January 2021 Wine Club Selections

Venturing out in to the real world is quite a bother, unless I am planning on stopping by The Fine Wine Source either to pick up the monthly club selections or to pick up some other wines.  There is just something about always trying a new wine that is enjoyable, I know that some people only buy the same wine, week in, week out, usually at their local grocery store.  That is all fine and dandy, but it won’t work for me, as I like to try new wines both in regions and in varietals.  I remember when I was in high school, I thought it would be cool to try a wine from every country and that was short lived, because back in the dark ages, there were not many wines to select from, even at wine shops, as they played it safe. At the Fine Wine Source there is usually an Old-World Selection and a New World Selection. 

Allegrini La Grola Veronese IGT 2014 represented the Old World in this selection. Allegrini is a family business located in the Valpolicella Classico zone of the Veneto and famed for their Amarone della Valpolicella. They have been in the wine growing business since the 16th Century, but it was in the 1960’s that they really carved out a reputation for their fine wines.  All of their wines are from their ninety hectares of vineyards and all with southeast-facing slopes.  While they are famed for their Amarone, they also produce wines with the Veronese IGT that stray from the rigid rules of Valpolicella.  La Grola is a premium single vineyard cuvee that is ninety percent Corvina Veronese and ten percent Oseleta.  Initial fermentation is done in Stainless Steel, Malolactic fermentation in barriques and then aged for sixteen months in oak, then blended for another two months, followed by ten-month aging in the bottle.  I have had this wine before and it has a big presence for an affordable wine, there was plenty of dark fruit and a touch of vanilla that I noticed.  I will have no problem finding a red meat dinner for this wine.

Kenwood Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County/Sonoma County 2017 represented the New World this time out. Kenwood Vineyards was established in 1970 in Sonoma.  It was founded by the Lee family when they purchased the estate and winery of the Pagani Brothers that began in 1906 and were successful until Prohibition.  In 1999 the winery was bought by F. Korbel and Bros. and in 2014 Kenwood was bought by the international beverage concern of Pernod Ricard.  Kenwood Vineyards has twenty-two acres of estate vineyards and also sources fruit from dozens of other growers in Sonoma.  The winery has been known for years for some of their Single-Vineyard wines, as well as some of their other collections.  The first time that I ever had a wine from Kenwood Vineyards was their famed Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1992. This wine is pure Cabernet Sauvignon and the fruit is fifty-one percent Mendocino County and the balance is Sonoma County.  The tasting notes for this wine list black fruit flavors along with licorice and nutmeg.  I think this wine will work with almost any red meat dish, and probably the simpler, the better. 

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Two from Marqués de Murrier

With all that is going on, and since so many places have been shut down, if I can I try to make it a point to stop at my local wine shop to help in my small way at The Fine Wine Shop.  As a former retailer I enjoy seeing the moxie that is required to survive, not from bad business judgement, but from a government intent on crushing all small businesses.  Somehow, I have to feel that there are more germs in a Walmart with hordes of shoppers then there is in a small business that is grateful for every customer that opens the door.  As it is, I find that I tend to do all of my errands in one day, and I have probably been experiencing at least one month per tankful of gas, the best mileage in my history of driving. I also try to make the wine shop the last stop on my circuit, so I am not rushed, and if they need to close early for a delivery, I can definitely understand.  There is also a chance of having a private wine tasting, usually by appointment, so that “social distancing” is honored. 

I had a chance to taste a couple of Rioja wines from Spain and both by Marqués de Murrier.  Marqués de Murrier Rioja Reserva 2015 and has its fruit from the famed Finca Ygay vineyard of the winery and they are located in Rioja Alta.  There are three sub-regions of Rioja and Rioja Alta tends to be the region that is often named, and it refers to the elevation of this region compared to the other two sub-regions.  The winery was founded in 1852 by Luciano de Murrieta and since 1983 it has been owned by the Cebrian-Sagarriga family.  When the winery was being built it was found to be part of Rioja Baja (lower elevation), but it makes the region sound inferior and Rioja Baja is now Rioja Oriental; they had enough clout to have the boundary moved, so that the winery was in Rioja Alta and today it is in its own enclave of La Rioja Alta. The wine is a blend of eighty percent Tempranillo, twelve percent Graciano, six percent Mazuelo and two percent Garnacha.  The fruit is manually harvested and destemmed and spends eight days in Stainless Steel fermenting on the skins.  It then spends eighteen months in American Oak and then it ages another eighteen months in the bottle, before it is released.  I am partial and biased from the get-go about wines from Rioja and this wine offered everything it was supposed to, especially strong with notes of red fruits and pepper. 

