With soaring views of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Coit Tower and Alcatraz as dramatic backdrop behind him, Jean-Charles Boisset exuberantly greets his guests with a kiss, Champagne bottle in hand.
As the group is whisked onto comfortable sofas and chairs in the main sitting room, it’s clear that Boisset, the president of historic Burgundian producer Boisset Family Estates, is no novice at hosting. His social ease and sense of fun make for the ideal afternoon as he and wife Gina Gallo, winemaker for Modesto, California-based Gallo Family Vineyards and granddaughter of late wine icon Julio Gallo, host a holiday feast in their elegant but whimsical Nob Hill apartment.
The guest list—a mixture of family, old friends and cherished colleagues—reflects the down-to-earth nature of a duo that also exudes glamour and sophistication. The balance seems totally natural for the two vintners who claim country beginnings—Gina in Modesto and Jean-Charles in Beaune, France—but also grew up with the opportunity to travel and experience diverse cultures. Their marriage in 2009 joined two of the world’s most powerful wine families, but accounts of their meeting and subsequent romance sound much like the beginnings of many couples: boy meets girl, boy is smitten, girl plays hard to get, and love conquers in the end.
Dungeness Crab Legs with Butter, Garlic and Parsley
Wild Colossal Shrimp and Bay Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce 2009 JCB No 81 Chardonnay
Claudine Boisset’s Country Terrine 2008 Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Coast Two Rock Chardonnay
Pére Louis Deschamps Escargot 2007 Gallo Family Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Jean-Charles Boisset’s Frogs Legs 2005 Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos Blanc de Vougeot Monopole
Gia Passalacqua’s Ravioli 2008 MacMurray Ranch Russian River Pinot Noir 2007 DeLoach Vineyards Russian RiverPinot Noir
Gina Gallo’s Roasted Turkey with Grandma Aileen Gallo’s Bread
Stuffing with Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Cranberry Sauce 2005 Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot
1967 JC Boisset Charmes-Chambertin
Claudine Boisset’s Braised Rabbit à la Moutarde 2005 Gallo Family Estate Northern Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Raymond Vineyards Generations Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
After Dinner Salad and Dessert
DeLoach Garden Greens with Julio Gallo’s Vinegar and Matt Gallo’s
Olive Oil served with 24-month-aged Fiscallini Cheddar, Brillat-Savarin, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam and Comté cheeses JCB Neige Première Cidre de Glace
Crêpes Flambées E&J Brandy
Chef Gia Passalacqua's Tips for Easy Holiday Entertaining
Write down your menu and a list of the ingredients for each menu item. Then, do as much of the prep as possible beforehand. This will make the day of the party more relaxing and enjoyable.
When sautéing onions or garlic in olive oil or butter, start with a cold pan. Put your fat of choice in the pan along with the savory you are using and gently simmer to slowly release its flavor into the fat. This develops background flavor and the essential foundation for your final dish.
When appropriate, balance a dish with an acid to brighten flavors. Lemon juice, wine or vinegar can work wonders for a dish.
In cooking, use your best judgment. Taste, taste, taste. Recipes are useful guidelines but by tasting, you might decide to make adjustments to the recipe.
Cook simply. Sometimes the best, most flavorful dishes have the fewest ingredients. Let the ingredients shine!
Turn your leftovers into another simple yet delicious meal. Mix some Parmigiano into your leftover mashed potatoes, spread out into a shallow baking dish and bake until crispy and warm.
Use adequate salt. Salt gives life to food.
Gina Gallo's Tips for Easy Holiday Entertaining
Fresh, seasonal flowers or evergreens make for beautiful additions. Simple, natural décor is always tasteful.
Keep it simple, prepare as much ahead of time as possible, in order to maximize the amount of time you can spend with guests—and your guests will feel more comfortable seeing their host relaxed.
Seat guests next to someone they do not know; guests will leave with new friends. Remember place cards are very helpful.
Appetizers are important, especially if you are serving wine or bubbles. It allows for guests to try a variety of foods and keeps them satisfied while waiting for dinner.
Something flop? It happens to all of us—if you don’t let it ruin your evening, neither will your guests. Remember, entertaining isn’t about perfection. Most people are happy to simply be part of the fun.
Stay in your comfort zone. Consider coming up with a list of “house specialties”—those tried-and-true favorites you can always count on to please guests. If you wish to experiment, complement your house specialties with dishes you’ve wanted to try.
Don’t forget wine and proper stemware—Riedel stemware is a great choice. Plan ahead for what wine or beverages you will serve when guests arrive and with dinner.
Have a designated bar area where guests can serve themselves while mingling. O ffer a variety of foods that make meals friendly to any guest should they have dietary restrictions or preferences (vegetarian, allergies, etc.).