Visiting Napa/Noma in September

This article concludes Power Tasting’s irregular series on visiting Napa Valley and Sonoma County (“Napa/Noma”) in each of the months of the year.  So many people ask when the best time would be, and the answer is always the same: There is no best time.  Every month has its charms and its drawbacks.  If you’d like to read all of the series, scroll way down on the masthead on the left of on our Welcome page and click on Months.

One thing differentiates a visit to Napa/Noma in September from all the other months: the harvest is in full flight every day.  There are plusses and minuses to that fact.  There are some things that you can only see and do if you are there for The Crush, as they call it.  On the other hand, there are some things that you might want to see and do that are more difficult when the harvest is on.

Carneros in September, between Napa and Sonoma Counties.

If you want to get a visceral understanding of the industrial process that is winemaking, you can surely do that in September.  Just drive around a bit and you’ll find workers in the vineyards picking grapes, loading them in baskets and dumping the fruit into trucks.  However, just as often these days, you’ll see giant harvesters doing the job without hand laborers.  You’re more likely to see the manual process at the vineyards producing more expensive wines; the cost of labor is a factor in the price.  But the quality also comes from selective picking.

Making wine at Saintsbury.

Some wineries process the grapes in outdoor facilities.  Easiest to find are the sorting and de-stemming operations.  You may very well not get to see the actual crushing and maceration of the wine.  These are industrial processes and the last thing winemakers need is a crowd of tourists trying to figure out what’s going on.  You may find that winery tours available the rest of the year are not available during the week or two that the harvest is on.

Because so many people do want to visit during this time of the year, hotel rooms are harder to get and more expensive when you do.  Restaurants also tend to fill up sooner because of all the tourists, but fewer tables are taken by locals, many of whom are exhausted from making wine.

As elsewhere, the beginning of the month is still summer, while autumn rolls in at the end.  But California stays warmer for longer than other places, sometimes much warmer for much longer.  Sadly, one of the considerations about visiting Napa/Noma in September is the possibility that wildfires will erupt.  In 2020, the biggest of the Napa fires began in late September and lasted into October.  But in Sonoma County, the fires began in August.  In 2017, they occurred in October in both locations.  There is no reason to think that wild fires will happen, but plenty of reason to think they might.  This has to be part of your travel planning in these perilous times.

Whatever the issues, it’s a lot of fun to see The Crush.  That’s a powerful reason to visit Napa/Noma in September.

Memories of the Barossa Valley

There are sections of Wine Country that we return to over and over: California, France, Italy, Long Island among them.  We suspect that many wine tasting enthusiasts focus on these and other popular destinations.  And then there are the wine making areas that are near cities where life just happens to take us.  It has been many years since we visited Australia’s Barossa Valley, because we had some work in nearby Adelaide, only 45 minutes away.  We’re sure that much has changed in the interim, but some things have remained the same.

The Barossa Valley, among the most beautiful wine-producing regions in the world.  Photo courtesy of TrailHopper

We are certain that they still drive on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.  If driving while wine tasting concerns you, then doing everything backwards won’t ease your worries.  Maybe this is the occasion to take a tour. (We were hosted and chauffeured by a business colleague, so as they say there, “No worries, mate”.)

A distinctive feature of the Barossa Valley is its German heritage.  Many of the wineries there sport Germanic names and a lot of the restaurants are the wurst places to go.  (Sorry about that.)  Of course, there are many people of British extraction there as well.

Barossa is famous for one grape: Shiraz.  Yes, it’s called Syrah in France and America, but Aussie Shiraz is really distinctive.  The first time we were served it by Australian friends, we thought the wine had gone bad.  Then we realized it was just different from anything we’d ever tasted before.  Of course, Australian wines are better known these days but be prepared for some eye (and mouth) opening experiences.

Wine tasting in Barossa is familiar to many Americans.  The people are friendly and welcoming and if possible even more casual than the servers in Sonoma or Paumanok.  Being Australian, they are hearty and bold, and the same can be said of their wines.  If you like power hitters, you’ll be in heaven here.

The Henschke winery tasting room.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

They are intensely proud of their wines, as they should be.  Their wineries were little known outside Australia when we were there but wines from Seppelt, Peter Lehmann, Torbreck and Wolf Blass (note all the German names) can be found in wine stores around the world.  Of course, what we get at home are the mass production wines.  You can taste some of the rather spectacular wines they keep for themselves if you visit Barossa.

