Ode School

Pablo Antinao made waves in the Monterey wine scene by opening Bakai Wine + Tapas last year, and now with his inventive and thorough new book about wine and how to appreciate it.

Late great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Wine” does a wine lover’s heart right. An excerpt:

~

But you are more than love, 

the fiery kiss, 

the heat of fire, 

more than the wine of life; 

you are 

the community of man, 

translucency, 

chorus of discipline, 

abundance of flowers. 

I like on the table, 

when we’re speaking, 

the light of a bottle 

of intelligent wine. 

Drink it, 

and remember in every 

drop of gold, 

in every topaz glass, 

in every purple ladle, 

that autumn labored 

to fill the vessel with wine; 

and in the ritual of his office, 

let the simple man remember 

to think of the soil and of his duty, 

to propagate the canticle of the wine.

~

Another Chilean named Pablo gives that poetic wine refrain new vibrancy this week. Monterey’s Pablo Antinao debuts his book Taste: The Secrets of Wine and Food Appreciation – now available on Amazon Prime ($19.95) – with a talk and tasting at under-the-radar Carmel Ridge tasting room on Cannery Row 6-8pm Saturday, April 1, with a similar event at McIntyre’s Carmel Crossroads tasting room 6-8pm Wednesday, April 5 (free; tasting not included).

On page five, he provides his own verses dedicated directly to the singular fruit: “Wine, time will shape your evolution with seductive flavors and sensual textures./ Wine, with patience you’ll become a rainbow of beautiful colors and a fountain of pure pleasure.”

Taste also contains handy graphics that illustrate the migrations and distribution of wine grape growth the world over, an analysis of how those grapes are cultivated and harvested, and how a wine label puts together all the details it needs in order to earn approval. It dips into how to go organic and biodynamic, and how everything from pressing to fining to fermentation plays into the process.

Perhaps the most compelling undercurrent in the simple-but-pretty 92-page book is an appeal to embrace the senses in all their glory.

“I learned from teaching classes and working in tasting rooms that one of the biggest concerns people have is the notion that tasting wine is difficult,” Antinao writes.

“I believe this is based on assumptions that people who write about wine and wine professionals have an extraordinary and almost inhuman ability to taste wines. This is certainly superstition and not reality… the problem lies in the misuse of the senses.”

Quit with the endless distractions that haunt our existence, he says, and honor the habit of contemplation of a meal or a cup of coffee – or, yes, a glass of wine.

“Sensory awareness with something as intimate as putting food in your mouth requires full attention and total connection to your senses,” he writes, “both of which bring real joy as opposed to just the mechanical action of eating for the sake of filling the tummy.”

“Awareness of the senses” is the second of five sections in the book. Descriptions of different wine varieties follow, as do sections titled “Tools for Serving and Enjoying Wine” and “Enhancing Our Appreciation of Wine and Food” – and a cameo quote from Hippocrates (“Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food”).

“If you see the format of this book, it’s different,” Antinao says. “It’s focusing on and empowering consumers. It provides a lot of insights to make wine more fun, approachable and something to enjoy. The book is not the traditional-conventional thing – it’s more fun and relaxed. There’s a lot of information, but it’s simple.”

After working as a culinary student in Napa, Antinao came to Monterey seven years ago. Last year he opened forward-leaning Bakai Wine + Tapas (233-2286) in downtown Monterey on the back side of Golden State Theatre. While it drew the affection of vino palates quickly, it also closed quickly, in December.Big Sur Bakery sommelier Matt Peterson was among those who dug its style and substance.

“I love the idea of the bar, because he’s not just focusing on Monterey wines, although they’re fantastic, but when you want to have a couple more options, and you’re a wine professional, you want to drink more things – wines from Argentina and Europe brought a broader scope. That’s what makes guys like him and me passionate. The place was certainly great for Monterey.

“He’s a charming dude and passionate and you can see an artistic mind. He’s taking inspiration from places around the world.”

The good news is that Bakai will reopen some time this summer or fall.

A poem by Neruda remains on the wall inside. Winelovers might just be able to guess which ode it is.

~ QUICKBITES ~

  • There is no place in Pacific Grove, and maybe the area, that does the fried chicken better than Crema (324-0347), as I reminded readers with a comfort food love poem called “Finding comfort in high calories amid chaos.” The rib-sticking fare also includes first class biscuits and gravy and, starting April 1, liquor, with Irish coffee, bloody Marys and Ramos fizzes in the lead.
  • Poke Lab (200-3474), on the heels of giving Monterey County its first sushi “donuts,” is readying some other craveable cuisine with its Musubi Mondays, starting next week.
  • Ratel Cider celebrates its first anniversary with tastings, small bites, raffles and giveaways, 6:30-8:30pm Monday, April 3, at Melville Tavern (643-9525).
  • An owlet fledgling party at Moss Landing’s Haute Enchilada Cafe and Gallery (633-5843) takes flight Friday, April 21, to benefit local owl nest box distribution. If you haven’t dialed into the webcam of their resident family of beautiful rodent control, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.
  • A great wine nerd dinner/fundraiser goes down Saturday, April 15, with a four-course dinner and pairing at Cantinetta Luca (269-7123) to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with local legend Fred Dame and level-three somm Lia Gilles ($500) ring-leading the big-hearted fun.
  • More good work: Wednesday April 19, from 5:30pm-8:30pm, jazz music from the Roger Eddy Band and sushi by Kazu of Sakura also benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at Markham Ranch in Salinas (269-7123).
  • Tickets are now available for the 25th annual Monterey County Vintners and Growers Winemakers Celebration coming Sunday, May 7, with more than 100 award-winning local vinos and two dozen chefs (montereywines.org, $75). This sucker will likely sell out.
  • Bistro Moulin (333-1200) unleashes a rare special dinner with a four-course menu paired with wine from the Rhone Valley 6-7:30pm Thursday, April 6, and arctic char, rack of lamb and a splash or three of Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($90).
  • Pablo Neruda: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”

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