Happy Independence Day!

While the country is celebrating Fourth of July – Independence Day – the annual remembrance of gaining independence from the British Empire in 1776, we at A Day Like No Other especially celebrate all those who are voluntarily giving up their individual independence for something much better: the lifelong union with their best friend and lover. Cheers to all our wonderful couples who are about to embark on this adventurous, arduous and supremely fulfilling journey!

Our First Post-COVID Wedding: Trisha and Bryan

Trisha’s and Bryan’s wedding had been in the making for a full twelve years! That’s how long these two have been together. To be fair – they decided to get married after ten years, started their planning, found their venue – and then COVID hit. Everything came to a halt. They postponed their wedding date, and then had to postpone again. They had to cut their guest count dramatically – then, they were suddenly allowed more guests again. In short, it was a rollercoaster ride.

As a longtime friend and collaborator of the bride (who used to be the Director of Events at a venue where I frequently work), I was honored that she chose my company, A Day Like No Other, to coordinate her Great Day, and so I took that rollercoaster planning ride with her, from start to finish.

Last weekend, we finally hit the finish line – on a glorious day and with a perfect event. Trisha (and Bryan) were truly overjoyed!

For the bride and her bridesmaids, the day began with hair services by Shawna Jarnagin, the “Girl with a Curling Iron” and with Makeup by Nett.

Once that was done, the bride was ready to inspect her glamorous wedding dress:

… which she combined with delicate, blush-pink Badgley-Mischka princess slippers:

Her bridesmaids (and “bridesman”) helped to put her in her dress.

Star photographers Danny and Julia Dong and Wild Atlantic Films videographers captured every precious moment – for the time being, all I have to offer are my snapshots; just wait until you see THEIR photos and footage!

The couple’s chosen venue – The Club at Ruby Hill, an elegant golf and country club in the SF East Bay –

is nestled in an elegant parklike setting…

… of utmost privacy and tranquillity. It feels like a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A true oasis!

The ceremony took place in the open courtyard of the venue…

… with over 100 guests in attendance (all vaccinated!) – a relief after COVID regulations allowing for just a handful of family members to participate in wedding ceremonies, for more than a year. Impressive altar arrangements by FlowerStory flanked the ceremony spot.

Finally, the great moment had arrived. With music provided by Big Fun Disc Jockeys, the bride was accompanied to the ceremony by her parents.

And after a full twelve years, Trisha and Bryan said “I Do!”

Just married!

The ceremony was live-streamed by Kevin and Megan of Fantasy Sound to allow remote guests to witness the festivities and offer their well-wishes to the newlyweds.

While Trisha and Bryan had many more photos (and video footage) taken, their guests enjoyed cocktails, and many work crews put their finishing touches on the festive setup – the venue team headed by Events Director Janan Ali, the florist team of Kim’s FlowerStory…

… the lighting team of Fantasy Sound. Primrose Bakery delivered the cake …

… and The Joyful Whisk delivered cupcakes; friends of the couple installed a Sweetheart Table backdrop of hundreds of handmade paper cranes and a photo booth backdrop for the booth by The Black Tent; my assistant Quan and I were busy helping to set up the dessert room (yes, a whole room!) …

… and keeping everything organized and on track. But it was all so worth the effort – have a look:

In lieu of place cards, the couple had prepared personalized favor boxes for the guests – containing a scented candle with their favorite fragrance (an enticing aroma of a fresh latte!)

After dinner, the newlyweds opened the dance floor with their choreographed First Dance:

… and the rest of the evening was spent dancing, enjoying desserts and wedding cake and having fun with the photo booth. Everyone agreed: what a wedding!!

Wishing you a lifetime of happiness, Trisha and Bryan!

A Romantic Wedding in the Pantone Colors of the Year 2021: Illuminating and Ultimate Gray

As every year, the Pantone company has published its Color of the Year – or, to be exact, TWO colors of the year – for 2021, and I have to say – this year they are particularly beautiful and applicable to wedding design. A sunny yellow and a soft neutral gray…

… and here is how beautifully it works, actually at an early-summer wedding in 2014. These two were just wayyyyy ahead of their time!