Two Barossa wines can hold their own with the best in the world.  The most famous is Penfolds Grange.  Even greater, to our taste, is Henschke’s Hill of Grace. These are massive wines, 100% Shiraz and sought after by wine lovers everywhere.  Of course, they come at quite a price, north of $650 American dollars at the winery.  To give an idea how long ago we visited the Barossa Valley, we were able to pick up bottles of both at $25 American dollars, equivalent to $63 today.  Here’s to the memories.




When you are out wine-tasting, lunch is a necessity.  Don’t even think of sipping wine on an empty stomach.  Breakfast is important too, but the morning meal does not lend itself to lazy luxuriating quite as much as does lunch.  One thing that almost all wine-making regions have in common is the availability of superb cuisine.  Why travel all that way to Wine Country and deny yourself the pleasure of a leisurely meal at midday?

Caffés in Montalcino.

In Europe, you have no choice.  On that enlightened continent, a two-hour work stoppage is de rigeur, as they say over there.  So you pull into a town or stop at a French café (or an Italian caffé) surrounded by vines and do like the locals do.  We can’t open a bottle of Brunello without thinking of warm afternoons on the piazzas of Montalcino.  The same goes for St. Emilion, Greve in Chianti and Chateauneuf de Pape.

When visiting California’s sections of Wine Country, you have the option to gulp down a Big Mac and keep on tasting.  We Americans are all go-go-go and that does have some business advantage.  But if you are on a wine tasting trip, you’re not there on business (unless you’re a distributor).  Just because you can try three wineries between noon and 2:00 doesn’t mean that you should.  Not when the bistros of Calistoga, Healdsburg, Paso Robles or Santa Barbara are calling out to you.

It’s all a matter of attitude.  If you just happen to be passing through and you only have a little while available to you, then eat something quickly and then stop by at a winery or two.  But have you ever just happened to be passing through Yountville?  Or Pauillac?

Another argument is that wine tasting should be about wine and a fancy lunch is just an unnecessary use of your mouth.  If your objective is just to taste as much wine as you can in as short a time as possible – a highly dangerous goal – you’re better off picking up a few bottles at the store and staying home.  For us, at any rate, a large part of the reason to go wine tasting is to be in Wine Country, to soak it all in (not just drink it all in).  And that means eating lunch where the locals go.

Photo courtesy of the (San Jose) Mercury News.

You’ll never dine anywhere where there are no tourists, but there are many places where you can sit with people from the neighborhood and from the wineries.  That doesn’t necessarily mean white tablecloths and fine fare.  For example, if you’re tasting in St. Helena, there are few places that scream WINE COUNTRY like the original Gott’s Roadside.  Oh, there are all the attributes of the fancy places, such as locavore purveyors and Ahi tuna, but at the end of the day, it’s about the burgers.  And if you want some wine, Joel Gott makes that too.

The point is that you should make a good lunch a part of your wine tasting adventure, not a diversion from it.  Be careful how much you drink with lunch if you’re going to keep tasting all afternoon, but remember wine was made to go with food.

The Importance of Being There

It’s always fun to discover that an unknown wine from an obscure location is really pretty good.  But with all due respect to the Mavrud grapes of Bulgaria or the sparkling wines of Brazil, there’s a reason why the world beats a path to Bordeaux, Tuscany, Napa Valley, Burgundy, the Rioja and Sonoma County: They’re the best.  If you want to be a knowledgeable wine taster. before you get off the beaten path, you’d better be familiar with some if not all of the premier sectors of Wine Country

What’s the big deal about being there, in the most famous locales?

For one thing, there’s a pleasure when you open a bottle in remembering what the region looked like or even better what the winery was like.  There’s nothing like the experience of touching the actual grapes (or maybe filching one to see what they’re like) when you pour what they made from them.  Except for winemakers themselves, most of us couldn’t tell a Cabernet Sauvignon grape from a Pinot Noir, but it’s fun to believe you could.  And you can only pretend to do so if you’ve actually been there to see them.

Of course, you can look at grapes anywhere they grow them.  But when you’re standing in front of Château Margaux touching the grapes (which we have done) you know that these are among the greatest grapes in the world.  You have to be there.

