Water for Chefs—Cara Chigazola-Tobin, Oleana, Cambridge

The diaries of chefly oenophiles.

December 15, 2015 ● 3 min read

Chef Chigazola-Tobin leads the line as Chef de Cuisine at Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The California native is a new mom and a 2015 Rising Star Chef. "To be fair, I would not call myself a wine connoisseur," she says. "If it weren't for folks like you, I would probably buy boxes of Franzia, because it stacks well in my pantry and there's a less likely chance of it being dropped and broken." Nothing wrong with keepin' it real. 

Would you call yourself a wine drinker? 

If by "wine drinker" you mean someone who drinks wine that is placed in front of them without question, then yes. All I dreamed about while I was pregnant was sitting down with a bottle of rosé all to myself. I am a wine drinker. (Unless a Pimm's Cup is available. Then you can call me a "Pimm's Cup drinker.") 

Paint the whole picture of your bangin'-est wine experience, REAL or IMAGINED. 

Many, many years ago my husband and I lived in a tent in Vermont. He'd just returned from Italy, and we were drinking a lot of wine. I remember one warm summer night we were making pasta on our cookstove in our huge 9' x 9' canvas tent, and somehow wine made it into every part of the dish — wine in the pasta water, wine in the sauce, wine with the vegetables and wine in our glasses. We laughed and drank all night long. It was a ridiculous and childish way to drink wine, but damn it was fun. We didn't give a shit. We were just young and having a good time. 


If you could choose the ultimate wine mate for the food you specifically cook, what would it be? 

Whites and rosés are my jam. Even though we're in New England — and I cook Middle Eastern food at Oleana — I still like to cook like I'm in California, where I'm from. That means light dishes. Lighter cooking techniques. Lots of fresh elements. I imagine most things I make being eaten with a glass of rosé in hand.

Have you experienced a wine pairing that you felt truly elevated your food? 

I'd like to say that I can remember a wine pairing moment that blew my mind, but I can't. I can remember dishes that have made me cry, but I'm not sure that I remember a wine pairing that stuck with me. That doesn't mean that I haven't had that experience; it might just be that I've been surrounded by some of the best wine professionals around, and my bar was set high from the get-go. 

If you could drink one wine RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT, what would you want? 

Right now, I'm sitting in front of the computer in my apartment with a sleeping three month-old in my lap, and I'm freezing. Even on this balmy, fifty degree day, I am freezing. I would kill for a big, warming glass of red right now. And a blanket.



La Clarine Farm Rosé, Sierra Foothills, California


If anyone in California is keeping it real, it's Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine Farm. Since 2001, this guy has been making the kind of wine you'd want to drink in a tent in Vermont at the start of lifelong romance. His rosé —"blush" be damned — is perfectly unstackable (read: the anti-Franzia), and with its pleasantly rich weight, it's a surprising winter warmer. Beckmeyer and his wife, Caroline, raise goats and vines at 2,600 feet of elevation, high in the uniquely cool microclimate proffered up by the Sierra Nevadas. Inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka's aggressively non-interventionist agricultural philosophies, Beckmeyer's approach in his vineyard and his cellar is as hands-off as hands-off can be, resulting in wines with rustic terroir and wild aromatics. In spirit and expression, his rosé is an incredible mate to the clean-yet-powerful cuisine of the Middle East, but no one will blame you for drinking a whole bottle solo.