Skip to Main Content

The Wine Table

Recipes and Pairings from Winemakers' Kitchens

***Named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2018 by The Washington Post***

This book combines a love of food and wine with history, culture, and plenty of personal touch.


We all dream of tasting our way through Burgundy, walking through vineyards in Champagne with a winemaker, or dining late into the night on a winery balcony in Chianti. Who better to guide you than someone whose passion and years in the food and wine industry have led to travels and friendship with winemakers all over the world? Vickie Reh takes us right into the kitchen with winemakers—what do they eat during harvest? What do they drink to celebrate the holidays? Which foods pair best with their wines, and why? How does this vary from region to region?

The Wine Table will discuss basics and essentials in food and wine including meeting your local farmer, stocking your pantry, and how to buy and store wine.

We will then travel with the author through various regions of France and Italy, visiting winemakers in their homes to share their stories, cook with them, and enjoy their recipes. Specialties include:
 

  • Choucroute Garnie from Domaine Weinbach, Alsace, France
  • Squab and Penne Pie from Agricole Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta, Italy
  • Sole à la Meunière from Domaine Lucien Crochet, Sancerre, France
  • Pork Rillettes from Domaine La Grange Tiphaine, Montlouis, France
  • Guinea Fowl en Papillote from Champagne Roses de Jeanne, Aube, France
  • Pesto Trapanese from Arianna Occhipinti, Sicily, Italy

Food before Wine? Chicken or Egg?

It’s the classic question. What came first—the chicken or the egg? Food or wine?

Well, not really. Obviously food came first, but early references to wine can be found in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. So, let’s just say it’s been quite some time since man discovered that grapes left too long in an enclosed container fermented into wine.

As for myself, growing up in a rather abstemious military family with a professional cook for a grandmother and a mother, aunts, and a paternal grandfather who were all great cooks, it’s little wonder that I’m obsessed with food. I remember rolling lumpia with our Filipina neighbors in Angeles City, Philippines, when I was seven; learning to make refried beans from scratch as an eighth grader with the cooks at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Del Rio, Texas; and making homemade cottage cheese with my grandmother on summer vacations to Kansas.

My grandmother Grace was an inspiration to me. At a time when few women worked outside of the home, my grandmother drove thirteen miles from the family farm to the nearest town of Concordia, Kansas, to work as a restaurant cook, and that was after
she cooked for her family of eight plus the farmhands, raised her own chickens, tended her acre-large farm garden, and canned the results. Her cooking was so well respected that clients called to make sure she was in the kitchen before coming to the restaurant
and patrons sent tips back to her—unheard of in Kansas at the time. I like to think I inherited my cooking genes from her, although the thought of what her schedule must have been like exhausts me.

And then I discovered wine. Now, I’m confident I was not the first to fall in love with French wine on a college exchange trip to France, and I guarantee you that I will not be the last. I know you can picture it: young girl from Kansas travels to France, sips wine at sidewalk cafés, nibbles cheese and other delicacies, practices her French accent and her beret-wearing skills, and tumbles head over heels in love with a country and a culture—statistically, it was almost a given (I should know; I was a statistician in a former life). The wine love affair endured. Thank heavens the statistician gig did not. Since that time, wine has fascinated me. I remember smuggling a bottle of Muscadet home from my first trip to France and as a college student springing for the “expensive” Mouton Cadet that was the best wine available in Manhattan, Kansas, at the time while all of my other friends and some of my professors were drinking Gallo Hearty Burgundy. I was a horrible wine snob back then. 

For years, I have had a somewhat dual personality professionally. I’m happy working on either side of the kitchen door. When I’m working in the front of the house or retail, I want to be cooking; and when I’m in the kitchen, I want to run out and pour the perfect glass of wine to compliment my dish. I finally realized that mine is not a split personality at all. I’m not either fascinated with wine or obsessed with food. Rather, I am devoted to the combination, the thought that one without the other is lacking—a concept that I like to call The Wine Table.