Originally posted on  BY JLAMMERTS)

Vannie and Richard at the Los Altos History Museum

A love story more than a decade in the making – and today, finally, it’s official: Vannie and Richard are Mr. and Mrs.! With more than a hundred guests as their witnesses, the two tied the knot at a very historic and romantic place – the History Museum in Los Altos,

Los Altos Hist Museum

surrounded by all that used to constitute rural life in the area in the last century or two; from ancient ploughs to … well, not quite so ancient tractors! Guests learned, among other things, that a plot for a single-family home in the heart of what is now Silicon Valley went for $ 55o – in the year 1917… That has changed! So much for the charming historic backdrop. Vannie’s and Richard’s personal history began exactly 11 years ago when they met in college, at UCLA.

They were assigned to the same dorm, and Vannie immediately felt intrigued by this attractive, slightly withdrawn “brooding artist” (Richard was majoring in Design) with that oddball sense of humor. “He seemed so … mysterious,” she muses when looking back. It took all her willpower and persistence (“or, what my parents call stubbornness,” jokes the bride) to win Richard over. But since Richard never does anything half-heartedly, his commitment was absolute, and that they’d be getting married at some point was a foregone conclusion. Well, finally this point did come, and the two chose a cozy and romantic venue (Los Altos History Museum) – and my company, A Day Like No Other, as their coordinator. Truly an honor!

Vannie had devised the decor theme and handmade most of the decorations herself in her wedding color, a sunny bright yellow. She fashioned a backdrop from strips of fabric and various hues of yellow, she made paper garlands with white, silver and yellow pompoms, and more big and small pompoms to hang from the mature trees shading the courtyard for Cocktail Hour.

wedding party

A clothesline strung between the trees was hung with snapshots from the couple’s decade-long courtship, and in lieu of a guestbook, guests signed a vintage globe.

photos

Even the flowers were “designed by Vannie!” The bouquets for herself and her bridesmaids were simple  bunches of Queen Anne’s Lace,

bouquets
centerpiece

and the centerpieces consisted of stacks of books, topped by cream English Country roses in mason jars, complete with a little yellow flag for table numbers.

table

Guests found their way inside the courtyard, guided by cute yellow pinwheels lining the path, and signage was, of course!, likewise handcrafted by the bride: chalkboards for the program, the menu and the table assignments.

program
seating chart

While my assistant Angeliki and I were busy putting everything up in their assigned spots, Vannie had her hair and makeup masterfully done by Susie Chhuor. Photographer Bre Thurston orchestrated Vannie’s and Richard First Look and many, many more photos throughout the day! The bride wore a spectacular ivory silk Reem Acra gown with beaded cap sleeves.

couple stairs

And here comes the Bride!

Here comes the bride

The short and very personal ceremony was presided over by minister Daniel Kennedy,

ceremony
ceremony

and while the couple was busy with more photos …

couple romantic
sunset
couple sunset

… their guests were  treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by Schumann’s FourSeasons Caterers, who also served a lavish family-style dinner,

Menu

outside under romantic string lights, as dusk was falling.

Then it was time for… cake cutting? Not quite! The bride and groom did this part of their celebration again “their way:” they cut a giant donut tower, and finished the dessert phase with ice cream sandwiches for everyone.

cake
Cake cutting

DJ Jeremy (who had already played beautifully for ceremony and cocktail hour) was now gearing up for the “dancing part” of the evening! After Vannie’s and Richard’s romantic First Dance, the crowd got inside for a wild dance party and really let it rip.

And here is why I love my job so much!

love my job

What a fantastic celebration… congratulations, Vannie and Richard, and our best wishes for a long, happy life – “growing old together…”

Caroline and Kendall – a Spectacular Wedding on a Cliff

California Coast at Moss Beach

Yes, that’s right – this is the breathtaking view from Caroline’s and Kendall’s ceremony spot! But – getting there was quite a journey … and one that would never have occurred to these two!

Caroline and Kendall had known each other for years, and it was a journey in itself for them to get from friendship to a firm commitment – but when they did get engaged at long last, they enlisted the help of my company, A Day Like No Other, to pull off a truly epic wedding celebration. That was in July of 2019, and the plan was for a ceremony and reception for 180 guests at Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside. We would go overboard with flowers, have floral chandeliers, and a whole wonderland with candlelight and music on a crisp Fall evening – 10/10/2020, to be exact.

