Sparkling wine has been part of Eva Bertran's life since the day she was born, when her father placed a drop of it on her lips.
Descended from a family of Spanish wine merchants, Bertran was raised in the northeastern province of Catalonia, where most of Spain's sparkling wine, or cava, is produced.
Sparkling wine was an essential part of her family's daily meals ― and of the wider culture. "When we say 'wine' in Catalonia," says Bertran, "we mean sparkling wine."
Now the executive vice president of Sonoma, California's Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves ― a subsidiary of the Spanish sparkling-wine producer Freixenet ― Bertran and her husband, David Brown, often invite friends over for a laid-back meal of small dishes, or tapas, that they typically have outside.
"All the recipes come from my mother and grandmother, who cooked with a 'little bit of this and a little bit of that, " she says.
Of course, Bertran has definite opinions about the best wine to serve. "Sparkling wine is so versatile. In it, you have acidity, which cuts fat, and sugar, which cuts heat. Most wines only have one or the other."
For her tapas menu ― which includes rich and sometimes pungent foods like potato omelet, garlicky tomato-rubbed Catalan bread, chickpea salad, salty serrano ham, anchovy-stuffed olives, and nutty manchego cheese ― only sparkling wine will do.
"When you graze like this, you could pair the food with seven different wines," she explains. "But sparkling wine will give you a range of flavors that works with everything."
INFO: For details on Gloria Ferrer's annual Catalan Festival, held July 22-23 this year, visit www.gloriaferrer.com or call 707/996-7256.