Nights at the Long Table

They knew it was the right piece the moment they saw it. No need for intricate details. This restored oak table conveyed warmth, intimacy in its narrow breadth and quiet grandeur in its sturdy eight-foot length. It was a table built for lively discussion and quiet confessions. It is a table, I imagine, upon which deals have been made, letters have been penned. It is a table which speaks of memorable gatherings and memories to be made.

My sister and her husband purchased the table as an immaculate addition to their renovated home, an urban farm with all the right touches. And yet, it never felt like home for them. So last month, the moved from their urban start to a true farm, 30 acres, 30 miles east of Austin. Over the holidays, we all gathered there in the table’s new home.img_7486

When your brother, a professional chef, comes to town, every meal is taken to the next level. The ingredients are combined in new and surprising ways. Small refinements in traditional comforts, simple ingredients combine to shine. His approach to food is like his humor-subtle, unexpected, and elevated.

On our first night together at the table, he braised some locally raised grass-fed beef with three kinds of chiles, onions, tomatoes, carrots. Rustic, tempered spice, full of flavor, it needed a wine to match. I chose the 2014 Nieto Senetiner Malbec-Cabernet Franc ($15)from their Blend Collection. Blackberry nose, dried cherry on the palate, hints of smoke and green. Spicy and study, it matched the mood of the meal.

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The next evening, as the sun set we shared a game of scrabble and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, Crowded House* ($13). This wine is set to release in the states this month. This was a slightly different profile than I’ve come to expect from NZ Sauv. blanc. More lime zest and lemon pulp than grapefruit, white flowers, wax apple, cardamom. It was an interesting and enjoyable surprise.

For dinner, we moved to pork tenderloin with an herb and chile rub, roasted okra, and cheese grits. We paired a Carignan and a 2014 Nanny Goat Pinot Noir($23) from Central Otago. When it is first poured, notes of raspberry, orange peel, and baking spices dominate. As it opens the balanced acidity and minerality are joined by more complex notes of rose petal and soft leather. This wine was enjoyed by all and could be paired in many directions.img_7493

For Christmas dinner, we recreated a meal my grandmother used to prepare for us at Christmas. Sauerbraten pickles for 10-14 days in a brine of lemons, pickling spices, wine, and vinegar, My brother made traditional red cabbage and spätzle with the meal. Here is the embarrassing part. I was so enthralled and nostalgic that I didn’t take one picture of the wines shared. They were a Burgundy and a Rhone blend and delicious, I remember that.

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Each of these wines were crafted from grapes typical for their region. In the right conditions, they thrive and produce their best qualities. Each could be considered “mid-range” for price point but excellent examples of such. Each wine had elements I would expect from the grape, each had a surprising addition. They were multi-layered, both classic and interesting. Upon reflection, they paired with more than our food, I’d day they paired with the people.   Honest, warm, with always a few elements of surprise.

While saying grace our first night there, my brother-in-law expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be together and for a place to gather that felt more like “home” in one month than their other house ever did. And as we took our seats around the table, a table chosen for one place, yet moved to another, I agreed.

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As we move into the new year, I am reminded that because something is where it has been, it doesn’t mean it should stay there. Because I am comfortable where I am, with what I am doing, it doesn’t mean there isn’t more. That there are places where the old feels new again, and the new feels like it has always been there, waiting.

Hoping 2017 bring you more love, more new beginnings, and more comfort in what you already have. And many more nights at the long table.

{These wines were provided as media samples by Gregory White PR and Nonni Marketing. I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

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Being a stay- at-home mom can leave one thirsting for a taste of the outside world, a world in which sentences are composed of more than three words. Being an educator means one is always seeking an opportunity to explore and learn. Being a woman with a need to connect can be a challenge when adult conversations are rare. In wine, I find the marriage of art and science, agriculture and storytelling provides limitless areas to explore. But it is the people that keep me engaged. The tenacity needed to keep the family dream alive, the risk to start anew, the trials and principles. I love the history of the vine, the impact of a season, the sentiment in the bottle. That is why I write. I write to tell their stories, to share a piece of mine. I write to learn as I teach others. I write to connect with new friends, to disconnect from the world. I write to celebrate what makes each of us unique, and that which ties us together.

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