All posts by Kristen Ordonez

The New Urbanism

Increased demand for downtown environments is changing the way spaces to live, work and shop are designed and planned.

By Camilla McLaughlin

Authenticity and experience have easily become the bywords of new urbanism, which means developers and architects are challenged to create buildings and neighborhoods that reflect the spirit of a place, even if the “place” doesn’t really exist yet. Often characterized as “live, work, play,” these new urban hubs include venues designed to foster community and retail spaces that do more than just showcase goods. Offices are geared toward flexible ways to work. And, rather than just a focus on adequate parking, today’s urban vision integrates multiple modes of transportation.

Whether it’s a mega-development that transforms a city, revitalization of a historic street, or a neighborhood blossoming around a transit hub, the objective is the same: creating dynamic spaces geared toward a new urban consumer.

“There is a national trend impacting our cities,” explains Quito Anderson, CEO of Ben Carter Enterprises. “A new class of consumers is trading their big backyards and three-car garages for authentic, urban downtown experiences. They care about sustainability and walkability, and they are interested in the history and local culture of the city. They want to live, work and play in vibrant urban cores.”

Miami: Creating A New Urban Paradigm

Miami today is all about new, and there is no better example of emerging urban design than Brickell City Centre, a 5.4-million-square-foot development rising in the city’s Brickell financial district. It is the largest private sector project currently under construction in Miami,
according to developer Swire Properties. The first phase includes two mid-rise office buildings, two residential towers, a hotel with residences, and approximately 500,000 square feet of retail and entertainment. Parking is located below grade, and an on-site Metromover station and connections to light rail provide direct access to many of Miami’s favorite destinations. Elevated walkways connect all 11 acres of the development, which spans four city blocks.

And unlike other new mixed-use projects, Brickell City Centre is decidedly upscale, with a list of tenants that reads like a who’s who of luxury. Residences reflect some of the best in urban interiors with spectacular views, exterior walls of glass, indulgent finishes and an extensive menu of amenities.

Real estate developments that transform are not new in the Brickell neighborhood or for Swire Properties, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong conglomerate Swire Properties Ltd. Almost 40 years ago, Swire piloted the $1 billion master-planned development of Brickell Key, a 44-acre island separated from Brickell Avenue by a few hundred feet of the Miami River.

“Actually, Brickell Key was the first time I heard the idea of a mixed-use, master-planned community,” said Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties. “In those days, we didn’t have so many of those; in fact, the term was hardly used.” Fast forward to 2016, Brickell City Centre is set to be complete this November as Swire’s second mixed-use development in Miami.

Before Brickell City Centre’s development, the land was empty and less than desirable. For example, Owens described the greenspace under the Metromover connected to Brickell City Centre as “a Brickell dump scattered with old car tires, old sofas, washing machines; everything people wanted to discard was under the rails.” Swire has beautified that area in preparation for The Underline, a 10-mile linear park, and recently donated $600,000 earmarked for the Brickell City Centre portion.

Sustainability is increasingly intertwined with development. Brickell City Centre is LEED registered for Neighborhood Development, currently one of the largest in the U.S., according to Swire. Particularly unique is the $30 million CLIMATE Ribbon, an elevated trellis system that undulates over the retail spaces and connects the project’s three city blocks. Originally conceived as an architectural feature, the ribbon is as much a masterpiece of art as of science, since it creates a microclimate underneath by providing shade as well as capturing and directing breezes. Lighting makes it even more dramatic at night. It also collects rainwater to be used for irrigation.

Phase Two of Brickell City Centre is slated to begin in 2017 and holds the potential for even more innovation.

Featured and above image: Artist renderings of Brickell City Centre; Photo courtesy Swire Properties, Inc.

Savannah: Bringing Life Back To A Retail Sector

Savannah’s modern urban story is one of resurrection and preservation. Beginning in the mid-1950s, when the trend in cities in the South was demolition, six Savannah residents banded together to save the city’s historic structures, one by one. Later the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) joined the push for the preservation, refurbishing dozens of structures ranging from a former orphanage to old motels.