Château Margaux.  Photo courtesy of Forbes.

Wine is made of grapes but people make wine.  It’s a wonderful experience meeting these people in their own environment.  For the most part, they’re very nice.  And why shouldn’t they be?  You’ve come a long way to taste their wines and you chose their winery for the purpose.  If you’re serious about wine tasting – and you must be, because you’re there – they are as eager to know something about their customers as you are to engage with the winemaker.

We were in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or many years ago, having a picnic in a churchyard.  A man walked by and spotted us and came over to talk.  We thought he was going to tell us to move but, no, he wanted to see what we were drinking with lunch.  When he found that a couple from the other side of the Atlantic was having a premier cru with our jambon and baguette, he was quite pleased.  “Quelle pique-nique!”  It turned out that he owned a few rows of vines in the adjoining vineyard.  We think of him every time we open a top Burgundy.  To do that, you have to be there.

For us, wine is a beverage to accompany dinner, sometimes for meditation, a subject of eternal fascination and, in wine tasting, an avocation that has taken us to vineyards around the world.  We can and do enjoy the wine from the store around the corner, but it’s not the same experience.  The pleasure of wine tasting, as opposed to drinking, comes as much from the tastes, memories and feelings as much as from the wine itself.  And to get that experience, you have to be there.

Visiting Napa/Noma in December

December’s weather is very unpredictable in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, which we elide to be Napa/Noma.  We have been there at times when it is absolutely springlike and on other occasions we have frozen in temperatures much colder than that which we left behind in New York.  So before you come, by all means check your favorite weather app to learn how to pack.

A chilly December morning just off the Silverado Trail.

There are many advantages to a visit in December and a few drawbacks.  It’s a rather relaxed time for the local folks.  The hardest work of the harvest is over and the new wine is sleeping soundly in barrels.  If you’re taking a tour, you won’t get to see people actually making wine (come in September and October for that) but on the other hand, you’ll be able to see all of the winery.  It’s not safe to traipse around when the destemmers and fermenting tanks are in full operation, with workers busy everywhere.

The big plus is the celebration of the holidays.  Many if not all of the wineries decorate for Christmas, some rather splendidly.  We can recommend Robert Mondavi and Beringer in Napa Valley and Arrowood in Sonoma County for the attractiveness of their displays.  Wine tasting is a rather festive pastime by itself; it gets downright merry at Christmas.

In addition, many of the wineries have private parties at this time of year, often on the first weekend of the month but later if that weekend is early in a given year.  Most of them are for their club members and are often called “pickup parties”.  The members from nearby are expected to pick up their December shipments in person and they get a little extra.  If you show up and you’re not a club member, they will almost never shoo you away.  On those days, they normally have their best wines available for tasting.

Also, many wineries hold fancy dinner parties for their club members, usually for a stiff price.  If you’re in a mood for a banquet dinner – always with great wine – you can join one club before you go and then sign up for the dinner.  Many of them sell out early, so give yourself some time in advance if you choose to do this.

Yountville at Christmas.  Photo courtesy of The Wine Stay.

Some wineries have rather extensive (and often expensive) gift shops.  What better time to shop for gifts than December?  The shops are extensively decorated and of course many of the items are Christmas-themed.  Among the best are Mondavi and Beringer, once again, but also Darioush and Rubicon.  Moreover, the same can be said for the towns as well, where they are selling things to the local people, not just the tourists.  (Yountville is especially beautiful at this time of year.)  Among things we have bought over the years have been a gilded grape leaf to hang on a sturdy branch of a Christmas tree and a wreath made of grape vines.

Of course, you may be rather cold if you visit Napa/Noma in December, but the crowds will be sparser (except on party days).  Hotels are more available, as are restaurant tables.  With much of the previous release’s wines already sold, you may have some difficulty tasting your favorites, but consider that a chance to discover something different.

Don’t let the weather deter you.  December’s pleasures overwhelm the few disadvantages.

Contrasts: Wine Tasting in California and in Europe

In some ways, wine tasting is the same experience wherever you do it.  Someone offers you a glass, fills it with wine and tells you what you have in your glass.  You sip the wine, think about how it smells and tastes and try to remember how much you liked it.  But in many other not quite so fundamental ways, the experience of wine tasting varies greatly depending on what part of Wine Country you are in when you do it.  Of course, different places make different kinds of wine but let’s put that aside.  We are talking here simply of the differences in the experiences you have, which after all is what Power Tasting is all about.

