.Two Local Wines For the Holiday Table

We’ve fallen hard for Birichino’s 2014 Pinot Noir Antle Vineyard.

The vineyard’s volcanic soil, granite and limestone nestled high up near the Pinnacles National Park help coax intrigue into these lovely Chalone AVA grapes. Made of organic grapes transformed into a 13-percent-alcohol bouquet of black cherries, earth, cola and mystery herbs, this is one distinctive wine. The tannins rein everything into a well-formed harmony. Birichino’s stylistic trend toward mineral-driven, low-alcohol creations is upheld by this muscular creature, more living organism than artifact. Every moment of its tasting, from aroma to finish, feels complete and balanced. Not a weak moment in the entire experience. This baby cries out for a special occasion. Even a special moment will do just fine. Like an upcoming holiday? It can partner with seafoods as well as roast turkey, carnitas, runny cheese, and toasted almonds. Kudos to winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke. Available at the Birichino Tasting Room. $40. birichino.com.


Action at Soif

While sampling some of the apps at Soif conceptualized by new chef Marshall Bishop, we discovered the secret weapon at the popular downtown destination. Bread. Housemade bread. Bread that is so good it overshadowed even an intricate creation like a slender float of foie gras layered with huckleberries, pistachio streusel and lightly whipped cream. With this came a generous portion of wonderful grilled bread that we inhaled along with some terrific Rhône wine. Crisp, abundant and delicious. A small portion of Skuna Bay salmon tartare, inflected with Meyer lemon and cucumber, arrived with an even more delectable suite of slices. These were of a darker hue studded with raisins and could have been a meal unto themselves. Another welcoming new feature of Soif’s current cuisine is the splendid offering of house marinated olives, gorgeously nestled in the center of an oversized white bowl. Tossed with lemon zest, garlic, and various herbs, the olives were our companions almost from the moment we sat down. A vibrant gesture that set up our taste buds for other dishes. The mid-week crowd at Soif prophecies a robust new year!


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Alfaro Family Fun

If it’s fun, trust the Alfaros to know all about it. Mary Kay Alfaro and her highly energized winemaker husband Richard Alfaro know how to welcome guests for the holidays. If you haven’t been to their well-sited tasting room, with its decks overlooking a sprawling panorama of vineyards, then you have a treat in store. In fact, why not visit either on Dec. 23 (in time for Christmas wine purchases) or Dec. 30 (in time to stock up for New Year’s Eve)? As Richard reminds us, magnums and double magnums are on sale. How cool would an oversized bottle of fine locally-made wine be as a gift? Or how about a half-bottle stocking stuffer? The Alfaro Tasting Room will be open on the next two Saturdays, and of course you can sample the house seven-wine flight while you browse. The Tasting Room is child- and pet-friendly, so you can take your time and enjoy the multi-sensory possibilities. Alfaro Family Vineyards sits at scenic 420 Hames Road in Corralitos. alfarowine.com.


Appetizer of the Week

The Dungeness crab and avocado creation at Oswald—full, rich, and generously packed with fresh crab meat, sided by the most pungent and alive-tasting watercress imaginable. Served with stellar sourdough and a fistful of butter. Don’t miss it! oswaldrestaurant.com.


Shadowbrook Christmas

Traditional holidays are perfect excuses to visit our favorite dining landmarks, and that would include (at the top!) Shadowbrook Restaurant. Yes, they are open with a special Holiday Menu on both Christmas Eve from 2-9:30 p.m. and Christmas Day from 11 a.m.-8:45 p.m. shadowbrook-capitola.com.


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