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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

Raise your hand if you love Steely Dan.  Now raise your glass if you love Steely Dan while sipping good Pinot Noir.  There’s something about the smoothness with a slight edge and complexity of the music of Steely Dan that I believe pairs perfectly with the similar characteristics of good Pinot Noir.

That’s not what this blog post is about, but since I’m listening to Steely Dan and it makes my mouth water for Pinot Noir (I’m thinking Cotes de Nuits), I couldn’t help but pose the question.

What I want to tell you about in what’s probably my last wine blog post of 2013 is what I drank on Christmas.  Everything showed really well so that’s a good start.

Christmas Eve in our house is the Feast of the Seven Fishes (and after counting, it looks like we got it up to around 9 or 10 or perhaps even more) - anyway I chose some really fun things from the stash.  I started with a sparkling wine - a sparkling Mauzac from Gaillac, to be more specific, made in the Methode Ancestrale (which is generally used only in places like Gaillac and Limoux, and is worth checking out).  Gaillac is a place in Sud-Ouest that makes some of the more expressive reds I’ve tasted from Sud-Ouest, with such minerality even on the least expensive of them, that I’m impressed each time.  Well, this one was a dry sparkling blanc.  It had some apple notes with a hint of rose water, licorice, and tiny bubbles.  Sounds like a fun start to Christmas Eve?  It was.

Next up with all the shellfish dishes were two interesting whites.  Going back to Sud-Ouest, I chose a Jurancon Sec that had a lovely pale yellow-golden color to it, and it was on the aromatic side, which I had sort of expected, and showed characteristics of lemon curd, apple, and an almost perfumed sensation toward the end.  The grapes were Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, and something I was less familiar with, called Camaralet (which is used in Jurancon sometimes).  The other white I selected (because it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without something Italian in my glass) was a bianco di Toscana made up of 50/50 Semillon and Trebbiano.  Go figure.  And I’m sure you can guess that one was aromatic too, with a tangerine peel note up front, and some orchard fruit characteristics, some soft spice and floral notes, and a slightly richer texture than the Jurancon.  Great pairing with shellfish, calamari, and some of the funkier fish in the frutti di mare.

As the fish dishes got heavier in texture and flavor (fried cod and flounder, followed by linguine with a marinara sauce and shrimp and scungilli), the two reds were the 2004 Gruaud Larose Saint-Julien and the 2006 Ridge Lytton Springs (Zinfandel with Petite Sirah and Carignan).  I’m always surprised when I hear a wine lover insist that 2004 Bordeaux wasn’t so great.  Nonsense.  I love the way they’ve been showing the past year or two, particularly those from the better chateaux.  And after my experience with that standout bottle of Gruaud Larose at my 1983 birthday dinner party, I had high hopes for this 2004.  And it met my expectations, and then some.  (Suffice it to say that the Gruaud Larose was the rock star of the two day Christmas celebration.  And no, I’m not surprised.)  Oh, and both reds were carefully decanted - the Ridge, it turns out, needed it much more than the Bordeaux did.  So the final wine of the night was the 2006 Ridge, and it was very good.  I was really unsure which should be opened first and after guessing Bordeaux followed by Zinfandel, I ran the idea by two other wine pros, and the consensus was a toss-up, with Bordeaux being before Zinfandel.  Good thing I did that, because after tasting both, it wasn’t actually a toss-up after all.  The Lytton Springs was still a big wine with lots of texture and mostly dark fruit notes and dark spice and pepper, as opposed to the red plum, wild berry, rare meat, and white pepper and herb notes of the Bordeaux.  Anyway both reds showed very nicely.

Dessert was fun (I’ll do a quick post on the food blog about struffoli) and with the struffoli there were loads of Christmas cookies.  Out came my homemade limoncello.

Christmas Day is less about food for us that Christmas Eve, and we’re sort of still full when it’s time for dinner of Christmas Day.  So with the wines, I decided to keep it fairly simple.  With leftover baked clams from the night before, I popped open a bottle of Macon-Villages, which was so refreshing and perfect with shellfish, with characteristics of lemon, green apple, barely ripened peach, a touch of pineapple, and stony white mineral, and perhaps a tiny hint of baking spice.  And with lasagne, I chose the 2010 Stag’s Leap Napa Artemis.  I do love the 2010 vintage from Napa (which I decided after first tasting the 2010 Duckhorn), and the Artemis was lovely as always, with cassis, plum, raspberry, bramble, vanilla, clove, and graphite characteristics - so refined and expressive, yet so delightfully satisfying - my kind of California wine, as opposed to some of those enormous fruit bombs laced with excessive vanilla oak, that they seem to get in their own way, let alone the way of the food on the plate.  No, Artemis is exactly what I love to see in a properly executed California Cabernet priced around $65 USD.  Artemis is more than capable of expressing its own identity and that’s as it should be.

So that’s what we did on Christmas (ending with a delicious apple pie made by my sister).  Please check out my post on struffoli (Italian honey balls) on my food blog, and I’ll see you in the New Year with some notes on Champagne!

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