When I first started traveling on wine trips, I loved learning about wine—seeing the vineyards where the grapes were grown, the winery where the wine was made, talking to the winemakers—and yet the food fascinated me. I remember on my first professional wine trip to Spain, slipping away every chance I got with Tim McKee, the James Beard Award-winning Chef of La Belle Vie in Stillwater, Minnesota. While everyone else was taking a smoke break or stretching their legs, we would jump off the bus and race into the town butcher shops and grocery stores to see what they were selling. We perused the menus of every restaurant we passed and asked endless questions. It’s a habit that still defines my behavior when I travel and is the basis for this book, the quest to answer the questions: What are they serving with this? What is authentic? What is classic? What makes sense? What goes with what?

And finally, what does the winemaker’s family eat? There are many factors at play when answering that question. Some are as basic as who does the cooking in the family. Growing grapes and making wine is hard, physical labor, and feeding the family at the end of the day can be as much a chore for them as it is for any working family. In remote areas, even shopping for food can be time-consuming and require considerable planning. I remember visiting a family in Corbières, France, where the grocery truck came to town for two hours one day a week. Obviously, they grew a significant amount of their own food and purchased local meat and cheese, etc., from neighbors, but if you can only buy flour one day a week, you had better plan well. 

Other factors involve the location of the vineyards and what grows around it. What is blowing in the wind, and does it affect the flavors of the grapes? Can you taste it in the wine, and is it also incorporated in the food of the region? 

Perched high on a Tuscan hill near Gaiole in Chianti, the San Vincenti property is lined with rows of rosemary bushes taller than most men. The wine tastes of rosemary because the wind blows the scent from the rosemary leaves onto the grapes, and notes of rosemary are redolent in the Braised Wild Boar dish that Marilena Pucci served us when we visited.

The wines of Muscadet in the Loire-Atlantique department of France have pronounced salinity due to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the strong maritime winds. So too does the bounty of regional seafood. Chablis and Sancerre often have chalky marine-like flavors owing to the sea fossils trapped in their Kimmeridgian soils. The cheeses of the both regions, particularly those of Sancerre, have chalky, salty notes that mirror the wines. I like this. Wine should taste like where it is grown, and so should the food.

For me, both wine and food need to convey authenticity and a sense of place. I am adamantly opposed to the globalization of food and wine. I have no interest in wines that taste alike, modern-style Bordeaux that evokes California Cabernet, which in turn tastes Australian. Along the same vein, it has gotten to the point where luxury restaurants almost anywhere in the world serve the same high-level ingredients—truffles, foie gras, and caviar—whether they make sense or not given the restaurant’s theme or location. Sure, it’s luxurious, but do we crave that? Do we dream about that? Or does the architecturally interesting dish with uncountable ingredients and
flashy technique fade rapidly from your memory? Does it touch your soul with its simplicity, its finesse, its natural complexity? For me, the answer is no. For me, it is the simple roast chicken, the pristine Belon oyster, the perfectly grilled prawn that haunts me.

One of the keys to The Wine Table is restraint—few ingredients in food, few ingredients in wine. Restraint in cooking, noninterventionist winemaking, they are basically the same thing applied to a different métier. It is all about the quality of the raw materials. For farmers, whether their crop is grapes or another product, the work should be done in the fields—then the harvest, the vintage, the products shine. We should shop and cook the same way.

Some of the best times in my life have been spent around a table at a winery, drinking good, honest wine and sharing food I’ve prepared with a winemaker and his or her family—Dover sole in Sancerre with Laurence Crochet, Pompe aux Grattons with Monique Barbara in Saint Pourçain, Pork Rillettes with Damien Delecheneau in Montlouis, Choucroute with the Faller ladies of Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, and a blow-out “festa” at Savignola Paolina on a balcony overlooking Ludo’s Chianti vineyards. I’ve shared a wonderful meal with Mrs. Monique Gussalli Beretta showcasing Beretta family recipes. I’ve cooked for harvest workers and winery employees during the harvest in Provence, Champagne, and Alsace. Along the way, I have amassed recipes and wonderful memories, and I have honed the concept of The Wine Table.

I invite you to pull up a chair at my table and let me share these experiences with you.