With the largest historic district in the U.S., Savannah’s international reputation for preservation is well deserved. The city hums with new businesses, a growing population and a blossoming restaurant scene. Yet, until recently, Broughton Street, what had been the city’s main retail thoroughfare, remained untouched, even though it was only a block from historic squares and City Market, with some of the historic district’s most popular restaurants, galleries and entertainment venues.

Photos ©ben carter enterprises

Atlanta developer Ben Carter saw the untapped potential behind the long-vacant second floors and layers of stucco concealing historic facades of the buildings — some dating back to the 1800s — that lined the street, and embarked on a $92 million redevelopment project spanning seven blocks and 37 buildings.

Not only is the entire street being brought back to its original use, but it is also being recast as a modern retail district. A stroll on Broughton Street on a recent weekday also brought evidence that it is emerging as a place where everyone — locals, SCAD students, tourists — finds common ground.

Rather than being a blight of modern architecture that doesn’t fit the context of the city, the buildings in the revamped Broughton Street Collection recall another day while offering a forward-looking live, work and play lifestyle. “Unique and historic storefronts and interiors make shopping more than just purchasing goods, but rather an experience of what Broughton used to be in the early 1900s,” says Anderson.

Once abandoned spaces on the upper floors have been converted into residential lofts and offices. The mix is approximately 80 percent urban loft apartments and 20 percent creative working space.

Interiors blend contemporary floor plans and streamlined kitchens and baths with tall windows and historic materials such as heart pine floors, exposed antique bricks and beamed ceilings. Phase I was 100-percent occupied upon completion and the last residential phase is slated to be completed in the spring of 2017.

Los Angeles: Transit As A Catalyst For Development

Transit that runs between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica — either old rail lines being revived or new light rail such as the Expo line — is triggering the development of new urban hubs. Most do more than simply incorporate retail, office and residential spaces; instead, they take the mixed-use concept to the next level, integrating parks and outdoor spaces as well as other recreational opportunities.

In Culver City, four new projects currently under development are clustered around a stop for the Expo Line. Even before construction on the line was completed, the Runyon Group began work to transform 4 acres adjacent to the new Culver City stop into what would become Platform, a creative collection of six different spaces connected by meandering gardens. The site was the former home of a 1960s auto dealership that had been vacant for decades. “When we started the project, the Expo line had not opened. We were the first ones in the ground,” recalls Trevor Abramson, design principal at Abramson Teiger Architects in Culver City, California. “Our client had the vision and our challenge was to take the vision into the built form.”

Three of the original structures were repurposed, and Abramson’s firm designed three new ground-up buildings. “It became an assemblage of new buildings and repurposed buildings,” Abramson observes. The old car showroom now functions as an art gallery, while an entirely new building, The Greenhouse, with 5,000 square feet of indoor space and a 2,500-square-foot outdoor terrace, was designed to function as a special events venue.

Far Left & Left: Platform; Right: Before; Far Right: After; Photos ©Katie Gibbs Photography

The design challenge, Abramson says, was to create an atmosphere and a destination out of nothing but a rundown empty building that hadn’t been used in 15 years. “We see this as a gentrification of an existing urban environment where we are injecting new life into it. We wanted it to have the character of repurposed versus new, so when you walk through you feel as though you are part of an existing urban microcosm. And you really do get that sense.”

Still, history remains. For example, the original car repair bays are now shops and restaurants with glass storefronts replacing the garage doors. Abramson points to the Loqui Taco Bar as an example of the mix of new and old. “We preserved this environment with raw industrial and imperfect elements. Flaws in the existing cinder block walls were left exposed, and a tin roof ceiling adds to this ‘back-alley found’ industrial style,” he says.