Opus One winery, one of the most European tasting experiences in California.  Photo courtesy of the Napa Valley Register.

Wine tasting in California is rather straightforward, with a few big exceptions.  You drive up to a pretty building, enter a well-decorated tasting room and sample several wines.  In most places, there are a variety of wines to choose among – red, white and rosé – and most tasting rooms allow you to try four or five of them.  In a few wineries there is a dessert wine to top it all off.  If it’s not too busy and if your server has some knowledge of wine, you might also have the chance for an interesting discussion about what you’re being served.

As to those California exceptions, more and more wineries that sell highly priced wines now only offer seated tastings by appointment.  Often a tour is a prerequisite for a tasting.  There will be a smaller number of wines available, but they will all be well-made expressions of the terroir and the varietal.

Domaine la Soumade in the Southern Rhone Valley, one of the most Californian tasting experiences in Europe.  Photo courtesy of the Our House in Provence blog.

Europe is too big a place with way too many wines to make any meaningful generalizations…but we’ll try anyway.  In some places, the experience is quite Californian.  Wineries have built pretty buildings (or taken over quite impressive old buildings) and serve their wines at a stand-up bar.  In terms of the experience, you could just as well be in Mendocino as Montalcino.  The conversation may be somewhat more limited, depending on your language skills and that of the server.  The range of wines you may taste could be very much more limited; in some places such as Bordeaux, Burgundy or Chianti they only make a red and a white and the only variety is based on the level of quality.

There are several other variations in Europe.  The biggest, best known producers only offer tastings by appointment, if they do so at all.  The service will be in well-spoken English, because you reserved it that way.  There may be only one wine to taste and it will be very good.

At the other extreme, there are many instances in Europe where a tasting, such as it is, is held in the winemaker’s kitchen, with that fellow or his aunt serving you whatever they make.  In some places that may be only one wine, but more likely you find a fairly broad selection of the same type of wine from their properties around the region.

Since these generalizations are so broad, we recommend you do a little homework before you travel to taste wine in Europe.  It will save you from misunderstandings and disappointments.

Wine Tasting in Sonoma County, Only Yesterday

Sonoma County has unique attractions for wine lovers: an enormous variety of, well, varietals; beautiful scenery; great restaurants; and of course some very fine wines.  But earlier in our years of wine tasting, Sonoma County was often viewed as simply an adjunct to its more “refined” neighbor across the Mayacamas range.

Chateau St. Jean.  Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism.

Whenever we wanted to visit Sonoma County, we would take a day out of a trip to Napa Valley and traveled across the Oakville Grade to the southern end, known today as Sonoma Valley.  Our experience there was limited to the wineries right along Route 12 (Sonoma Highway) so that later on we could get back easily to the Napa side.  That wasn’t very restrictive because there were some pretty good places to taste wine.  A typical visit would start at B. R. Cohn, move on to Arrowood, then Kenwood and finish at Château St. Jean.  (Come to think of it, that’s not a bad selection even today.)

But Russian River? Alexander Valley? Dry Creek?  We seem to remember that we had heard of them, maybe, but we had no idea where they were or what they produced.  Then, some time in the 1990’s, we thought we’d spend an entire trip in Sonoma County.  Friends looked at us quizzically.  “Why go there? Why not just stick with the good stuff in Napa?” they would say.  Ever adventurous, we took off across the Golden Gate and along Route 101 only getting a little lost around the town of Sonoma.

The view across Dry Creek Valley.

Yes, we discovered all sorts of wonderful wines and wineries.  There weren’t as many then but there were lots of well-established wineries, without any of the fancy-schmancy buildings and tasting rooms that were then being erected in Napa Valley.  What some might have called rustic we interpreted as authentic.  Instead of fighting the traffic on Napa’s Route 29, we were traveling along beautiful country roads, lined with vines.

However, there were some drawbacks.  It was hard to find a meal.  There were no restaurants at all along those country roads, and even on Route 101 all we could find were fast food joints.  Hotels weren’t a problem; we stayed at the Hilton in Santa Rosa, now sadly lost to the 2017 fires.  But as recently as the year 2000, we pulled into Healdsburg at midday and had trouble finding a restaurant where we could sit and enjoy lunch and a glass of wine.