Vickie Reh is a chef and certified sommelier who has spent her life researching food and wine traditions. Her forays have taken her to family kitchens in obscure wine regions, elegant palazzos, modern showcase wineries and respected restaurant kitchens—from France to California, from Sicily to the Italian Alps, from Portugal to Virginia. When not traveling, Vickie has spent years on both sides of the kitchen door alternating between roles as Chef, Wine Director, Wine Consultant, and Tour Guide with stints in Washington DC at Buck's Fishing & Camping, Comet Ping Pong, and Arrowine and Cheese. Currently combining her two loves, cooking and wine, Vickie is Chef and Wine Director at Via Umbria in Georgetown.

“This is an ambitious effort to gather inside intel and connect the dots between Eurocentric regional cuisines and wines—something even casual lovers of the grape could benefit from.” 
The Washington Post

"Wow! What a beautifully written book—the tone, the passion, and the authenticity of pairing wine and food shines through. Vickie brings history and geography alive while putting us in the shoes of the wine maker and their harvest table."
—Carla Hall, co-host of The Chew, restaurateur, and author

"The Wine Table is an insightful collection of recipes, tips, and memories that follow one simple rule: wine is better with food, and food is better with wine. A delicious read!"
—Eric Ripert, chef & co-owner, Le Bernardin

“We seem to be living in a golden age with new wine books and blogs happening almost every day, yet so many of them seem to miss the mark and forget what makes wine so special—the people behind the labels and the human connections we all share. I am happy to say that Vickie has not made that mistake. Her book is overflowing with joy, love, and respect for the culture of celebrating wine with food with people. I am often asked what my favorite wine is, and all of my favorites (yes, it is more than one favorite) are tied to memories of whom and what we were doing when we had the wine; this book nails that premise and provides the template to recreate the meals in your own kitchen. The book is like a mix-tape of nothing but great French and Italian memories/experiences of wine, food, and people; an awesome way to travel without leaving home.”
—Keith Goldston, Master Sommelier, Court of Master Sommeliers

"Winemakers, living in beautiful places, celebrating heritage and tradition, drinking fabulously, and eating equally so, Vickie brings all of the romance of winemaking and the legacy of its culture into the home kitchen through her intimate portraits of friends.”
—Barton Seaver, chef and author of American Seafood

"The Wine Table takes us through the vineyards and kitchens of winemakers across France and Italy. With recipes and tips on selecting and savoring the wines, join Vickie Reh on a delicious journey through the best winemaking regions in Europe. You'll savor every bite—and sip—of the trip!"
—David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen

"Wow! What a beautifully written book—the tone, the passion, and the authenticity of pairing wine and food shines through. Vickie brings history and geography alive while putting us in the shoes of the wine maker and their harvest table." —Carla Hall, co-host of The Chew, restaurateur, and author

"The Wine Table is an insightful collection of recipes, tips, and memories that follow one simple rule: wine is better with food, and food is better with wine. A delicious read!" —Eric Ripert, chef & co-owner, Le Bernardin

“We seem to be living in a golden age with new wine books and blogs happening almost every day, yet so many of them seem to miss the mark and forget what makes wine so special—the people behind the labels and the human connections we all share. I am happy to say that Vickie has not made that mistake. Her book is overflowing with joy, love, and respect for the culture of celebrating wine with food with people. I am often asked what my favorite wine is, and all of my favorites (yes, it is more than one favorite) are tied to memories of whom and what we were doing when we had the wine; this book nails that premise and provides the template to recreate the meals in your own kitchen. The book is like a mix-tape of nothing but great French and Italian memories/experiences of wine, food, and people; an awesome way to travel without leaving home.” —Keith Goldston, Master Sommelier, Court of Master Sommeliers

"Winemakers, living in beautiful places, celebrating heritage and tradition, drinking fabulously, and eating equally so, Vickie brings all of the romance of winemaking and the legacy of its culture into the home kitchen through her intimate portraits of friends.” —Barton Seaver, chef and author of American Seafood

"The Wine Table takes us through the vineyards and kitchens of winemakers across France and Italy. With recipes and tips on selecting and savoring the wines, join Vickie Reh on a delicious journey through the best winemaking regions in Europe. You'll savor every bite—and sip—of the trip!" —David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen