MERRY-MAKERY, MONDAVI-STYLE: A bottle of good vino is so woven into our ideas about December celebrating that it can be difficult to see a well-set table or a glittery cocktail party without a bottle or two in the background. Wineries suggest specific vintages for specific celebratory dishes, and home cooks comb web sites and magazines and books looking for the perfect main course to pair with a pinot noir they bought on a wine country drive last summer. The sippable stuff under the cork and behind the label can, in short, dictate the meal, and suggest the theme of a gathering. It's powerful in spirit, and marking the merriest season of the year at an iconic winery seems very full-circle-ish, at least for those who count themselves as food devotees and fans of fine wines. That full circle idea comes, well, full circle on Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. Rather than simply flipping the switch on the lights and decor while the winery is closed, the destination throws a party, with heart, for the public. It's the annual tree lighting, and it is a canned food drive as well, for the Napa Valley Food Bank.
THE COST TO JOIN IN? It's twenty five dollars, if you're not in the Wine Club (if you are, your entry is gratis). You're invited to show with some cans to donate, and a camera, too, as Santa will be in the house. Actually "the house" here is the pretty Margrit Mondavi Vineyard Room, where Ms. Mondavi herself will speak and share stories (the room will be "beautifully decorated" to match the occasion). Buggy rides in the To Kalon Vineyard, carolers, and wine-ready snacks like charcuterie and Italian cookies are on the docket, too. Yes, we did say "wine-ready" there; look for wine-tasting opportunities, or hot cider if you're thinking in that direction.
IS THIS THE MOST CALIFORNIA WAY... to welcome the frolics of the end of the year? Well, there are probably a few more -- beach bonfires, a redwoods hike, a visit to see the lights of Disneyland -- but call the Mondavi Winery's entry into the season as classic as Golden State celebrations come.