Day 2: Christmas Feasts
This is my favorite time of year, mostly because of the excuse we have to eat and drink with a free pass. The best wines, the most creative accompaniments to large platters of beef and poultry and pork. And lots of sweets. Gingerbread people with candied buttons and eyes. Spicy persimmon cake, French macaroons in the same persimmon, pistachio and vanilla and See's Candies. Pumpkin pie and coconut cream and apple pies. So much overload, you forget when to stop. Two days later, you wonder why you didn't exercise more restraint. And the word 'exercise' is a frightening thing to think about.
But when your belly's full and your senses overloaded, you realize just how much you have to be thankful for. And this past week, the wines have been flowing.
Starting Sunday December 20th in Los Alamos, CA at Flatbread, I brought out a bottle of my newest release, 2006 Symbiotica Syrah from a vineyard about 1/2 mile south of the restaurant, and purchased a bottle of my 2005 Lysander Pinot Noir that they feature on their list. The Lysander was showing quite well, with a bright bouquet of dusty chocolate-covered cherries on the nose and earthy elements of mushroom on the palate. Quite a nice, lenghty finish for a wine just now starting to enter into it's peak. The Symbiotica offered a dark contrast of wet-earth driven chicory and plums, with a distinct heady aroma of must and Gruyere on the initial pour. Acidity and tannins balance nicely, allowing this wine to open up after decanting and show off it's aging potential. Both wines paired gorgeously with a mushroom and sausage flatbread and Wild Mushroom 'Crespelle' with Rappini and Green Garlic Sauce.
Fast forward a day or two (or so it seemed), and I was home in San Diego, preparing for the Big Christmas Feasts. In our house, one is not enough: we have two. The focus this year, it seemed, was entirely on preparing the meal for Christmas Eve (Roast Beast AND Glazed Ham), and then the Christmas dinner (a beautifully brined 25-lb turkey). This was the perfect opportunity to break out some good vino to pair with these beautiful meals.
I am really the only one in my family who freaks out over really good wines. So this year, I ensured that we had some really tasty ones at the table. Starting with the obligatory glass of Zonin Prosecco (purchased at the local Trader Joe's for $5.99 - a great bargain, and my Mom's favorite), we popped open the 2008 Frias Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Spring Mountain and started into the cheese plate. Following was the 2005 Palmina Barbera from Zotovich Vineyard. A beautiful wine - with stunning elegance, and a deep rich berry and plum notes, it was showing quite youthful and offered a long and deeply complex finish. Second, a gorgeous showing of Chad Melville's 2005 Samsara Pinot Noir from the Melville Vineyard stole the evening, pairing beautifully with homemade cheese and herb gougeres. Supple, elegant, layered with bright notes of cherry and cola, and a hint on fresh herbs on the finish, this wine is drinking amazing now, but only has room to flourish over the next few years.
For dinner, we sampled the 2004 Destiny Bay 'Magna Paremia' from Waiheke Island, Auckland, NZ, an elegant, old-world styled Bordeaux blend lead primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the absolute perfect compliment to pepper-crusted Prime Rib Roast with mushroom-Armagnac sauce.
The next day was Christmas; and so one more dinner to prepare and enjoy. This time it was herb-crusted and brined turkey, with homemade cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes with brown butter and sage, and grilled asparagus with smoked chipotle sauce. With this, we paired the 2001 Silver Nebbiolo from Santa Barbara County. Soft and supple, the tannins were evenly dispersed among the mid-palate and finish of the wine, with a deep presence of baking spice and cigar box on the nose and palate. A lively acidity kept the structure and fruit in place, and added depth and brightness to the turkey, acting very much like the cranberry sauce. A glass of Norm Yost's 2005 'Goat Bubbles' helped finish off the night (and assisted in the celebration of the Chargers' 42-17 rout over the Titans. Playoff time for San Diego!!)
I hope everyone out there had as full and as enriching holiday season as I have had. Great wines, good food, and time with family and friends - this is what this holiday season is all about. And although no '61 Cheval Blancs were opened, the most important memories were made with the wine and food provided us. Sometimes all you need is a good glass of bubbles and a properly aged and paired red wine with a killer holiday meal to make your season complete.
Cheers, and happy holidays!