Ah, sweet mother of — well, you know. It feels good to be back in New York. Other than the rather unpleasant experience of going from the 80 degrees t-shirt weather in Los Angeles to the 13 degrees and shivering-in-my-boots reality of an east coast winter, I’m really quite happy to be back. Besides, too much exposure to unadulterated sunshine is not good for you these days, I hear.
The twelve days I spent in Los Angeles were a really and truly orgiastic indulgence in good food, excellent wine, old friends, and sunny days. Christmas, of course, being the main event, we went balls-to-the-walls this year with the food and drink component of the holiday. We were not kidding around this year. To start things out, my mom and I headed downtown to a very cool new(ish?) wine shop in Downtown Los Angeles called Buzz Wine Beer Shop. Sticking true to everything I hold dear and profess right here on this little blog, we committed to keeping all of our wine purchases under $25 – from the sparklers to the table wine. And boy, did we nail it. Seriously, if Christmas was an Olympic sport, we’d have gotten solid 10′s across the board- except for maybe an 8.5 from the Russian judge that needs to get laid.
To start things off, my mom insisted (and I was none to happy to oblige) on a sparkler and after taking a look around, we settled on a NV Parigot Blancs de Blanc Cremant de Bourgogne for $23. Made from 100% Burgundy-bred Chardonnay grapes, I thought this would be an excellent stand-in for the usual Domaine Chandon and boy oh boy did we hit a home run with this one! Imbued with that classic Chardonnay tang, this was an invariably refreshing and dry sparkler, with a streak of minerality and bright fruit to wake up the palate. Rather than pick up two bottles of the same sparkler, however, I wanted to indulge my new-found and swiftly growing love of sparkling Rosé. Combine that with my recent obsession with Austrian wines and there is no way I wasn’t going to go for the Latitude 50N Rose Sekt Trocken at $14.99 a pretty pink bottle. Made from a combination of Dornfelder, Portugeiser, and Pinot Noir this was a really lovely Rosé with a creamy bubble, notes of bright sweet strawberries and a musky hint of earthiness to balance it back out. I practically guzzled the stuff. Elegantly, of course.
For our dinner wines, no one should have been surprised to find a Dolcetto, a Fleurie, and a Vouvray on my table. My unswaying devotion to the former two varieties has been well documented on this blog – both for sipping pleasantly on their own and for their amazing versatility when it comes to food. The Dolcetto we selected, Valli Unite Dolcetto Diogene 2009 ($24.99), is imported by none other than the wonderful Savio Soares and so I was lucky to have had the chance to taste this earthy, spicy, and dry Dolcetto when I attended their portfolio tasting in the fall. It was a favorite then, and was a hit at the table even with my dad who is a loyal and unwavering orderer of “big, full-bodied but smooth reds.” The Fleurie we selected, Chateau de Raousset Fleurie 2009 ($15.99) was lauded by all who had the chance to taste it before it was duly drained. Elegant and delicate, I delighted in informing our guests that this was the grown-up big sister of the Beaujolais Nouveau we had, in years, past, swilled. The fact that 2009 was a landmark year for Beaujolais, combined with my favorite of all the Beaujolais appelations, the oh-so-pretty Fleurie, and the excellent price point, made this lovely wine a home run.
The Vouvray, Domaine Le Capitaine ($14.99) was an attempt to replace the usual California Chardonnay that has been known to grace our holiday table, and was largely ignored in favor of the reds. However, I made a point of tasting it and was pleased by the gorgeous nose of figs, honey, and a light waft of ginger. On the palate, the taste of sun-ripened pears was followed by the tangy rush of minerality that makes Vouvray one of my favorite whites.
Add in my beyond-gorgeous salted caramel apple pie, the best damned turkey we’ve ever made, and the awesome wines to accompany all of this gorgeous food and I’d say we pretty much kicked Christmas’ ass this year.
