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To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to, Let's Call the Whole Thing Wine

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If you try to match your wine with your food, and you've got a tomato on your plate, then you might have a big question in your mind. A vegetable and a fruit, a star and a supporting player, subtly sweet and puckeringly acidic, the tomato is a food of a thousand faces. All of its glory is extolled in the Boutique Hotel Collection's annual Ode to the Tomatoes in SLO County, where the Apple Farm Inn, The Cliffs Resort, SeaVenture Resort, and Sycamore Mineral Springs celebrate tomatoes with special menus and dinners during the month of September. They even know enough to quote Neruda, and such a poetic bent suggest it's worth asking them for what to drink when delighting in tomatoes.

If you were at a recent press reception, you might have enjoyed some sangria with pork sliders slathered in spicy tomato jam. And this was no ordinary sangria but one spiked with jalapeños and garnished with a spear of fruits and a cherry tomato. It was an interesting approach to both soften the red wine some with the usual sangria ingredients (citrus, apple, sugar) and sharpen it with the more fiery pepper. It certainly worked with the southwest-style sliders and their barbecued corn, black beans, and avocado. But it might not have been the sangria of choice for a day of warm-weather porch-sipping.
For that, they suggested the tried and true, rosés, all curated by Jeff Chaney, who primarily runs the wine program at Marisol at the Cliffs Resort but advises for all four properties. Chaney, born on the Central Coast and glad to be able to return and help improve the wine and food scene there (he's also done time at the beloved Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos and with Qupé Wines), has a soft spot for Bandol when it comes to rosés, so tends to pick California wines hankering after that southern French style: dry, light on their feet, yet full of flavor.

One such wine is the Emanuel Tres 2012 Rosado that hails from Santa Barbara County but is mostly sold in Japan and Los Angeles (ah, the world of international wine marketing). It's 100% Grenache, a lovely salmon in color, and delicious and drinkable at 12.5% alcohol. Pairs perfectly with grilled local yellowtail with green tomato granita, the tuna zipped with black pepper, the granita acidic yet cool, the wine stitching all the flavors together with just enough berry, enough weight.

Otherwise, Chaney built a steady Santa Barbara to Central Coast fivesome of pleasurable pink goodness: 2011 Eberly Syrah Rosé, 2012 Verdad Grenache Rosé, 2012 Halter Ranch Rosé, 2012 Beckmen Grenache Rosé, and 2012 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé, none more than $10 a glass. Your tomatoes will be happy.

And if the wine doesn't do the trick, try doing what Chef Gregg Wangard from Marisol did and whip up a designer michelada. Starting with the freshest of tomatoes for his base, he then ran his portable smoker into that juice, topped it off with Corona, and served it in a glass with a celery-cilantro salt rim.

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