incredible slips. Yeah, it’s really striking. And also, you see some parts throughout the Moselle where you find some of these vineyards and it’s like, they found every last possible, even marginally kind of cultivatable scrap of land with the proper orientation to the sun. So there’s pieces where you like, you’ll see basically the vineyard ends in a cliff. You’re just like man, you cannot be wandering here idly without risking your life.

Natalie MacLean 24:45
I’m going to  get that grape. Lovely region. Here you are. Looks like some cheesy business going on.

Zach Geballe 24:54
Yeah, so this is a Parmesan cheese producer in Bologna, in Emilia Romagna rather, more broadly. And so this was I was on a trip with a number of other sommeliers, this would have been in November of 2018. It was a really cool experience. I mean, I’ve been to Italy a number of times, but this one was really cool, because in part we got to go see, with lots of wine, but also lots of sort of some of the attendant famous foodstuffs of Italy. So Parmesan cheese factory, you know, some balsamic vinegar producers, things like that, olive oil, etc. It was very cool.

Natalie MacLean 25:27
What surprised you most about the Parmesan; making it?

Zach Geballe 25:30
I mean, one, just how much they have? I mean, you can’t fully get a great sense for this. But this is an absolutely enormous, refrigerated warehouse room just full of wheels of cheese. I mean, there must be millions of them in this facility. And it’s far from the only one in the area. I mean, the scale of it was amazing. I mean, it makes sense. I mean, think that how beloved and ubiquitous Parmesan is in the world, but it also is just a situation where I think, yeah, it was amazing to me to see that scaled up. And then I mean, the other part is just kind of how rigorous the process is, how much is rejected? I don’t remember the exact percentages, but you know, everything you see there is finished and ripe, essentially, I think there’s one maybe one last test that it goes through before it’s actually sold. But basically, all along the way product is being rejected and either turned into something else, you know, downgraded

Natalie MacLean 26:23
To shredded cheese or something or whatever.

Zach Geballe 26:25
No, there are other kinds of, you know, hard cheeses, you know, don’t have the essentially the DOCG Parmigiano kind of appellation. It is not DOCG, but whatever, something equivalent for foodstuffs in Italy. But before you ever get to this stage, there’s a lot that gets sorted out.

Natalie MacLean 26:40
I can’t wait to get into I mean, I am into cheese, and I’ve taught basic cheese and wine pairing, but I want to dive into that even more. I mean, just the world of cheese fascinates me, with its variation like wine. Oh, where is this?

Zach Geballe 26:54
So this is my dad’s house. And this is me picking a bunch of nettles to make like nettle pesto and stuff. And I don’t know, I just thought it was fun. It’s very, like Seattle area, Pacific Northwest gloves and raincoat.

Natalie MacLean 27:07
What do nettles taste like?

Zach Geballe 27:09
They taste like you really are desperate for green vegetables in the early spring. I like nettle. Like I like to sometimes fold nettle pesto or like nettle puree into pasta dough, it kind of is interesting. You know, it’s like, if you really like the taste of a mix of like spinach and grass, it’s kind of somewhere between those two doesn’t. I mean, it’s fine. It’s just not very, again, here certainly there is a long period of time when basically the only sort of quote unquote fresh vegetables you get are basically just really hearty greens, right? Kale, chard, those kinds of things that are local and that are fresh, obviously, you know, we get lots of produce from California and Mexico and stuff like that. And so if you want something that is new growth, it doesn’t sort of have that really kind of hearty texture and just quality that those  really hardy bitter greens have, then nettles are  basically some of your first things. You know, I have a sort of fondness for them, because they do represent this sort of new growth spring thing, but I’m, I definitely don’t seek them out outside of maybe a very narrow window, in the like late winter, early spring. And of course harvesting them is you know, you have to be very careful, quickly, they will sting you if you are not gloved and such.

Natalie MacLean 28:27
So back to the beginning. Is this you?

Zach Geballe 28:29
Yeah, this is me and my sister. One of my two sisters actually, the other one is not yet born in this picture. And so yeah, this is just a set a family picnic or something.

Natalie MacLean 28:41
So cute, looks like you’re going to deck her after you give her a kiss.

Zach Geballe 28:44
Well, that’s a little bit emblematic of our relationship. Equal parts love and violence.

Natalie MacLean 28:51
Oh, lovely, lovely. Oh, my goodness.

Natalie MacLean 28:58
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed Part Two of my chat with Zach. Here are my takeaways.

I thought Zachs’ tips on pairing crisp minerally wines with oysters was spot on. And that he really should know what he’s talking about coming from Seattle where oysters are so popular and so very fresh.

Two, I agree with Zach that food and wine pairing doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal of every dining experience. Sometimes you just want to enjoy a wine that you love, and a dish that’s your favourite, and the two don’t necessarily go together. My suggestion as always is take a bite of a bun in between and relax.

And number three, I was glad to hear Zach say that it is perfectly fine to tell sommeliers that you don’t like the wine they recommended. They’ve got a personal stake in your enjoying your wine and the meal. And more importantly, coming back again.

In the shownotes you’ll find a link to the free Rosé tasting I’m hosting online on Thursday, June 10. There is no cost but space is limited. So go to Nataliemaclean.com/rose today and save your spot. Also in the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom, Insta, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm including this evening, if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/131.

You won’t want to miss next week when we chat with Scott Greenberg also known as The Vine Guy. He’s the host of The Wine of the Week show on WTOP radio in Washington DC. Scott started his career in wine journalism as the syndicated wine columnist for the Washington Journal and continues to contribute to Tasting Panel Magazine. He joins me from Park City, Utah to share lots of great stories and tasting tips with us next week.

In the meantime, if you missed Episode 18 go back and take a listen. As we head into beach weather, you may be wondering if wine makes you  fat, or you may not care at all. There’s actually good news about wine and diet and I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Regular moderate wine drinkers tend overall to be slimmer than teetotallers according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A 1991 Harvard study which followed 138,000 men and women over 10 years, found that increasing their alcohol intake didn’t cause the subjects to gain weight. In fact, the women decreased their body weight by an average of 15% instead of gaining the weight predicted according to the calories they consumed. Intriguingly, the men’s weight stayed the same. Scientists are mystified about this because it runs counter to the expectation of wine being fattening since it does add calories and should give us the munchies. Wine raises blood sugar levels, and then drops them quickly which can result in food cravings. One reason for the lack of weight gain may be that the human body treats alcohol like a toxin.

Natalie MacLean 32:28
If you like this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the tips that Zach shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week. Perhaps a terrific wine for oysters.

Natalie MacLean 32:52
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 Nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers!

 

 

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