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Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas Wine Gift

We pride ourselves on finding really good wine for less than $10 a bottle. Sometimes it's difficult, especially when it comes to some varietals, such as Chardonnay. But we manage to find enough to drink quality wine for dinner nightly without breaking the bank.

So on the Christmas holiday we reward ourselves by drinking really good wine—and to hell with the $10 limit. But when you're eating at home, really top-notch bottles of wine still cost less than a mediocre bottle in a restaurant.

One more reason to eat well and eat cheap at home.

For Christmas Day, we decided that we would drink no wine rated less than 90 by a major rating agency.

We started with Champagne to go with our very creamy brie. Montaudon Brut (no vintage), to be exact, rated 90 and $30 a bottle at the local store. The bottle was a gift, but we'd have happily paid the freight on this one. "Bright and intense, exhibiting candied berry, preserved citrus and elderflower flavors," says Wine Spectator in its 90 rating writeup. "It's backed by a firm structure and stays persistent through the lingering aftertaste of ginger and vanilla."

Next, a Chardonnay to twin with the simple salad and our roasted red pepper timbales. We're partial to somewhat rich Chardonnays from Carneros, but they tend to be pretty pricey. We found a 2006 Patz & Hall Hudson Vineyard Carneros Chard rated 92. This was the best white wine we've had all year, with not-strong oakiness and undertones of lemon and golden raisins. "Fruit-driven and focused, with green and yellow apple and honeydew melon at the core," says Wine Spectator. "Medium- to full-bodied, with subtle hints of hazelnut-tinged oak on the finish."

When the pheasant pie and the morel-and-shiitake pie arrived at the table, it was time to pour our first red of the day, a 2007 Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. We'd have preferred something older or, if 2007, something from Oregon. But as good as the local wine store is, it didn't have much of a selection from this area. Robert Parker gave this wine a 90.

"The 2007 Pinot Noir Grand Detour exhibits a dark ruby color as well as a foresty, black cherry, and meaty-scented, Cote de Nuits-like nose," Parker says. "Spicy, round, and generously endowed with a velvety texture, this is a seductive style of Pinot to enjoy over the next 3-4 years." We chose it because it was meaty for a pinot, and we wanted something to stand up to the wild pheasant we were eating.

But we saved the best for last. After the main course we turned the traditional French cheese-then-dessert routine on its head. First, we had our dessert of pear-date crisp, along with a 2006 Sauternes dessert wine from Chateau Luduiraut. The wine was rated 95, perhaps the highest-rated wine we've ever drunk. While it was extraordinarily expensive given our wine budget, we saved by buying the 375 ml bottle, which rang up at $39.

This is a dessert wine to be swirled, sniffed, sipped, swished, and savored. "Shows dried pineapple, honey, pear, caramel and piecrust aromas," Wine Spectator said. "Full-bodied and very sweet, with spice, coconut, tropical fruit and apple tart flavors. Long and dense, yet lively."

We thought we'd hit the peak of a very good meal, until we preceded the next mouthful of wine with a bit of Valdeon, a Spanish blue cheese. Each ingredient was world class in its own right, but together they were astonishing: the best caramel we'd ever tasted. Absolutely worth the foolish expenditure and the gluttony of it all.

It will go down as one of the best tasting moments of our lives. And the day will go down as one of our most relaxed, enjoyable and fun holidays. We just might have started a holiday wine tradition: deny yourself a bit during the year (wine-wise), and reward yourself with a minor blowout on the holiday.

1 comment:

  1. The Sauternes and Spanish blue are a match made in heaven!
    Actually the whole menu and wine pairings sound wonderful. Sounds like a great holiday tradition you've created.
    Santé! Happy New Year from France!