Today, the best of Sonoma County is still there while the shortcomings have been eliminated.  The scenery is till ravishing.  There are quite a few wineries that make world-class wines.  Chards, Cabs, Zins and Pinots to be sure, but also wineries that specialize in grapes native to the Rhône and to Italy, as well as California’s own Petite Sirah.  And there is no longer any difficulty finding a good meal, we can assure you.  In recent trips, we’ve dined excellently in Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Windsor and of course in Healdsburg, the culinary mecca of Sonoma County.

We miss a bit of the anything-goes nature of the Sonoma County of yesteryear.  The rough edges have been knocked off, and there are some full-fledged palaces for tasting.  But Sonoma County’s charm and quality have persisted and even improved, so there’s really no comp


We have been enjoying wine tasting for many years.  We keep going back to Wine Country because of the beauty of the environment, enjoying our favorite wines, getting to know the terroir and the people who make wine.  At this point in our wine tasting “career” we get our greatest enjoyment from making discoveries.

There are different sorts of discoveries and all are wonderful because they are, by definition, unexpected.  One sort is finding that a winery that we’re already familiar with has some delicious wines that we didn’t know that they made.  In recent months, one such was Etude Wines’ L’Esprit, their new dessert wine, which we hadn’t ever heard of, even though we are members of their wine club.  For another example, we knew all about Robert Mondavi Winery’s top-ranked Cabernet Sauvignons.  But we were unaware of the depth of their portfolio of Pinot Noirs.

The reverse can also happen, finding that a winery that we hadn’t thought much of can produce some high-quality wines.  Very often that’s because those that focus on the mass market only allow their winemakers to make small amounts of finer wines, just to show off their chops.  These wines are usually available only in the tasting rooms and then only in small quantities.  The only way you’ll ever get to taste them is on a wine tasting trip.  When we find some of these wines, we leave the winery with a smile and the lingering taste of surprising wine on our lips.  Without casting aspersions on any winery, we’ve had that experience at Clos Du Val and William Hill Winery in Napa Valley.

The tasting room at Testarossa Winery.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

We have also had the happy experience of finding great wine in a region where we visited with low expectations.  Our best recent find in that regard was at Testarossa Winery in, of all places, California’s Silicon Valley.  There among the software we found Pinot Noirs that completely wowed us.  They are located at the northern end of the Santa Clara Valley where, we must sadly state, we found no other wines that came even close to what Testarossa can do.

Then there are the discoveries of a whole different sort that occur when we travel internationally.  Sure, we knew that places like Australia and South Africa had vineyards.  But very often the wines that are exported to the United States are of the mass production variety.  That way there is enough volume to make it worthwhile for the States-side importers to bring them here.  If you are lucky enough to discover their top-end wineries and wines before they become internationally known, you can do some fabulous tasting before the wines get terribly pricy.  Perhaps our favorite example was buying bottles of Henschke Hill of Grace in Australia for $25; today they go for $800!

The secret to making wine tasting discoveries is being open to them.  Just because you may not have heard of a region, a winery or a wine doesn’t eliminate the possibility of finding something you’ll really enjoy.  In fact, it’s the possibilities that make wine tasting such a life-long avocation.  There’s always something new – that’s why they put vintage years on the labels – and there’s always someone who’s making great stuff that we haven’t heard of.  So let’s go wine tasting and see what’s over the next hill.

Getting Care in Wine Country

We all go wine tasting for the sheer joy of it.  Alas, there are some times that our pleasure is tempered by illness or other health-related problems.  Now, we’re not talking about major issues that simply make it impossible for you to continue visiting wineries, when only a hospital will suffice.  But even in Wine Country, people get colds and allergies, or need to see a doctor of pharmacist for something minor.  This has happened to us more than a few times, so we’d like to share a few of our experiences, in hopes that our readers will benefit from them.

Photo courtesy of Farmacia Trovate.