The name Platform pays homage to the historic rail lines, but it also underscores a new approach to retail as a showcase. “We are not trying to create a new shopping mall; we are trying to create a shopping environment, the kind found in an urban microcosm,” explains Abramson.

Retail is all about the experience, and Abramson says the emphasis on the experience between the buildings is pushing the envelope. “It’s tactile. The central courtyard is green and people hang under the trees, live oaks that are so respected in California. There is also a nice sense of scale in the places.”

Also striking are the office spaces. Visit Platform on a workday and you are likely to find a meeting taking place at Beans and Brews patio, and workers clustered around laptops on the patios and decks woven into office areas. This is the first stage of what will be a very exciting transformation of a corner, according to Abramson. Still navigating the lengthy approval process are plans for a six-story hotel, another five-story building with an additional 200 residences, as well as a retail and restaurant space grouped around an open plaza and green space.

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Revenge of the Vegans

Vegan restaurants, suddenly attracting trendy designers, world-class chefs and mainstream diners, are not what they used to be.
By Roger Grady

Macadamia cheese crumble with tarragon-spirulina sauce, squash blossom and black radish; Elizabeth’s Gone Raw; photo © Foster Wiley

The current wave of steakhouses, Korean barbecue restaurants and Brazilian churrascarias suggests Americans are unapologetically embracing their carnivorous cravings. Also flourishing, however, are vegan restaurants that shatter stereotypes of funky holes-in-the-wall accommodating struggling philosophers with tasteless sprouts. A new generation of vegan restaurants offers sophisticated, even elegant experiences with surprisingly little deprivation. 

A vegan diet — the more politically correct term is “plant-based” cuisine — utilizes no animal products whatsoever, making it more restrictive than vegetarianism, and therefore stigmatized by those who assume such orthodoxy stifles creativity. But plant-based kitchens are suddenly attracting chefs that take their craft seriously, people trained in top culinary schools and Michelin-starred kitchens. Their customers are not exclusively herbivores, but mainstream diners simply seeking a change of pace, no different than going out for Thai or Peruvian food.

The Los Angeles diner is often typecast as a supermodel picking at her salad, so it is no surprise the city has its share of vegan establishments. But no restaurant in L.A. provides a better example of an imaginative chef elevating plant-based cuisine than Crossroads, where chef/owner Tal Ronnen turns out exquisitely plated dishes in a dining room with white linen-clad tables, trendy chandeliers and high-end finishes. “We wanted to create a dining experience that was comfortable and a little more refined than what most people think a vegan restaurant experience is all about,” says Ronnen.

“What we try to do at Crossroads is provide an experience that doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, but is actually a step up,” says Ronnen. The author of The Conscious Cook explains that the challenge of finding creative, vegan alternatives to traditional sauces like hollandaise or béarnaise is very exciting to him as a chef.

Spring chopped salad with whole-grain-mustard vinaigrette; Photo courtesy Crossroads

At Crossroads, the seasonally changing menu may include vichyssoise or tomato-watermelon gazpacho, pizza with truffle “cream” sauce, grilled vegetable lasagna, and even a cheese plate showcasing Kite Hill artisanal vegan cheeses. In the fall, a “seafood” tower is offered, with carrot “lox” standing in for smoked salmon with kelp caviar and almond milk “crème fraîche,” while tempura-battered lobster mushrooms suggest something far more indulgent.

Longtime Washington, D.C., caterer Elizabeth Petty turned to a raw vegan diet when she was recovering from breast cancer, but faced a pivotal dilemma regarding her career. “I lived and breathed food, so I knew I could take raw vegan cuisine to a level nobody had ever seen,” she recounts, and founded Elizabeth’s Gone Raw rather than abandoning her passion. The restaurant, occupying a sumptuously furnished 19th century Federalist-era townhouse not far from the White House, is the antithesis of the stereotypical countercultural vegan hole-in-the-wall.

