Graham's at Squaw : Great Wine List, Great Food, Warm Ambiance!

There are many places to enjoy Holiday dinners with great wine selections around Tahoe. My choice this year is Graham’s at Squaw Valley. For warmth of both surrounding and personnel, a classic dinner with classic wines, and very attentive wine experts, it’s hard to beat. You’ll find it tucked away behind Granite Chef at 1650 Squaw Valley Road.

Rich Trattnow is the well-versed sommelier who took almost two decades to build the wine list from 45 to over 600 wines. When you go onto their website,, you can pull up the 37-page wine list to peruse before you go. My advice? Let Rich guide you with your selections.

He selected the 2006 Barton & Guestier Sauternes to pair with the pear & foie gras appetizer. The aroma of honeysuckle is immediately noticeable, and the taste was the classic dessert wine profile. An interesting pairing, and it worked beautifully. $12/glass.

What’s a sauterne? Here’s a useful tidbit from “The great sweet wines of Bordeaux, Sauternes, are among the most decadent, complex and simply enjoyable wines. Based on a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that has been infected with the "noble rot", Botrytis Cinerea, Sauternes are rich, honied wines bursting with notes of vanilla, coconut, dried apricots and subtle spice tones. They are usually very sweet and rich with a soft quality to them that makes them appealing in their youth yet they can age and improve for decades. “ Alcohol content is usually 14% or higher.

Our next small plate was fig wrapped with bacon and served on a bed of watercress. To pair, Rich chose the 2007 Castello Banfi Pinot Grigio San Angelo Toscana. The grassy character of this wine is evident on the nose, and carries through to the palette also. Although most Pinot Grigio is associated with Northern Italy, the climate of Tuscany, where this wine is from, indicates a good growing region here too. This wine has an aroma that is fruity and intensive, and a taste that is clean and refreshing. Some wine writers see if as a superb aperitif wine as well as a food wine. $30/bottle. 12.5% alcohol.

The lambchop with mashed potato paired well with the 2006 Chateau de Pez Bordeaux, Saint Estephe. In a few words, it is ripe and attractive. A blend of 70% cabernet, 15% cabernet franc, and 15% merlot, this wine hails from the Haut Medoc region of Bordeaux. The importer’s notes: ”Warm and spicy fruit, nutty oak, and a ripe and supple character on the palate. It has a well composed style, with a vigorous acid backbone and plenty of tannic grip beneath." In Graham’s wine cellar, the 1995 sells for $95/bottle. See if he has any of the 2006 around, it is quite good. 13% alcohol traditionally.

What to pair with the beef filet with wild mushroom demi-glaze and white truffle mashed potatoes? Rich selected McDowell Valley 2002 Syrah, sourced from the winery’s vineyards 100 miles north of San Francisco nestled in the Mayacamas Mountains of southeastern Mendocino Count. These vineyards are home to some of the oldest Syrah vines in the United States, dating back to 1919. This is a well-priced wine that received an 88 point rating in Wine Spectator, which reviewed it thus: “Lots of ripe, up-front floral and lavender aromas, with spice, wild berry, cedar and black cherry fruit, offering intensity and richness, with firm tannins and a touch of tar and spice.” $44/bottle. 15% alcohol.

There are many other interesting wines to taste: let Rich guide you! Graham’s is located at 1650 Squaw Valley Road in Olympic Valley, California. Call (530) 581-0454 for hours and reservations.
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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in December 2010.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

Sherry: The Other Wine for the Holidays

That wonderful group The Secret Sherry Society keeps me informed about the wide world of sherry, and most of this column emanates from their dispatches. In truth, you cannot go wrong with bringing a bottle of sherry as either a holiday gift, or having one handy to share in upcoming months.

“Sherry is full of vitality and complex flavors. It brings our favorite foods to life and reminds us why people have been drinking wine for hundreds of years. It may be an historic wine, but in the United States, Sherry is new again. Sherry can be described in one word: versatility. There is a Sherry for every mood and every occasion,” says the Society.

Sherry is a fortified wine, which means that it has been fortified with spirits – specifically brandy. The best examples of Sherry can be delicious, complex, exciting and refreshing. Most of us have never tasted a great Sherry because in many restaurants and bars it is often left open too long or unrefrigerated on a shelf. But, wait until you try fresh Sherry from a newly opened bottle.

In sherry, location matters. The Secret Sherry Society notes that it’s only Sherry if it’s from Jerez, Spain.

With the wide spectrum of Sherry styles, there’s sure to be a Sherry that fits every mood and personality. Which Sherry are you or your friends? Take the Society quiz below to find out.

Are you a smart, dry-witted, urban sophisticate who enjoys dry white wines? Your Sherry personality might be Fino or Manzanilla. Fino is pale, dry and delicate, great with seafood and soups or can be enjoyed alone as an aperitif. Manzanilla is made in a seaside town called Sanlucar de Barrameda. The result is a dry Sherry that has a unique, almost briny flavor.

Pairings for Fino and Manzanilla: appetizers, canapés, spring rolls, dumplings, Serrano ham, tapas, chorizo, goat or sheep’s milk cheese, ceviche, sushi, sashimi, oysters, calamari, marinated or smoked fish, shellfish (i.e. shrimp or lobster).

Are you the type who enjoys a hike through the woods on a crisp fall day? Your Sherry personality might be Amontillado. Amontillado is amber in color, dry and robust in taste, possessing a slightly nutty smell. Great as an aperitif, with poultry, meat or after dinner.

Pairings for Amontillado: Everything you would pair with a Fino would also work with an Amontillado, but also consider light meat soups like consommé, rich seafoods like scallops, sardines or herring, grilled fish, poultry, game birds, meat terrines, and ripe, pungent cheeses.

Do you enjoy adventure and mystery? Do your friends describe you as bold and worldly? Your Sherry personality might be Oloroso. Oloroso is dark, full and exotic. They are nutty and fragrant in character.

Pairings for Oloroso: cheeses, foie gras, game meat, red meats, smoked meats, rich foods, and after dinner with cheese, nuts, savory desserts and dried fruits.

Do you have a love of travel and adventure, but prefer a plaid shirt over formal wear? Palo Cortado might be your Sherry personality. Palo Cortado is a rare style of Sherry with the nose of an amontillado and the flavor of an Oloroso.

Pairings for Palo Cortado: rich foods, cheeses, game meat, smoked meat, pork chops, and after dinner with cheese, nuts, savory desserts and dried fruits.

Do you eat your dinner for the main purpose of getting to dessert? You could have a Moscatel or
Pedro Ximénez Sherry personality.

Moscatel is a sweet, soft dessert-style wine. Pairings for Moscatel: foie gras, chocolate, cheese, sip as dessert.

Pedro Ximénez is a rich, dark, raisin-sweet dessert-style wine. Pairings for Pedro Ximenez: foie gras, cheese, sip as dessert, pour over ice cream.

Whatever your preferences, treat yourself and those on your gift list to wine’s best kept secret and discover the deliciousness and versatility of Sherry wines.

(Many thanks to the Secret Sherry Society for these and other interesting tidbits on sherry)

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in December 2010.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".