It was not going to be – the COVID-19 pandemic intervened. In the Spring of 2020, we were still hopeful and were booking all our vendors for the “wedding of all weddings.” Caroline selected her wedding dress, a dramatic Vera Wang confection appropriate for the grand celebration we were envisioning. In Summer and going into Fall, it became only too clear that the big celebration the couple had been hoping for was impossible. They were deeply disappointed, and it took a while to “regroup.” They decided to hold on to their original wedding date (and then, maybe, have a big party later) – even if that meant that they could only have their parents and siblings in attendance. Instead of a huge party, it would be a very intimate gathering. A family friend graciously offered her spectacular beach house, perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, for this small wedding. And with that, we again began making plans!

Finally, the long-anticipated day arrived, a little hazy as is often the case on the Northern California coast – with magical clouds and fog.

For Caroline and her two bridesmaids, as well for both mothers, the day began with hair and makeup styling by Elizabeth Chang of Skyla Arts.

After that, the glamorous wedding dress was taken out – looking closely, a fascinating combination of a Rococo silhouette and deconstructed, asymmetrical elements, even including a hint of horsehair underpinnings. Simply breathtaking. Photographer extraordinaire Kevin Chin documented every precious moment.

Time for a Champagne toast!

Dress-up time…

A true mother-daughter moment…

All that was missing now were the flowers: the beautiful bridal bouquet and bridesmaids’ bouquets by Green Petal Designs.

While the ladies were getting ready, the groomsmen and fathers had their own bonding time…

The groom is now ready for his bride!

Bride Caroline was adamant: here groom would NOT get to see her before the ceremony! In that aspect, she really clung to tradition. And so we kept the two strictly separated for the time being.

Meanwhile, decorations were set up…

… and several teams were hard at work behind the scenes to prepare everything for the ceremony and reception. Florist Janelle Jacky-Litt of Green Petal Designs had reinterpreted the bride’s vision for floral chandeliers and an effortless, boho-elegant look for the (very different) beachfront location.

Her stunning arrangements with Pampasgrass, Eucalyptus and roses in the most delicate shades of dusty rose playing into nuances of green made the scene look even more gorgeous.

Everything was now ready for the ceremony, and here comes the bride!

Since Caroline and Kendall could not have the huge open Pavilion at their first-choice venue (Fogarty Winery), we prepared for them an open tent structure and adorned it with arrangements resembling the floral chandeliers she had so much hoped for… She made her way to the ceremony on a lily-white plush runner and past enlarged wedding photos of all mothers and grandmothers of the couple – truly a memorable and unique experience!

The ceremony was officiated by a close friend of the couple who found the most heartfelt words for this one-in-a-lifetime occasion.

It is official: “You may now kiss the bride!”

While guests were treated to Champagne …

… and delicious heavy hors d’oeuvres by Joshua Charles Catering

… the newlyweds had their photos taken. Lots and lots of them!

Who says a small wedding at a private residence on a hazy day can’t be stunning, magical, and immensely photogenic?!

With their photos done, the newlyweds finally got to mingle with their family members and friends, grab a bite and listen to several speeches – both heartfelt and funny!

We had made sure that Caroline and Kendall were getting all the customary “highlights” of wedding celebration, for example a bouquet toss (INCLUDING the single gents) …

… and cake cutting …

… and a First Dance.

With darkness falling and a slight mist descending on the coastline, the whole wedding party boarded their waiting limousines for a short trip to their afterparty at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. And OF COURSE the newlyweds got a proper exit in style!

What a day… and, by the way – Caroline and Kendall loved their intimate wedding celebration so much that they ultimately decided against having “the big party” they had originally planned, at a later date. They are married, they are happy…. because “All You Need Is Love,” right?

Amanda & Noah: a Beautiful Wedding in the Times of COVID

What happened to Amanda and Noah is – unfortunately – very typical for many engaged couples looking forward to their once-in-a-lifetime wedding celebration. The two had booked an elegant hotel wedding in Hawaii and could absolutely not wait for their great day to arrive. And then came COVID-19. It ruined everything… so Hawaii had to be called off. That was already a major heartbreak. Amanda and Noah “re-grouped” and started all over. They would have their wedding at the beautiful Marin Art and Garden Center, not far from their new home, and they would invite more than a hundred guests to a charmed afternoon and night in this romantic park. But even this was not going to happen. The COVID-19 lockdown put an end to this plan, too. The couple was deeply disappointed and at a total loss what to do now. They did not want to postpone getting married even longer. So they turned to my company, A Day Like No Other, for help.