Petty is passionate about the various benefits of maintaining a raw vegan diet, but retains a commitment to culinary sophistication and creativity, which executive chef Francisco Hernandez presents in exquisite seven-course meals every Friday evening. With artfully plated dishes like a silky red pepper soup with lavender-cabbage foam or a mushroom roulade with black truffle, salsa verde, yuzu and almond buttermilk cream, it is no wonder foodies of all stripes have discovered this highly personalized, heartfelt restaurant. Hardly a zealot — she occasionally cooks meat for her own family — Petty reports, “I’m not only happy to be alive  but am so grateful people have embraced this cuisine and continue to express their

Rich Landau, executive chef/co-owner, and Valarie McCarro, kitchen manager; Photo courtesy Vedge.

In 1994, chef Richard Landau opened a humble food counter inside a natural food store, eventually marrying one of his customers, Kate Jacoby. Today the couple operates Vedge, ensconced in a historic brownstone in downtown Philadelphia, and both have earned James Beard Award nominations for their refined veggie-centric cooking. From a kitchen devoid of animal products comes an avocado stuffed with turmeric-tinted cauliflower or a playful riff on the city’s iconic Philly cheesesteak sandwich: house-made potato bread stuffed with maitake mushrooms in a “cheesy” sauce of roasted rutabaga. The all-natural wine list is nationally recognized, and pastry chef Jacoby creates a pretzel-crusted chocolate-peanut butter finale that is downright decadent.

Although Jacoby never proselytizes customers — most of them are foodies, but not full-time vegans — she states, “There’s such a strong argument for health and environmental impact in choosing a vegan lifestyle.” The couple’s second restaurant, V Street, offers a more casual vegan experience. “V Street is more fun, more daring and spicier, inspired by street foods from around the world,” reports Jacoby.

When he is not working as a private celebrity chef, keynote speaker or consultant, Matthew Kenney oversees restaurants in his native Maine, Miami, L.A., and New York City, with another opening in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain next year. The Miami location of Plant Food + Wine, designed by renowned architect Rene Gonzalez, features a gorgeous palm-studded wooden deck surrounding a seductively illuminated reflecting pool. “Our cuisine is modern, clean and organic, and we create environments to fit this vision,” explains Kenney.

“Cooking plant-based has challenged me to look at ingredients in a new way,” explains Kenney. Meats may be off limits at Plant Food + Wine, but a mushroom pâté can provide the illusion of something much richer, while watermelon poke, coconut ceviche tacos and kimchi dumplings populate a globally inspired menu. A five-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings is offered, and desserts range from vegan tiramisu to strawberry-hibiscus cheesecake.

Culinary diversity for vegans is provided at San Francisco’s Gracias Madre, whose Mexican-themed menu offers gorditas with salsa verde, avocado and cashew crema, and vegan tamales. Beyond Sushi, a New York vegan mini-chain from classically trained, Israeli-born chef Guy Vaknin, dispenses eye-popping black rice sushi with curried cauliflower and almond pesto, or a spicy mango roll topped with toasted cayenne sauce.

“I always wanted to create beautiful, nutritious food and deliver fantastic culinary experiences,” reports Kenney, a sentiment that could be attributed to any passionate chef, not just an advocate of plant-based cuisine.

Wood Roasted Carroy by Vedge

Watermelon Poke by Plant Food + Wine

Guiltless Indulgence

Beyond Sushi 229 E. 14th St., New York City, 646.861.2889 (and two other locations);

Crossroads 8284 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323.782.9245;

Elizabeth’s Gone Raw 1341 L St. NW, Washington, D.C., 202.347.8349;

Gracias Madre 2211 Mission St., San Francisco, 415.683.1346;

Plant Food + Wine 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, California, 310.450.1009; 105 NE 24th St., Miami, 305.814.5365;

Vedge 1221 Locust St., Philadelphia, 215.320.7500;

V Street 126 S. 19th St., Philadelphia, 215.278.7943;

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Experiential Travel

Learn why you should hide the guidebook.