Wine Country is full of growing things, and some of them make us sneeze and rub our eyes.  In the United States we’re never far from a CVS, a Walgreen or a Rite-Aid. (There’s a very large CVS on Trancas Street in Napa where we always seem to wind up on our trips to Napa Valley.)  Of course, we can find everything that we can at home, but these drug stores are especially important if we forget a prescription. (It’s happened a few times).  We’ve had to call our physician for an emergency prescription, or have our credit card company do it for us.  We have had some high expenses this way, because our insurance company wasn’t amused about paying for the same meds twice in a week or so.

Of course, there were special considerations when we’re buying medicines in Wine Country.  We had to be careful about pills that made us drowsy, because we were driving…and tasting wine.  The label on many medications warn not to do either of those things.

We have to double down on those problems when we’re tasting wine outside the US.  Even in countries where English is the language spoken, they don’t call over-the-counter medicines by the same name as we do.  We’ve had a headache in Australia and wanted something strong.  We looked for Advil and remembered that it’s properly called ibuprofen.  We got dull looks when we asked for either of those names until a friendly pharmacist remembered that ibuprofen in Australia is called Nurofen.

And where English isn’t spoken it’s even more difficult.  We had a little nagging cough in Chianti.  We had to figure out how to say “cough drops” in Italian.  In this little village, there was no internet connectivity to look up the translation.  “Coffo” didn’t work.   Finally, a little forced cough and pantomiming the drops got us a box.  (It’s “tosse” in Italian, by the way.)  If there were any counterindications, there was no way we were going to know.  By the way, if you’re visiting France, the French word for cough is “toux” and cough drop is “pastille”.

If you ever need a doctor or a dentist on short notice, most hotels keep a list of nearby practitioners who can help out-of-towners.  There are also emergency rooms, of course, but they’re not going to help if, as happened to us, a  tooth filling came out.  But the nice people at our hotel contacted a dentist.  The next morning we were patched up and back on our way to sample the fines wines in that region.

Choucroute in Alsace

If you are going wine tasting in the easternmost part of France, you’ll be in Alsace, where they grow white wine grapes, mostly Riesling and Gewürztraminer.  Now, those are German grapes, which is fitting because over the centuries Alsace has gone back and forth from being a part of Germany to being a part of France.  It’s been French since the end of the First World War, but was German for 50 years before that.

The principal city of Alsace is Strasbourg.  It looks very German in its architecture, but the feeling there is joie de vivre, not gemütlichkeit.  Alsace generally and Strasbourg in particular feel like Germany with French people.  And the food is a blend of the two as well.  There is the expression “to be stuffed like a Strasbourg goose”, perhaps because that’s how you get fois gras, the emperor of all patés.  The dish that Alsace is best known for, though, is a mixture of sauerkraut and smoked meats called choucroute.

Photo courtesy of Food and Wine.

Chou is French for cabbage.  Put that together with the “kraut” in sauerkraut and you get choucroute.  Today you can find this dish on menus all over France, especially in the cooler months and there are places in Paris and Lyon that make it very well.  But the best is in Alsace, where it was born, and the best of the best is to be found in Strasbourg.  Which restaurant?  That’s like asking where’s the best pizza in Brooklyn: Everywhere!

It’s made of sauerkraut that’s baked for hours and towards the end adding the meats. At one time or another, we’ve experienced smoked ham, pork chops, frankfurters, Alsatian sausage, Toulouse sausage, Polish kielbasa, knockwurst, bratwurst, weisswurst, thickly sliced bacon, ham hocks and other meats we weren’t exactly sure about.  Some people consider juniper berries to be an essential ingredient but we don’t agree with those people.  There are always a few boiled potatoes and lots of Dijon mustard on the side.

On Alsatian menus you’ll also find choucroute fruit de mer, or sauerkraut with seafood, a combination that never really appealed to us.  Salmon, haddock, mussels, shrimp, lobster and langoustines replace the smoked meats.  It’s something to try once.

Our experiences with choucroute in France all involve overeating.  It’s impossible not to.  First of all, any respectable restaurant will pile up the sauerkraut on your plate.  Figure a pound per person and you’re just getting started.  Then all those meats!  Each one is so delicious but cumulatively they’re way too much to finish.  Of course, the chef could just serve you less, but instead they tempt you with Choucroute Royale, which just means the basic dish, with more of everything.  It’s enough for a family of four and you’re supposed to finish it yourself!

Because of its place of origin, most people drink Alsatian wines with choucroute or a beer.   Our opinion as wine lovers is that a hearty red wine goes best.