It was clear that the maximum number of guests they could have was thirty – so it would be a very intimate celebration. But I wanted this to be a unique, memorable and beautiful celebration for the two – so I recommended a little-known secret to them: the historic Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito. Charming, built into a steep hillside and overlooking the yacht harbor and SF Bay with spectacular sunsets, this was the perfect location for their small gathering.

Additional bonus: the teleconferencing capabilities that Casa Madrona is offering! That allowed Amanda and Noah to have all guests from their original list of invitees attend their ceremony, at least virtually. A small consolation, after all…

One other thing: while Marin Art and Garden Center, their previous choice for their wedding celebration, remained closed for social events, the two got permission to have wedding photos taken in this spectacular setting. Another consolation!

And so, the great day final arrived. The bride and her bridesmaids got ready at the couple’s home, with hair and makeup services by Maya Roget. Photographer Anne-Claire Brun captured every moment.

Once all the ladies had their hair and makeup done, it was time for the bride to get into her spectacular dress:

… elegant, feminine and modern at the same time, and it fit her like a glove! This was, of course, a classic mother-daughter moment…

And here is Bride Amanda!

Ready to pick up her romantic bridal bouquet by Fleur Real

… and off to her First Look at Marin Art and Garden Center.

A couple’s First Look is always one of my favorite moments – so special…

And now: many more photos!

One photo with the bridesmaids and groomsmen…

… and off they all go to Casa Madrona for the wedding ceremony and reception.

The teams of Jazmine Herrera at Casa Madrona, of Poggio Trattoria, the in-house caterer, the florist and myself had been busy getting the event space ready. The ceremony was to be held on a balcony overlooking the Sausalito yacht harbor, with guest seating spaced out following social distancing requirements. The Amethyst Duo played wedding classics out on the balcony.

The ceremony was officiated by the brother of the groom – it could not have been more personal and more heartfelt.

You may now kiss your bride!
Just married!

The video wall in the Junto Suite where the reception was held allowed remote guests to congratulate the newlyweds from afar.

While the onsite guests were enjoying cocktails with a view of the San Francisco Bay, the couple went off for more photos.

And then dinner was ready!

Because of the ongoing pandemic, we had little bottles of hand sanitizer on the dining tables… along with flowers and table numbers!

The couple and their guests were definitely enjoying themselves.

One more highlight of the day: Cake cutting! (The minimalist cake was by Butter&)

Amanda and Noah spent the rest of the evening just chatting with their guests, having fun and having quality time with their nearest and dearest. Although their wedding day unfolded so differently from what they had originally planned – it turned out beautiful, meaningful and very memorable. The newlyweds were simple – happy.

Timeless style icons: Jackie Kennedy

 “Fashions come and go, but style is timeless.” How often have we heard this! We all remember “Lady Di” whose fashion influenced a whole generation of young women worldwide. But there were others before her, most notably “Jackie O.”

Born Jacqueline Bouvier and nicknamed “Jackie,” she married John F. Kennedy, and with his presidency became the youngest US First Lady in history, at a mere 31 years old.

Her tenure lasted only three years, until the fateful day her husband was assassinated in Dallas, dying in her arms, on November 22, 1961.

As the First Lady, Jackie was expected to choose an American designer to design her official wardrobe, and she chose the then-darling of Hollywood’s greatest stars – Oleg Cassini. Together, the two were to create a “Thousand Days of Magic” (the aptly chosen title of Oleg Cassini’s gorgeous book on their collaboration).

In stark contrast to the matronly looks of previous (much older) First Ladies, Cassini created for Jackie Kennedy clean, simple silhouettes in sumptuous fabrics – geometric lines, big buttons – a total of 300 outfits in just three years. He made her the most copied woman in the world.

Probably the most famous dress of all Cassini creations was a white Swiss double satin gown which Jackie wore to the Inaugural Gala Ball in 1961 as her first appearance as First Lady. The dress was soon named one of the 50 Dresses that Changed the World by the Design Museum in England.

Interested? This book is worth reading – I have it and still enjoy it tremendously!

Hair spray!!

Have you ever wondered where hair spray comes from? We are using it day in, day out (at least many of us) – so… here are your answers, courtesy of Wikepedia!

Hair sprays typically consist of several components for the hair – concentrate, plasticizers, luster agents, and fragrances, as well as propellants (unless a pump mechanism is used to deploy the product). Polyvinylpyrrolidone is a common component of hair spray that confers stiffness to hair.

The concentrate comprises only a small volume of a can of hairspray. Most of a canister is filled solvents such as isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) and ethanol.

Early hair sprays were developed in Europe in the 1920s. In the US, hair sprays were developed around the time of the aerosol can in the 1940s, and the first patents describing copolymers for hair styling were also published at that time.

In the US, hair spray became increasingly popular and mass-produced from the late 1940s, as updos and other such hairstyles were created – from “Bouffants” – see below – to the infamous “Beehives.” By 1964, it became the highest selling beauty product on the market.

Bouffant hairstyle
Beehive hairstyle (through Pinterest)

Sales of hairspray declined in the 1970s as hairstyles became predominately worn straight and loose. By the 1980s, hairspray’s popularity came back as big hairstyles resurged with the glam metal scene.

In 2007, hair spray (the product) became famous as Hairspray (the movie) starring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer. So – now you know! What’s YOUR favorite hairstyle, with or without spray?

Wedding customs from around the world: Persia

A guest post by Nilou Nouri

Nilou has been serving as a Persian wedding officiant for many years – and has frequently done so for weddings by A Day Like No Other.

All weddings, as celebrations of union between two individuals, are filled with ritual.  Some rituals are, for the most part, universal, such as wearing white by the bride, or the exchange of rings and exchange of vows.  Some rituals vary depending on the cultural backgrounds of the families.  Many rituals of food are used during the ceremony, to symbolize sweetness (sharing honey) or the bitter-sweetness of marriage (sharing sugar-covered almonds), etc.  Some rituals symbolize the binding of the union of two individuals (hand-fasting, lasso-ceremony, chuppah or the sugar-rubbing cloth held overhead the couple) and some rituals highlight the coming together of two families and communities (unity candle lighting, ring warming ceremony, etc.).

The Iranian (Persian) ceremony is full of beautiful, meaningful rituals, all of which point to nature, love and the spiritual world.  And, unlike many wedding ceremonies worldwide, where religion plays a central role, the Iranian (Persian) ceremony is entirely secular.  All of its elements point to nature, beauty and love between the couple.  Additionally, there is great emphasis on the importance of literature by reciting beautiful love poetry of classical Persian poets such as Khayyam, Hafez, Rumi and others.

During their nuptials, the couple sits in front of a decorative spread, Sofreh Aghd, with items symbolizing well-wishes for their married life.  These include a mirror (for reflection), candles (light in the universe), crystalized sugar (sweetness), eggs and nuts (fertility), flowers (beauty), herbs and fruit (health), bread (sustenance), spices (to ward off any negative energies) and a book (usually poetry or holy book depending on the preferences of the couple).  In addition to these items, two large sugar cones as well as a container of honey will adorn the Sofreh and will be used during the ceremony.  The cones (which represent the couple) will be rubbed together over a cloth held over their heads, in the hopes that every contact between the couple will result in sweetness!  The honey will be used by the couple to take turns feeding to one another with their pinky fingers and also symbolizes sweetness for their marriage.

During the Persian wedding ceremony, the Officiant asks the couple for their declaration of consent.  While the groom answers with a loud and resounding “ba’leh”, or “Yes!”, the bride traditionally would not respond the first nor the second time that the question is asked.  During this silence, her girlfriends would chime in and say, “the bride has gone to pick flowers” or “the bride has gone to bring rosewater”.  In the old days, the groom would be seated outside of the ceremony room (which was traditionally a female space) and the bride’s girlfriends would tease him and say “she’s not here, she’s gone to pick flowers”!  Another reason for this delay may have been to allow the bride to consider the decision that would forever change her destiny.

After the couple has given their consent, they share their vows and rings and feed each other honey!  At the end of the ceremony, the close relatives of the couple will present their ceremony gifts (usually jewelry or envelopes with cash) before the couple is announced and shares their first kiss as married!

Today many couples choose to modify the ceremony to fit their wishes, beliefs, budgets and preferences.  Some will have an elaborate Sofreh of considerable proportions, and some will display a modest version with a few key items.  For couples who are celebrating a mixed union, coming from different traditions, many times on the Sofreh will be displayed items reflecting their backgrounds.  For example, in my work with mixed/fusion couples, I have seen everything from an Irish horseshoe and Child of Prague statue, to a Mexican lasso and coin, to the Native American basket, to the Jewish wine glass and the African American broom, among other items.  These objects fit beautifully together and are a testament to love, union and mutual acceptance between two individuals, their families and communities.

Every wedding is so very special and such a happy occasion.  Afterall we are celebrating the greatest force in the universe, Love!  So regardless of size, venue, expense and any fanfare, the true essence of every wedding is the celebration of a union, and the coming together of families and communities.  Rituals help to make this special occasion even more meaningful and memorable.

All photos show sofreh set-ups by Nilou

Independence Day

Fourth of July – Independence Day. Who wouldn’t know? Every school child learns about it. It is the National Day of the United States. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, the motherland of the colonists. It commemorates the end of the American Revolutionary War, in which many thousands paid the ultimate price to attain their new country’s independence.

Independence thus is a value deeply rooted in American history and culture. It is a defining element of the American self-image.

The idea of independence, though, is not restricted to the political realm alone. It is likewise perceived as a value in its own right in the fabric of our society: women have fought a valiant battle for their legal and financial independence from their male family members – fathers, brothers, husbands – for their right to make their own decisions, choose their husbands themselves or live on their own, be the masters of their own fate. The idea of independence is ranking high in our perception of moral values.

And yet – every single day more than 12,000 US citizens voluntarily give up a good part of their personal independence: they get married!  (Which brings us to our main subject here at Wedding Woof).Have you ever looked at weddings from this aspect? Bride and groom are giving up the freedom to do as they like, to go out when they feel like it without asking anyone, to travel whenever wanderlust strikes without having to consider someone else’s feelings or schedules. Thankfully by today those tying the knot do so on their own accord and from their own free will. So – why are they doing it?

Photo credit Andre Vega

Brian Lyke, a minister in Carmel-by-the-Sea who officiates at many weddings, put it this way: ” When we get married, we’re not just fulfilling a social expectation. “Everybody my age is getting married, so that is the normal thing to do!” No, I firmly believe that the reason for getting married lies a lot deeper. Most human beings feel a deep loneliness, feel that something is missing from their lives without a counterpart. Knowingly or unconsciously, they are longing for another human being to share their joys big and small, their frustrations, their successes and failures, in short, their everyday lives. Without this partner, they feel incomplete, and they are searching for completeness, looking for wholeness…for fulfillment, and I believe that that longing for wholeness is part of our nature.  Simply put, we’re made for each other, we’re made for relationship.” And that entails a mutual give-and-take, entails voluntarily giving up some of our hard-earned independence – for love.

And that’s not the only area where people give up part of their independence for love: every month more than 7000 dogs are brought into someone’s household, be it adopted from a shelter or bought from a breeder. (Which brings us to the other focus of Wedding Woof…) Taking up responsibility for a pet automatically means a dramatic change in lifestyle: you can’t leave the house any more for hours at a time, you can’t travel as you used to… you always have to be mindful of your pet’s needs and happiness. And yet – ask any dog owner, and they will assure you that relinquishing part of their independence is double-and triple-rewarded by the love their pet gives them every single day. Here you have it again: sometimes love trumps independence.

Cheers to all those who courageously relinquish some independence in favor of love – for someone two-legged or four-legged… Which should not preclude you from celebrating Independence Day as well!

Down the Rabbit Hole with Reds: Pinot Noir and Syrah

A guest post by Henry Trione of Trione Winery

I reached for the tapered Burgundian wine bottle in the cellar, thinking it was a Pinot Noir to serve my guests. Pinot, the classic safe choice to share; a varietal ubiquitous to the typical Californian wine cellar, and a versatile selection for food pairings from pâté to dessert. Many wine connoisseurs enjoy a good Pinot, especially Marin County residents, as were my company. As I brought the bottle into the light it became immediately apparent that it was in fact not a bottle of Pinot Noir, but actually… Syrah.

It was too late. The Marinites saw the bottle. I couldn’t put it back. I suddenly realized I had given away the last bottle of Trione Pinot Noir as a Christmas gift to a friend who had unexpectedly stopped by. My mind raced. ‘The Pinot is gone; the Syrah is all I have. The Syrah is good, to be sure, but was it too exotic for the sensibilities of my guests?’ Seconds passed, it seemed like eternity. I recovered well, though.

