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Living in Wine Country

Couples Share A Romantic Dance In The Kitchen Too

By Kathy Marcks Hardesty

e hands her an aperitif of Rosé, she glides around him for the cheese board and stops to slip a sliver of Parmigiano into his mouth. They’re engaged in the dinnertime waltz that’s instinctively enjoyed by every couple that loves fine food and wine.
The romance of cooking with your mate and lingering over dinner has never been lost on Hollywood; many a sensual eating scene has been cast around food ever since Tom Jones’ lascivious buffet scene. HBO series like The Sopranos and Sex in the City feature lead characters cooking dinner together while drinking good Italian wine or sipping Champagne from elegant flutes in almost every episode.

Although it was “love at first sight” that first brought together Marc Goldberg, winemaker and owner of Windward Vineyards in Paso Robles and his wife and partner Maggie D’Ambrosia, love of the pleasures of wine and food have been a thread throughout their romance.
Goldberg, who became enamored with the wines of Burgundy when he was 17 and who now makes Pinot Noir, met D’Ambrosia in 1968 when both were hospital administrators in Los Angeles. Goldberg kept his cellar well stocked with old Burgundies and while courting Maggie helped educate her palate by sharing a different Pinot Noir, which Goldberg feels is the “ultimate expression of great wine,” every evening.

When D’Ambrosia and Goldberg first started to spend time in the kitchen cooking meals together, Maggie was a culinary novice. “Marc was the gourmet cook at first,” concedes D’Ambrosia. “At that point I didn’t know Bernaise sauce or Romanée-Conti.” But under Goldberg’s tutelage Maggie began to slice, sauté and simmer, developing a growing love for both Marc and for cooking itself.

While living in Topanga Canyon in the early years of their relationship, both were often too busy in their professional lives to get home in time to cook their meal together. But they ensured there was time to share dinner and wine each night while discussing their day or sharing their dreams. And they formed a bond that’s never broken after 30 years.

“We went through an evolution, as all couples do,” D’Ambrosia explains. “At first, we would try to outdo each other’s meals, but that didn’t last long.” Instead of dictating the cooking style, or worrying about how the other was seasoning the rack of lamb, they began cooking in harmony with each other, either helping or staying out of the other’s way as needed.

When D’Ambrosia and Goldberg purchased an estate in Paso Robles in 1989, they immediately began working toward their goal of producing world-class Pinot Noir.

Of course, it didn’t take the dynamic couple long to become established in Paso Robles, where they’ve cooked uncounted meals for their friends and for guests who attend their winery events. Goldberg says that their cozy meals at home have become a model for life, which has taught their 13-year-old son Justin an appreciation for flavorful meals made from scratch and for sharing conversation. “It doesn’t make sense to run to McDonald’s,” says Goldberg, “and give up something that gives you great joy.” As he is often busy with winemaking responsibilities during the week, Maggie takes over the kitchen helm, commenting that “cooking and sharing dinner is our daily entertainment.”

It’s a similar story with vintners Brian and Johnine Talley. Brian Talley, president of Talley Vineyards, met his future wife Johnine Przybyla when she was working for his parents Don and Rosemary Talley at the winery tasting room. “Johnine worked there before I did,” he laughs good-naturedly. He was then working across the road from the winery at Talley Farms, his family’s gourmet vegetable farm in Arroyo Grande Valley founded by his grandfather Oliver Talley. The Talley Family is well known nationwide for their premium fruit and vegetables and their vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. “We both liked to cook and started preparing dinner together before we were married,” Talley remembers. “We made dinner a special time so we could enjoy what we cooked over a good bottle of wine.”

At the Talley’s home in Arroyo Grande, he’s now the primary cook. “Before the girls, it was more of a priority to dine out,” says Talley. “But now I enjoy dinner at home more.” He manages both sides of the family business and Johnine still helps manage the winery, but they’re actively involved in the lives of their daughters Elizabeth and Olivia, now eight and seven years old. “It’s fun to cook together, as we like to get our kids involved preparing dinner and sitting down as a family,” says Talley. “It’s a great way to teach them to appreciate healthful cooking and the process really seems to open up dialogue between us.”

His ladies don’t like to be kept waiting, so Talley does fast food his way, often grilling fresh fish and serving just-harvested broccoli or bell peppers from Talley Farms. Brian also trades wine with a neighbor for Pippin apples and strawberries to make healthful desserts. Occasionally, he comes home after a late day at work to find his wife cooking dinner for him. “It’s such a nice treat,” he smiles. “I have to forget being the chef and ask Johnine, ‘What can I do to help?’

Children change the lifestyle of every couple, but for these two cooking couples, it’s never taken away from the intimacy of creating a delicious dinner together and enjoying it with a good bottle of wine. “With a teenager, so many people resort to fast food and don’t take the time to enjoy dinner at the table,” says D’Ambrosia. “Now, Justin is part of that enjoyment. He sets the table and lights the candles each night and sits down to dinner with us, a continuum of our courtship and marriage.”

JAN/FEB 2005

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