Last December, during Gerry Moss's first month as pastry chef at Tra Vigne, my restaurant in St. Helena, California, we were looking at some ways to introduce Gerry's talents to our vintner friends in the Napa Valley. Trying to create a holiday tradition that celebrated the Napa Valley, Italy, wine--and would be fun for kids too--started me thinking about the Christmases of my own Italian-American childhood. It was an endlessly good time of year, and my mother would start baking cookies at the beginning of December to make sure we'd have plenty on hand for all the people who dropped by.
My wife, Ines, has since taken over as our family's chief cookie baker. Over the past 11 years, she has taught the pastry chefs at Tra Vigne some of our favorites, and they've traded some with us; you never can have too many recipes for Christmas cookies, and now we have a rich and wonderful repertoire to choose from.
We decided to announce Gerry's arrival with a big wine and cookie party, which I'm sure will become an annual event. We brought the dough to Beaulieu Vineyard's historic Rutherford House, and the children helped roll out the cookies. Gerry and I did the baking ourselves, and then everyone downed the cookies with glasses of wine or mugs of orange-infused cocoa. And we made sure to have enough extra so everybody could take some home.
Michael Chiarello is the executive chef and owner of Tra Vigne in St. Helena, California, and of Bistecca in Scottsdale, Arizona. The author of Flavored Oils and Flavored Vinegars (Chronicle Books), he is currently working on a new cookbook, Season by Season at Tra Vigne.