“I have a lovely 2013 Russian River Valley Syrah for you try. I chose it specially to pair with the cheese.”

I must confess, even growing up in Sonoma County in a family involved in the business of wine, Syrah was not a common sight. Pinot and Cabernet comprised the extent of my red wine knowledge. To be fair, I was only five years old. Still, I have noticed even today that when perusing the wine list at a restaurant, there are often more labels of Pinot Noir than Syrah. I personally enjoy them both, and yes it depends on the situation, the food pairing and even the weather. Or sometimes, as it appeared in my story above, that is simply what is available.

Let’s look a little into the historical geographical incidence of the two varietals. Pinot Noir originates from the Burgundy region of France, an east-central region of the country with a cooler climate conducive to growing the thin-skinned grape. With weather much like the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, it is not a coincidence that the River Road Ranch is where Trione produces the fruit for it’s Pinot, hand selecting the top three percent of the crop that finds its way into bottles with the Trione Vineyards & Winery label. In the old world, Syrah has historically been grown in the Rhône Valley of France. The climate varies from the north to south of the valley, with the northern part cooler than the southern end. As you may have guessed, the conditions of the Russian River Valley AVA are somewhere in between. At Trione, the top three percent is siphoned off to the winemaker, Scot Covington, before the balance of the crop is sold to other local wineries.

Scot employs a French style in winemaking, so all things being equal on the production end, it is fascinating to taste just how different these wines are and why Syrah is deserving of respect. While Scot describes the Trione Pinot Noir as “Fresh tilled earth, clean, rich and… a walk through a medieval forest, dark but with layer upon layer of blackberry compote.” He describes the Syrah as smoky and “peaty, wet earth with hints of plum, blueberry and wild blackberry preserves.” In his tasting notes, he goes on to say that the Trione Syrah is “Pinot lover’s Syrah.”

Wait a minute.

Describing the Syrah in reference to Pinot is no mistake. People just know and love an earthy, peaty tasting Pinot, so why not compare the lesser known to the standard of excellence in the field? But is it fair to compare two such different wines? This is not what Scot was doing, but I believe I was guilty of this thought process when I was entertaining my guests with the bottle of 2013 Syrah. Syrah should not be considered the less gifted sibling compared to the superstar kid wonder Pinot that went to an Ivy League, rowed on the crew team and achieved a 4.0, while Syrah went to a respectable Junior College and did just fine. The point has been made that the two varietals are distinctly different, and Scot has cued us in with the tasting notes. So, how are they really different and what to pair with?

As we see in the tasting notes, Syrah is classically smoky. It is full bodied and spicy. It is bold, and I have heard it described as “barbecue wine.” At this juncture, I should add that the Trione Syrah contains 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. This is a stylistic choice, and does not in my opinion obscure the true nature of the varietal. Pinot, on the other hand, is high in acidity, earthy, red fruit notes but lighter. So, when we really break it down to their simplest descriptions, Syrah is bold and Pinot Noir is lighter. This gives us an idea of how to pair.

Pinot Noir is indeed versatile, and the range of foods with which it pairs is generally determined by how tannic or conversely light it is. The bolder more tannic Pinots stand up well to wild game and heavier dishes, while the lighter fruitier variants are more appropriate for poultry, pastas, and seafood like salmon. At a Trione Winemaker Dinner, I even enjoyed the Russian River Pinot Noir with a fruit-based dessert. Syrah, while a significantly different to its Pinot Noir counterpart, actually pairs with similar foods as an elegantly tannic Pinot. For example, Syrah is a good partner to gamey-tasting meats, lamb, and anything barbecue. And cheese? That’s a gouda. Just steer clear of most seafood dishes, and delicate flavors that are overpowered by this full-bodied red.

There you have it. Pinot Noir and Syrah. We have barely scratched the surface of these two red varietals. They represent an intriguing comparison in my opinion because of the spectrum on which they lie. On opposite ends they are just that – diametric reds with the light, highly acidic Pinot Noir on one end and the smoky tannic Syrah on the other. Tangentially close but never quite overlapping on the spectrum, we find fuller-bodied Pinots and less toasty Syrahs. With the multitude of labels available for both varietals, there is seemingly endless opportunity to test the merits of each and to explore one’s preference. To quote The Matrix, “You take the red pill… and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”