It’s rather difficult to pair wine with Indian food. Typically, Indian people do not drink wine with their food. Those wonderful hot and spicy dishes need the cooling flavors of lassi, chai—or just plain water. But friends had invited my husband and I to an authentic Indian meal at their home for 10 people cooked by a lady from Goa on the west coast of India, so I searched for something light to go with the food—and Aptos Vineyard’s Chardonnay ($17 from DeLuxe Foods of Aptos) seemed like just the ticket. It’s an uncomplicated wine with a fruity palate—and with just the sort of apples and pears aroma needed for a zesty Goan feast. It’s certainly not the “buttery” Chardonnay that many wine tasters expect—being much more crisp and perky.
John Marlo, a retired judge, and his wife Patti started Aptos Vineyard quite a while ago. “We’ve been doing this for about 35 years,” says John. “We first planted in 1973. I was on the bench at the time, and it was a diversion from being in court all day. Also, we have five children, so I thought it would be nice if they would all come home at harvest time and work in the vineyard. Nowadays, I just buy the Chardonnay juice and John Schumacher at Hallcrest [Vineyards] makes the wine for us under our label. I get the wine back with my name on it and then we sell it.”
He goes on to say that he hasn’t had a crop for several years. “There’s a litany of problems,” he says, mentioning gophers, deer, mildew—because of being close to the ocean—and the dreaded glassy-winged sharpshooter, which has wiped out many a vineyard. But he still grows Pinot Noir grapes and won a gold medal at the Orange County Fair for that particular varietal. “I don’t make wine at all,” he says. “I’m a typical lawyer. I can talk about absolutely anything but I have no aptitude for making wine.”
Judge Marlo has had an interesting wine career, and was one of the original founding members of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association. “We go back a long time,” he says. “David Bruce [of David Bruce Winery] was the first one that made our Pinot for us.” Marlo has also given wine lectures on cruise ships traveling around South America.
Wearing a sari and a bindi, I carry my bottle of Judge’s Reserve Chardonnay, made from Santa Cruz mountains grapes, into our friends’ house and open it up. As I expected, it’s a nice starting wine to go with the Indian appetizers and curried soup.
John Marlo ends our chat by telling me that he does all the viticulture himself. “When I prune the vines they do exactly what I tell them. And it was always a great release from being on the bench all day.”
Aptos Vineyard, 7278 Mesa Drive, Aptos. 662-9102. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir produced by Hallcrest Vineyards. No tasting room available.