“Homecoming,” Review: Emilia Aged American Balsamic

Saturday night is homecoming, which means I’m chaperoning a dance at the high school where I teach. Truth be told, I sort of love doing it; seeing my students dressed up in their best, out on dates, dancing and practicing the art of making small talk using their voices instead of a screen and keyboard — all of this is fun to observe. It does, however, mean a night away from home, and as Sonja has been gone all week working in Mississippi, I don’t relish the timing. So to try to make up for my impending absence, in addition to tidying the house up all week, I surprised her by bringing the kids and picking her up at the airport last night.


When we got back to our clean home, I set out a nice piece of cheese and pulled the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine we’d purchased our last time out in Sonoma. The 2011 Mayo Blanc de Blancs comes from a winery we visited on our honeymoon, and the yeasty straw-yellow wine rivals some of the better sparkling wines I’ve had lately. It was a fun memory to share, and while we imbibed I made dinner.


I think I was most excited for dinner for two reasons. First, I had gotten a steal on some thick Ahi tuna steaks crusted in sesame seeds and ready to be pan-seared in butter and herbs, and second, because I had decided we needed to open the Emilia. If you’ve never heard of Emilia Aged American Balsamic produced by George Paul Vinegar, with all apologies to Buddha, I’m about to give you the gift of enlightenment. To frame this, I’ll say that I think the beer made in Nebraska is pretty much as good as the beer made anywhere else, save perhaps for Belgium. I think that the wine made in Nebraska from hybrid varietals is so different from the wines made from vinifera, and our climate so vastly inferior at supporting viticulture, that it is difficult to make equitable comparisons. And I think that this balsamic vinegar, being produced in very rural Nebraska, is superior to any other balsamic I have ever tried. I like it so much that the last time Sonja and I went to Napa and Sonoma, we took about a dozen bottles with us to give to our friends out there as gifts. Since that time, many have gotten back to me, raving about it and asking where they can get more. (Incidentally, they and you can do so here: https://www.georgepaulvinegar.com/shop/emilia-balsamic-vinegar) Tart, sweet, rich, it checks all the boxes with a flourish, and transformed what would have been a pretty good caprese salad into a masterpiece last night. If you like to cook, or even just like to eat, I strongly suggest you try Emilia. (This is not an advertisement — I just really love this stuff.)

To pair with the meal, I also opened a bottle of Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir that had been collecting dust in my cellar since we joined their wine club on our honeymoon. I was clearly in a romantic mood. The wine was smooth, silky, and ample, very enjoyable if not extraordinary — the sort of above average quality I expect from small wineries when they get bought out and forced to produce more wine than they were designed to do. In this case, the ownership of a rich Frenchman hasn’t done any favors for the quality of the wines being produced, but in general I find them enjoyable, and California’s oldest commercial winery is still worthy of a visit.

After dinner, we put the kids to bed and finished our wine in the living room, catching up on the goings on of the past week and making mental to-do lists. We didn’t last long before heading up to bed. I had a great week with the kids, though of course it’s wonderful to have Sonja back, and it was nice to have an excuse to open our bottle of Emilia. This morning, I hope to walk the kids to Blackstone to get doughnuts before we take them to WeBop. This afternoon, so far as I’m aware, we have no plans.  Perhaps the zoo? Or the Joslyn? I guess we’ll see. Tonight I’ll don one of my three-piece suits and chaperone homecoming, then maybe go out for a drink afterwards. I’m looking forward to the day. Whatever your weekend may hold, I hope your plans are satisfying, rich, and full of things you love to do.

Cheers to the weekend,



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