I would have been perfectly happy enjoying the Rioja Reserva but then I had the Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2009.  This wine is not made every vintage and the fruit comes the single vineyard La Plana, planted in 1950 and is on a plateau which is the highest point of the Finca Ygay vineyard on the estate.  This wine is a blend of eighty-one percent Tempranillo and nineteen percent Mazuelo.  After manual harvesting, destemming and gentle crushing the wine spends eleven days fermenting in Stainless Steel with constant attention during this period.  The wine is then aged for twenty-six months in a mix of American and French Oak, then followed up with thirty-six months of aging in the bottle before release.  It is amazing how beautifully balance, lush and satiny this wine is, the red fruit is so much more complex with traces of truffles in the mix.  It was just awe-inspiring the difference between the two Rioja wines, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the first wine, and it makes me appreciate how my Bride will sometime demur from tasting the elite wines, as she doesn’t want to lose her appreciation for all the other great wines that she already enjoys. 

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Mad Dogs and Englishman Go Out in the Midday Sun

With apologies to Noel Coward “Mad Michiganders go out in the Midday Frost.” Yankee ingenuity and the need to keep a business afloat and to allow people to make a modicum of a living has created a unique situation in the State of Winter Wonderland, at one time that was the slogan on our license plates.  It appears somewhere in the mumbo-jumbo of science that is being proffered here in our state, that a certain virus can thrive in a restaurant, but not in a carryout situation, and a proviso has been added that one can dine out, if they actually dine outdoors, not indoors like Newsome, who can’t tell the difference.  January 15 is the newest date being dangled like a treat to a family pet, that perhaps the virus will stop attacking indoor restaurants and perhaps another segment of a broken economy in the state may be salvaged, time will tell.  Just in case restaurants that have patios or can create patios are enclosing them in visqueen plastic wrap, or the latest is the purchase of geodesic domes or yurts (and before this era, one had to enjoy the New York Times Crossword to know that word or liked to travel with nomadic tribes in Central Asia) to create dining outdoors.  This has probably caused a shortage of gas space heaters which may be the new toilet paper of 2021.  Michiganders or Michiganian (we actually answer to both sobriquets) have a certain in-grained independence and desire to get out of cages, real or perceived; similar to a certain dentist that tries to pull rank to get his boat in the water ahead of others.

We recently went out again for the desire to have some normalcy in an aberrant setting and went to another restaurant, this time in one of the eastern suburbs of the Detroit area.  We met a friend there at 1:00 when the restaurant opened and there was already a line of people with the same intention, so I guess there are plenty of selfish and criminally intent people that want to eat out like human beings did, just a year ago.  It turns out that this restaurant had a huge enclosed patio with large gas-station style garage doors to open in the summer time.  There was a bar built in kind of the center of the patio and tables were spread out with propane gas heaters set up to keep everyone from freezing.  In hind-sight we should have taken one of the high-tops, and then our feet would not have been on cement the entire time and it would have probably been warmer, next time, if there has to be a next time.  The restaurant was an ethnic Greek restaurant, I am not mentioning any names just to be prudent.  We started with an order of Saganaki, the flaming Greek Kasseri cheese when doused with brandy with the necessary vocalization of “Opa” for the ladies, and I ordered a plate of Roasted Hot Peppers that on the abbreviated menu courtesy our phones, was not listed as stuffed with Feta cheese which I also shared with the ladies, my Bride was also happy to get the additional Feta that I scraped out of the peppers as goat cheese and I do not get along.  Our friend ordered her traditional order of five lamb chops with sides as her dinner.  My Bride ordered Broiled Shrimp and it was covered with Kasseri cheese, much to her chagrin (also not mentioned on the abbreviated menu) and I went with a half of a Roasted Chicken, as I figured that it was the safest of the dishes besides a hamburger.  We finished off the meal with either Rice Pudding or Chocolate Mousse. 

When in Rome, we ordered a Greek wine.  Kouros Rhoditis Patra 2018 from Greek Wine Cellars, formerly known as Kourtaki Wines.  Greek Wine Cellars has several labels including Kourtaki, Apelia, Calliga and Kouros.  The company was founded by Vassili Kourtakis in 1895 and he was one of the pioneers in oenology in Greece.  The company was famed for bulk wine sales, and they are now in the third generation of being family owned and have spread out into varietal wines as well, especially in the export end of their business.  Patra (Patras) is in the wine producing region of the Peloponnese Peninsula and there are four Protected Designation of Origin appellations there and Roditis (Rhoditis) is one of the appellations. Roditis is a catch-all name for several pink-red grape clones that grow in abundance in Greece and is one of their most famous white wines, it is found both as a varietal type wine or blended.  When it is not over-grown as a crop the wine tends to have bright acidity and some terroir notes with a finish of apples and pears, but as a dry white wine.  This particular wine was quite refreshing and quite affordable. Here is hoping that soon when we dine al-fresco it will be in the midday sun. 