By Sarah Binder

Photo courtesy of photo Ker & Downey; ©Rosita Stumpel

Photo courtesy Ker & Downey; ©Rosita Stumpel

Luxury travel used to involve a simple formula — determine where you want to go; work with a provider to book the essentials; and enjoy “luxuriousness,” which likely would not extend beyond the trappings of your boutique hotel room.

As the ultimate caretakers of precious leisure and family time, several trailblazing companies — renowned for thought leadership, unparalleled customer service, extensive networks, and encyclopedic knowledge — are responding to their clients’ desire for more meaningful luxury travel.

In recent years, a new phrase has caught hold in the luxury tourism industry: experiential travel. The descriptor gives a name to a type of travel that the savviest providers and clients already embraced — a wish to completely immerse oneself in a destination. To connect with its soul, rather than check off recommended, overcrowded sites with Instagram selfies that are forgotten as quickly as they are snapped.

“Experiential travelers want to dive deeper into authentic, local cultures, connecting with people in ways that enrich their lives and create lasting memories,” explains Stephanie Click, marketing manager for Ker & Downey. “We have noticed a trend towards ‘travel with a soul’ — clients who don’t just want to ‘go,’ but also want to ‘do’ and ‘be’ as much as possible.”

Safaris are often described as the first form of experiential travel, and providers are devising innovative ways to take guests off the beaten path. Abercrombie & Kent offers a private, tented safari in East Africa. It features a mobile and self-sufficient camp, so clients aren’t restricted to locations with game lodges, says Stephanie Papaioannou, vice president of Tailor Made and Private Travel.

The top luxury travel providers bring to the table intimate first-hand knowledge of both classic and emerging destinations worldwide, as well as a vast network of resources that can elevate tailored activities to a whole other level.

“We have a special relationship with Paspaley, the largest and oldest pearling company in Australia,” says Drew Kluska, founder of South Australia-based The Tailor. “They invite us into their grading room, where the best graders in the world demonstrate their process. They’ve been doing this for 80 years and will pull out the best 50 pearls they have ever seen from their exclusive collection.”

Kluska grew up in rural, off-the-radar South Australia before attending university and majoring in agricultural science. His upbringing — combined with later tourism experience in Kenya — led him to launch the company, which showcases Australia through hand-crafted luxury journeys complemented by the perspectives of generations of locals.

“Australia is virtually untouched in many areas. The rural population, people who live on the land, is very small,” he explains. “I was able to tap into people that live in remote areas, in order to create what I call a people-to-people experience. This kind of experience didn’t exist previously in Australia.”

Kluska and others understand that a destination’s people are its heart and soul; meaningful personal interactions are a key component of experiential travel.

Ker & Downey offered several days of private guided helicopter tours in Antarctica, led by a professional photographer, for two clients who were also professional photographers. © Kira Kaplinski

In New Zealand, Ker & Downey guests can accompany a former fisherman aboard his yacht to his favorite fishing spots throughout the Marlborough Sounds and the islands of Tonga, meeting the locals he has formed friendships with over the years. Or, in Bulgaria, guests can set off on a horseback ride amid the Rhodope Mountains to St. Ilia Chapel. There, they will meet its local painter — a young man who says he has been called by God to restore the chapel, says Click.

Other personal encounters may be higher-profile. “Often, we will involve people who have nothing to do with travel, but who have expertise or valuable insights to share,” says Philippe Brown, founder of London-based Brown + Hudson. For example, the company planned a bespoke South Africa honeymoon in which a couple sat down and talked with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner famous for helping to bring about the downfall of the apartheid regime.

Whatever the preferred activities, high-end experts are pros at helping clients travel “where they want, when they want, with whom they want, and in whatever style they choose, from luxurious to adventurous,” says Papaioannou. She adds, as travelers’ motivations continue to evolve, the definition of “real luxury” may shift, but it remains distinguished by three hallmarks. 

