Spirited Choices

I’m actually on the road while I write this, visiting Mary Watson, the sommelier at the Lansdowne Resort in Virginia, and talking with her about food and wine pairings.  Mary and I spent a winter-thaw-warm
southern afternoon in her herb garden, twisting small budding leaves from plants that were just beginning to show signs of spring. 

Mary’s joie de vivre is infectious.  “Taste this one honey!” she says, beaming brightly while offering me a fragment of a chocolate flavored mint plant.   “Pair this with a great wine and it’s just heartbreaking!”  Her Mississippi drawl oozes over her words like chocolate sauce and I’m ready to try anything she suggests.

“When a wine goes into the bottle, there’s not much you can do to it to make it a better wine,” she says.  “But if you pair it with the right flavors in food, you can transform an ok wine to a good wine and sometimes a good wine into a great one.” 

During lunch, Mary puts her theory to the test, boosting moderately priced white wines into intoxicating elixirs and good basic reds into memorable vintages with the help of a few pinchfuls of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

She tells me that wine can be dressed, accessorized and made-up to accent it’s innate beauty.  Mary is a sort of makeover artist for wine.  Her befores and afters are as amazing as the ones you see on Oprah.  

Mary’s anti-wine snobbery extends to pairing Chardonnay with popcorn and Sauvignon Blanc with twinkies.  As Mary says, “The good things in life are not complicated.  They are as simple as the basic question, “What do you like?”” 

This month we’ll be helping you answer that question yourself with escape stories for your palate.  A good bottle of wine can be a vacation, just as a memorable meal can be a total getaway. 

Gretchen Kelly
Escapes Editor