On such a wine-fueled roll, I had momentum, baby. The next wine of note was a 1993 Bersano Barolo that my dad had been holding on to for, unfortunately, a few years too long. Although we definitely caught it on the way down, there was still that thrilling experience of opening an older bottle of wine – the nose of dried roses and sweet port, the brick-orange color shifting in the glass, the trail of sediment that slid down the belly of the bottle, and the soft but-still-alive flavor of a dying wine. We followed up all that old wine with some Scotch I’d brought back from my stay in Edinburgh a few years ago, believing, rightly, that every gentleman (and my father being no exception) needs a bottle of nice scotch around. The bottle, Old Ballantruan The Peated Malt, Speyside Glenlivet was purchased when I knew even less than I know now about Scotch (I really botched that opportunity with a 20-year-old’s conviction in the belief that I didn’t like brown liqour. Idiot.) but I was pleasantly surprised by what I knew had to be some good stuff. It was rich, toasty, just a tad sweet, and delightfully smoky with a long and smooth finish.
Fast forward through the days of endless driving, sunshine, and Mexican food to New Years Eve. I was anxious for at least one glass of good stuff on this, the last eve of 2011 and so I insisted on heading to one of my favorite wine bars in the city – Bar Covell in Silverlake. Matthew Kaner is the proprietor of this wonderful little spot and his tastes in wine are impeccable so I knew he’d be pouring something exciting. Sure enough he was offering the usual suspects – from Cava and Prosecco to the real spendy stuff. But he was also offering a Cremant de Alsace and, most delightfully, a Cremant de Limoux Rose that I was eager to sip. But, he also informed me, he had a few bottles of NV Egly-Ouriet Brut “les Vignes de Vrigny” 1er Cru made from 100% Old Vine Pinot Meunier and he was super excited about it. It didn’t take much to convince me that this was what I wanted to sip as I said Sayonara to 2011. My beautiful New Years Eve date and dear friend, Paley, ordered the Cremant de Limoux upon my urging and I settled in with a glass of the Egly-Ouriet, warm and toasty with notes of spiced apple cider and an absurdly fine bubble.
Ever since my dad finally got off the wait list for a yearly allocation of Sea Smoke that just happens to arrive right before the start of the Holiday season, we’ve made a habit of opening a bottle over the holidays – and usually on New Years Eve. This year, we had to postpone our yearly indulgence to New Years Day. That in itself is a reason to avoid a New Years’ Eve hangover, my friends. Combined with the glorious decision to order a bottle of Sea Smoke “Ten” 2008, the fact that we decided to order Chinese take out from my favorite Chinese restaurant in probably the entire world, and you can color me happy. Then factor in the crippling defeat my brother suffered at my hands in our first game of Battle Ship? Color me ecstatic. Oh? How was the wine? Beautiful, decadent, indulgent. I have yet to meet a day in 2012 to rival that very first one.
After only a couple more days of tooling around the city of Angels, it was time for our very last dinner – and the early celebration of my little brother’s 17th birthday. A cool kid to the extreme, my little brother has a serious palate to boot. No mediocre restaurant would do – no, siree, he wanted some serious eats and so we headed to Tavern in Brentwood, owned and run by the amazing chef, Suzanne Goin. When it came to the wine I was faced with the difficult task of balancing my dad’s desire for a “big, full-bodied red” with my mom’s preference for lighter more delicate reds , a reasonable price tag, and my desire for one last hurrah on my parents’ dime, I was thrilled to see the Turley Wine Cellars’ California “Juvenile” 2010 Zinfandel for $55. Turley Wine Cellars’ Zins are beloved – for their restraint, elegance, and sheer deliciousness. This wine did not disappoint – it was a truly gorgeous wine with nicely restrained rich fruit, a tight but full body, and smooth finish. As pretty as a pearl necklace, it too perfectly puncuated the end of a great trip.
After a morning hike in the Santa Monica Mountains perfumed by the heady scent of chapperal and wild sage and crowned with views of the glistening Pacific ocean, it was off to my ritual goodbye breakfast at 3Square Bakery and Cafe in Venice, where the Plum Tarts are enough to make me consider staying.
Nonetheless, here I am – back in the land of the Brooklyn Brogue and I couldn’t be happier. So here’s to what lays ahead: to a year of good wine, good writing, and good friends! Happy New Year, dear readers, and let’s have some fun.