Wine country pool party

When a winemaker barbecues, the tri-tip's a corker


Even though Erik Olsen is the winemaker at mammoth Clos du Bois Winery in Sonoma County ― one of the leading producers of Chardonnay in the United States (about a million cases of it) ― the value of wine for him lies in good times with family, friends, and great food.

"Dad, look, I can do a backflip!" demands 5-year-old Alexandra Tett. Her friend Caroline Olsen, age 6, is an avid witness, while their brothers, Porter and Christian (3 and 4, respectively), are more interested in sucking unlucky insects into their new bug viewer.

With the kids absorbed in water matters, their parents attend to oyster and Pinot Grigio detail. Erik and his wife, Deborah, have joined their friends David and Carolyn Tett at their home in the hills overlooking Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg, California, for the afternoon. "I'm always the guy at the barbecue," explains Erik. Today he's grilling a tri-tip roast marinated in Shiraz; bell peppers dunked in the same sauce are sizzling alongside.

Parts of this spread cater to more sophisticated palates―those oysters on the half-shell, for instance, with a rice vinegar, cilantro, shallot, and jalapeño sauce. Others are designed for the kids: an appetizer platter of melons, mangoes, snap peas, and cucumber for dipping into yogurt mixed with honey and lime. A retro macaroni salad in a tangy, old-fashioned boiled dressing goes both ways.

When the tart crowned with peaches and blueberries comes out, Alexandra misapplies a cliché, but nails the point: "It looks so good I could eat it!"


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