Odd Pair: What Wine to Pair with Hospital Food?

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Color me pink! Tracie P and I had a baby on Monday: Georgia P arrived Monday afternoon at 3:52 p.m., 6 lbs., 14.5 oz., 20 inches, ten fingers, ten toes, and gorgeous curly locks of dark hair. Everyone is healthy and happy, the baby passed all her tests with flying colors, and we brought her home the day before yesterday.

As soon as you're admitted to the hospital to have a baby, they take the mother-to-be off solid foods. And not long after the birth, a nurse appears with your first post-partum meal. The new mom needs to regain her strength and if she plans on breast-feeding, she needs to fortify herself with protein to pass on to the newborn.

We loved our ob/gyn and the hospital staff, and the quality of care were fantastic. But you can imagine our disappointment when we saw the quality of the food they expected us to eat -- and pass on to our little miracle.

And, of course, after ten months of not being able to indulge in alcohol in any form, Tracie P was craving wine.

But did it make sense to pair one of our favorite wines with the crap they expected us to eat in the hospital? I hate to say it, but the first meal they served looked literally like crap.

I've been known to pair unhealthy food with some of my favorite wines. In fact, I'd recommend it -- occasionally. But it's not every day that you have a baby (our first) and now, more than ever, we are trying to eat healthy, wholesome food (the baby "latched" just minutes after the birth and has been nursing robustly ever since).

We live just five minutes away from our hospital and Central Market lies equidistant. So, with my in-laws there and everyone fed up with the caliber of food they kept sending us (pun intended), I picked up a box of De Cecco penne, some domestic cow's milk mozzarella balls, a jar of brined Kalamata olives, arugula, and cherry tomatoes and tossed them with Kosher salt, San Giuliano extra-virgin olive oil from Sardinia, a pinch of freshly cracked pepper, and a kiss of red wine vinegar. And I also dressed some red leaf lettuce and radicchio with the olive oil and salt.

The wine? A 2010 Untended Chardonnay by California Natural winemaker Donkey and Goat. The wine is the product of chemical-free farming and native, ambient yeast. The winemakers calls it "untended" because they source the fruit from an abandoned Chardonnay vineyard that they believe to be more than 30 years in age. With only 12 percent alcohol (yes!), the wine has that lip-splitting acidity that Tracie P and I love, bright citrus and salty flavors, and a wonderful crunchy, chewy mouthfeel. In many ways, this wine represents the highfalutin winemaker's nightmare and our wet dream: It stinks when you first pour it into the glass (but the odorous volatile acidity gives way to fresh citrus and marjoram), it's cloudy (because it's unfiltered), and it throws a ton of sediment, including the brown lees, i.e., the dead yeast. It's one of my top wines of 2011 and my all-time favorite California Chardonnay. (Although the wine is not available through Houston wine retailers, you can order it -- in whatever quantity you desire -- directly from the winery: Out-of-state retailers are not permitted to ship wine to Texas but thanks to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, wineries in the U.S. have been guaranteed their constitutional right to interstate commerce.)

And, of course, we also drank some bubbly: We celebrated the birth of our first child with a bottle of our favorite Champagne. (Here's the link to my Champagne recommendations for the holidays.)

It will be many, many years before little Georgia P will get to taste fine wine. But someday I'll tell her about the wines that we drank in the hospital after she was born and what they meant to us.

That's Georgia, below, in the arms of my father-in-law, Rev. B. I know every father thinks his daughter is the prettiest in the bunch. But ain't she a beauty?

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