“Real luxury has authenticity, flexibility, and a sense of well-being. Authenticity means the product is true to its place and traditions, incorporating elements of the past and reflecting the local culture,” she explains. “Flexibility refers to service that anticipates your needs and satisfies them in an unobtrusive manner. And a sense of well-being comes from knowing you are traveling with a first-class organization for whom the word ‘impossible’ does not exist.”

Kluska predicts that future luxury travel may entail what he calls “pop-up experiences.” For example, guests may travel to pop-up lodges in remote regions during limited times of the year, to enjoy rare experiences such as a desert in bloom.

No matter its make-up, all luxury experiential travel supports universal goodwill. “Our style of travel brings clients straight to the source of each destination’s identity, and leaves them with an understanding of its people and culture,” says Click. “Being an open-minded traveler leads to being an open-minded citizen, and as the world becomes more connected, we think that is important.”

Destination Surprise!

Going above and beyond the usual specifications to help clients articulate why they want to travel can help planners translate those motivations into unforgettable experiences.

Philippe Brown, founder of London-based Brown + Hudson, describes how his team conducts extensive personal interviews to determine their clients’ quirks, likes, dislikes, motivations, their definition of luxury, and outcomes sought. Ultimately, the team distills and presents a client with a set of goals, which serves as a guiding framework for creating his bespoke itinerary.

“We delve carefully into our clients’ psyche to find out what makes them tick, who they are, and what their story is,” says Brown. “We work like a cross between a therapist and an investigative journalist.”

This in-depth discovery process serves Brown + Hudson well in its most ambitious concept: A Journey with No Destination. Unique in the luxury tourism industry, these completely customized journeys are designed so that the destination and itinerary are unknown to the client until she arrives, or right before the flight.

“I wondered whether travel could potentially be all about the outcome rather than the place,” explains Brown. “My sense was, if people traveled to achieve a certain feeling, then perhaps the destination didn’t even matter. And thus, A Journey with No Destination was born.”

The thoughtful surprise itineraries focus on the outcome of the trip, or the feelings it will evoke for the client, which are discussed at length in the planning phase.

For example, the company connected one client with a charismatic local baker, who vacuum-packed the finished product for her to take home to New York. “The goal was to evoke childhood memories and embrace a simple longing for comfort and warmth,” says Brown.

The team builds suspense and playfully misleads clients through carefully crafted, pre-travel information, gifts, and activities, even convincing them that they’re traveling thousands of miles away from their actual destination. Clients have met the author of a book about the emotion of surprise or an archaeologist at a natural history museum.

The impactful grand reveal may not make sense immediately, such as a journey involving a Texan oil field to learn about culture. However, the reward is the enlightenment clients experience throughout their vacation. “We create an intellectual journey of self-exploration and discovery that transcends the physical journey,” Brown says.

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Dreaming on Cloud Nine

Does your princess dream of resting her head on an air balloon? Does your prince dream of sleeping in his very own car-spired suite?

Circu proves these dreams are possible with luxurious designs fit for young kings and queens.

By Hannah Fakhrzadeh

Fantasy Air Balloon

This limited edition bed is easily customizable for any gender. The balloon is a bed and sofa combo, and can be converted from a luxury baby nest to a teen’s sofa as your child grows. The bed’s bottom is made using a traditional basketry technique; the top portion is constructed from wood with white lacquered gloss finishes. Synthetic fur upholstery trimmed in wood with gold leaf details add a sophisticated touch. The strings are handmade and the metal parts are finished in a gold bath. The bed features a light and sound system controlled by a mobile app called I-light. Offered at €28,900 or about $32,040.

Bun Van

Sure to turn heads every time it is seen, this limited edition children’s bed is inspired by the legendary Volkswagen Van. The exterior is made from fiberglass with chrome-plated finishes, and the interior is made from palisander wood veneer. The luxurious design includes several storage compartments, a bed, television, secretary, mini bar and sofa. Offered at €39,000 or about $43,240.

