Richard Salzberg, Leslie Thomas, Heather Heilman, Jean Francois Chaub, and Catherine Almo
Shannon Kelley

January has the potential to seriously suck. Not only is it bloody cold outside, but I never see my friends, as they’re all aboard one wagon or another. The one who resolved to get in shape only ventures out to go to the gym and has taken to speaking in direct quotes from the South Beach Diet Book. The one who resolved to get her life in order is at home doing-well, I don’t know what, watching Oprah? And the one who’s trying to kick nicotine? I’m kind of scared of her.

And then, of course, there’s me.

It’s not that I’m opposed to self-improvement: Just the other day, at breakfast with one of the precious few friends who’d dare go to breakfast, I ordered my scramble with egg whites. It’s more that my job, such as it is, leaves no room for the sort of vigilance that might have me under lockdown, lest a rogue carb make its way into my system. All of which makes an invitation like the one I got last week utterly surprising-and irresistible.

“You’re invited,” it read, “to Pierre Lafond’s Passport to the World of Wine, on Wednesday, January 7.” What’s this? Two days into the most austere month of the year, and I’m sitting on an invite to a midweek event featuring wine tasting and food pairing? Hello, I love you.

The Passport series is a relatively new endeavor, featuring a different varietal each month, with sommelier Zach Blair’s selection of five standout wines from around the world, each paired with a tasty snack, prepared by Chef Nathan Heil.

Don’t have to ask me twice.

I got there early, took a left at the register, and landed in Willamette Valley, Oregon, where the wine was paired with a most delicious mushroom and bacon tartlet, and then made my way to France, for a French Burgundy (that’s pinot, to toi and moi) and a crunchy, camembert-y, nutty, pear-sweetened crostini. At this point, I took a break-a layover, if you will-for a little peeping. It was the perfect-size crowd for such an affair: Any more crowded and it would have been a bona fide Scene. More for me-score one for the New Year’s Resolutions.

I picked up the trail around New Zealand, where I sampled the Wild Earth and sesame tuna on cucumber. Ahi is my weakness; I had four. No matter, for I promptly skipped town, touching down at the Cali table, which featured pours from Santa Barbara Winery and Lafond, and pulled lamb sliders. Divine. Then, somehow, on my return I was rerouted through France, where Blair was up to some brown bag-clad shenanigans, which left me buzzing, all the way home.

All in all, it was a lovely, pinot-soaked tour of the world: wagon-free, and miles away from that awful South Beach.


Passport events take place the first Wednesday of the month, $25. For info, visit


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