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It took me ages to choose a bottle of Syrah for one of Ma Maison’s Brown Bag dinners. The choices from our local wineries are many. Finally, I plumped for a bottle of Savannah-Chanelle 2006 Monterey County—Coast View Vineyard ($21). I have visited Savannah-Chanelle dozens of times and have always been impressed with their wines. They do a splendid job of turning out excellent varietals—in large part thanks to their winemaker Tony Craig. Also, as a judge for the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers commercial wine competition last year, I know that this particular wine won a well-deserved silver medal with 86 points.
The concept of the Brown Bag dinners is to take a bottle of featured wine in a brown bag and the idea is to share it with other diners. Well, the wine doesn’t literally have to be in a brown bag, but it’s a fun name for these dinners. The tables are arranged bistro style—two long tables—to make the setting more companionable.
In Ma Maison’s dining room, I immediately ran into several friends and they all had taken some very interesting Syrah. My group of four friends and I happily mixed and mingled with the other diners—tasting their wines and thoroughly enjoying the interaction. Certainly, the Savannah-Chanelle I had brought was a big hit. The peppery tones of this dynamic wine make it a perfect companion with meat dishes—and chef Lionel Le Morvan had prepared two glorious main entrees of steak and lamb. His Brown Bag dinners typically feature three courses and diners get to choose from two main entrees. I’m always smitten with Le Morvan’s classic French cuisine, and his dinner that evening was superb, ending with a marvelously decadent chocolate dessert.
Syrah is not for the faint of heart—with its typical robust flavors of dark fruits, tar and smoke—but this one was just perfect on a winter’s night at Ma Maison.
Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards, 23600 Congress Springs Road, Saratoga. (408) 741-2934. savannahchanelle.com. Open daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ma Maison, 9051 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 688-5566. mamaisonrestaurant.com. Brown Bag dinners are held the first Thursday of the month for $35 per person, plus tax and tip. Check the website to find out the featured wine.
Santa Cruz NEXT is throwing a party—and it promises to be a wonderful evening of wine and food. The nine wineries forming Surf City Vintners on the West Side of Santa Cruz will be there—pouring their terrific wines—as well as some excellent local caterers. The event is Saturday, Jan. 23 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Info: 713-5310 nexties.eventbrite.com.