Rocky Rocket Armchair

This entirely handmade armchair is inspired by two eras: both parents and kids will see inspiration from the movies Tintin and Toy Story. The body of the rocket is fiberglass, and the interior is made of red velvet upholstery. The engines of the rocket are also made from fiberglass with a new velvet flocking technique used on the inside. The staircase is made from wood and gold leaf, and features a small, secret safe. Parents will have peace of mind knowing that all of the finishes are made from non-toxic paints and varnishes. This high-tech bed features a light and sound system; both are controlled by the I-light mobile app. Through the app, you have the choice of music, light effects and sleep time. Offered at €28,610 or about $31,720.

Little Mermaid Bed

This lavish Little Mermaid bed fit for any sea princess is designed in the shape of a shell. The shell is designed to protect little pearls from the unknown around them; this bed will protect your precious pearl like it does in the sea. The Little Mermaid bed is made from fiberglass and painted in a nacre paint, which resembles shiny and slippery stones underneath the bed. This design also features lighting inside. Offered at €14,610 or about $16,200.

Photos courtesy Circu

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Seasonal Tips and Traditions of a Sommelier

Photos courtesy Nicky Hamila.

By Kristen Ordonez

With the winter holidays already in full effect, there’s no better way to liven up some of the traditions of the holiday season then to uncork a bottle of wine. However, whether it is for a casual get-together among friends or the annual holiday party, figuring out which wines go with certain foods can sometimes build more stress during this busy time of year. What better way to alleviate the stress then through some wine pairing tips from a seasoned sommelier? Kris Margerum, Head Sommelier at Auberge du Soleil and the genius behind the newest Wine Series event for the first residential Auberge Beach Residences & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, has several interesting tips that he follows with his own family every year.
Bring something that you would enjoy.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy a nice bottle is to bring a type of wine that you want to enjoy, no matter the level of appreciation of the rest of the group. In other words, do not skimp on quality just because some of the attendees may not be super wine savvy. These are the people you love, so it is best to spend time with them over a good bottle of wine.

Set out a plate of sushi.
For the holidays, my extended family has a couple of interesting traditions. First is that everybody cooks and we are all assigned tasks to do. After a bit of culinary work we take a break with, of all things, sushi. We all enjoy this with a glass of off-dry German Riesling.
This year I am planning on bringing a 2010 J.J. Prum “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” Kabinett from the Mosel. The off-dry notes and acidity pair wonderfully with the heat of the wasabi that we all love to have with our sushi. It is a refreshing and unique tradition that we all look forward to.

Don’t forget the soup.
Another practice my family follows during the holidays is starting with a soup course before the main course. For this, we always prepare a pumpkin peanut butter soup. Over the years, I have matched this course with many wines including White Burgundies, Californian Chardonnays and Viogniers. This year, I am bringing a 2015 Truchard Roussanne for the Carneros District in Napa Valley.
Pair wines with the usuals.
The main course of many holiday meals tends to be the traditional turkey with all the usual sides like stuffing, potatoes, gravy and veggies. Here, I generally bring one bottle of a fuller bodied chardonnay for the non-red wine drinker(s) and several bottles of medium bodied reds.
Don’t be afraid to pair dessert with dessert.
Pumpkin Pie is paired this year with a dessert wine from my cousin Doug’s winery, the 2014 Margerum “Late Harvest” Viognier – Santa Barbara County.
If all else fails, try these wines this holiday.
Here’s my lineup for 2016:
– 2014 Hamilton Russell – Chardonnay – Hemel en Aarde Valley – Walker Bay-South Africa
– 2009 Williams Selyem “Ferrington” Pinot Noir – Anderson Valley-Mendocino
– 2011 St. Cosme “Valbelle” Red Rhône Blend – Gigondas-France
– 2014 Ghost Block “Pelissa” Zinfandel – Oakville-Napa Valley

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