I grew up celebrating Chinese New Year. It is so much part of California’s heritage. In San Francisco’s Chinatown, we have one of the largest celebrations outside Asia. It is also the oldest celebration of Lunar New Year in America, dating back to the 1860s.
Last September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that makes Lunar New Year a state holiday, recognizing the diversity of cultures that Asian Americans bring to California.
Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year marks a time in the Lunar calendar. It’s not religious or limited to China — it’s about family and friends, and food and gift-giving, so inherently about inclusivity. We all stand under the same moon.
We started producing a special Chinese Cuvee specifically for export to China. It has evolved into a limited production Sparkling, which we release in our Tasting Room and online in time for the holiday, celebrating each animal in the Chinese Zodiac. These Lunar New Year wines are very special to us, and gives us the opportunity to design labels that make people smile.
If you love Chinese food, this is a holiday you can’t miss.
2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, which is very special. The sign of the Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity. Its long ears gather good fortune and “leaping” into the new year brings hope for many good things to happen. It’s considered to be a lucky year.
Each year, we get questions about this particular bubbly on social media about appropriation versus celebration. I feel the best way to tread the line between appropriation and appreciation is awareness. For example, when Covid hit, the first places in America to feel its impact were the country’s historic Chinatowns. Chinatowns are struggling to survive. On the Winter Solstice, friends and I celebrated with a fabulous meal at Empress by Boon, but the streets were empty. It was eerily quiet.
I have learned so much from “the stir fry guru”, acclaimed cookbook author Grace Young. These past three years, she has become the nation’s most prominent voice in a campaign to support and preserve these struggling businesses under the hashtag #SaveChineseRestaurants, and an anti-hate campaign #LoveAAPI.
Celebrating and being cognizant go hand in hand, especially for Lunar New Year because it is so food focused. Food is love and the best way to combat hate is with love. This is a time to bring family and friends together and hosting a party boosts good luck.
Lucky foods include dumplings and spring rolls, symbolizing prosperity, wealth and good fortune, whole steamed fish for abundance, duck for fidelity, noodles for long life, tangerines represent gold, Pomegranates and shelled peanuts are also auspicious, round and golden almond cookies are said to resemble coins.
For Lunar New Year wine, we naturally recommend Sparkling – especially a Blanc de Blancs. Our Year of the Rabbit bubbly is vintage 2019, made from 100% estate Chardonnay. It is crisp, dry, and multifaceted, which is key to pairing with Asian cuisine. Our winemaker David Munksgard describes this bubbly in his tasting notes as “… bright with honeysuckle and white flower notes followed by honeydew melon, cantaloupe, green apple and orange flavors, bright acidity, and creaminess. The texture is beautiful and the wine complex.” A classic Chinese toast is “gong hei fat choy”, which means “wishing you prosperity and good fortune”.