by Fred McMillin
for December 9, 1999


The Valid Salad Problem
and the Balboa Solution


WineDay Reader: "I know it's difficult to pair wine with salad. Give me a combination that works."

The Answer

President Jean-Charles Boisset As the photographer says, "say cheese." Cheese provides the easiest solution. It softens the vinegar in the dressing, and bonds with the wine. Recently I had a perfect example at the trendy Balboa Cafe in San Francisco's Marina District.

The wine-wise hostess (I've discussed wine sales trends with her in the past) Pat Kelley recommended:

Warm Spinach Salad, that included...
Wild mushrooms
Pancetta (a salted, air-dried sausage from Parma, Italy)
And watch out: Red wine vinaigrette

The solution: A generous amount of crumbled Feta cheese (soft, white Greek cheese from ewe's milk).

The Wine

We like a lightly herby Sauvignon Blanc with such a salad...in this case, the very affordable '96 Lyeth (leeth), North Coast.

Santa Barbara air racer and restaurateur Munro "Chip" Lyeth began growing grapes in the Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) in 1973. In 1981 he built a handsome chateau-winery, and his '82 Sauvignon Blanc was judged "rich, clean and fruity... three stars" by critic Anthony Dias Blue.
In 1988, "Chip" Munro was killed in a plane crash.

Today, the French firm Boisset U.S.A. produces Lyeth wines. They are very popular restaurant wines, receiving good reviews in such publications as Restaurant Wine and the Nation's Restaurant News. There are phrases like "a superstar within its price catagory."



Plumpjack Balboa Cafe, (415) 921-3944, FAX (415) 921-3957
Boisett Wines USA, (415) 979-0630, FAX (415) 979-0305, at the office of President Jean-Charles Boisset, (pictured).


When my wife and I returned to San Francisco after three years in Teheran, we discovered an unheralded restaurant with exceptionally creative food, The Balboa. I believe the year of the discovery was 1975, and I know the chef was the rising young phenom Jeremiah Tower. While the Gettys subsequently bought the restaurant, the kitchen still Towers above much of the competition.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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