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Two More Christmas Gifts

“Taking coal to Newcastle” is the classic expression for redundancy and some may say that is like buying me a bottle of wine.  Au contraire.  Actually, I really appreciate anyone and any gift, because it means that someone has to actually care and be considerate.  Yes, we have a decent collection of wine in the cellar and in the wine vault, but this past year, we have seen a considerable amount of wine that has left the comfort of their cradled racks and slight accumulation of dust.  We have drunk more bottles of wine at home this year, than we may have in the past twenty-five years, because normally we only drink wine home, when we are entertaining, but that concept has gone out the window and we are enjoying some wonderfully aged wines.  I am rambling again, and I just wanted to mention that we received two different wines, from two different couples and they are both accepted graciously and humbly. 

The first wine that I will discuss is from a couple that really didn’t like some of the wines that we would pour at parties, because they were too dry, but through another event, they had a chance to try a wine at a restaurant while we were all together and they really enjoyed this wine, and so did we, so they remembered the night and the wine.  Meiomi Pinot Noir California 2019 is a very easy wine, even for non-wine drinkers.  Meiomi Wines is a California winery that was founded in 2007 by Joe Wagner, the son of Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards.  The winery started with Pinot Noir, then a Chardonnay and finally a Rosé.  Meiomi means “coast” in the language of the Wappo and Yuki tribes of the region.  The Pinot Noir is a blend of three coastal regions; Sonoma County, Monterey County and Santa Barbara County and hence the California AVA.  Their first vintage of the Pinot Noir was in 2007 and they produced ninety-thousand cases and quickly became one of the most requested wine labels for restaurants.  In 2015, Joe Wagner sold Meiomi Wines to Constellation Brands for $315,000,000, and he stayed on as a consultant for the 2016 and 2017 vintages.  The first vintage not overseen by Joe Wagner was the 2018 and the wine was a classic California wine that was jammy and velvety with a good nose and nice finish.  I expect the same for this 2019 vintage. 

The second bottle that I received was actually on top of a continued subscription of the Cigar Aficionado, that they had begun for me many years ago.  That periodical is a sister publication of the Wine Spectator, but besides great information about cigars, it is also a font of information for the latest and greatest toys and “must haves” for people above my pay scale.  Couvent (Convent) des Jacobins Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2010 is a delightful wine that will take me back to my youth, with its full flavor and of course excellent pricing.  The Convent has been celebrating seven centuries of winemaking, famed terroir and since 2020 they have been certified “organic farming.”  A blend of eighty-five percent Merlot and fifteen percent Cabernet Franc from vines that are ten to fifty years old. The wine had twelve months of aging in a mix of forty-five percent new oak barrels and a production of about twenty-two-hundred cases. There was plenty of black fruit, some vanilla and silky tannins and probably another good ten to twenty years for cellaring.  Just a charming wine.  The Grand Cru designation began in 1954 and has been updated a couple of times.  I have heard some people remark that there is more Grand Cru wine, then there is basic Saint-Emilion wine, but I have never seen it in print.  I am really looking forward to it, as it from a great vintage and it is already aged.  Decisions, decisions.

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A Couple of Christmas Gifts

I some how have just given up, ever trying to keep the articles in a somewhat chronological manner, I am just not that organized.  It is hardly because I am unappreciative, it is just keeping the articles rolling, is sometimes almost beyond my abilities, as I like to have an article every other day, sometimes to my Bride’s chagrin as she will remind me that it is not a job.  I have made it a habit of not giving attribution for the gifts, as I think that is tacky and since hopefully, they never miss an article, I know that I have a second time to thank them publicly.  I am just always honored when people get me a gift, you know us curmudgeons are not the most lovable souls.  We all have a fantasy of who would play us on the silver screen and I would think that Marcello Mastroianni would be perfect, especially after Facebook’s facial recognition software thought he was me, though most would think that Walter Matthau would be better, and I am sure that a few would select Charles Lane.

Anyways, the first gift that I am going to mention actually came in two boxes, one for my Bride and one for me.  I think that keeping in a film allusion, my Bride must be Robert Redford and I must be Nick Nolte from the film A Walk in the Woods.  You are forgiven if you don’t know the film, but it is basically a “buddy film” of two man that walk the Appalachian Trail and based on a book of this tale.  My Bride and I do a 3K walk every morning usually at the crack of dawn, sometimes we get back home, before the actual sunrise.  On her, the activity has been very productive, less so on me, but what the hell, I am the Nick Nolte character.  What we received are his and hers Ultra-Strong Aluminum Cork Trekking Poles, which are used on the Appalachian Trail and other similar trails, but is a bit of overkill for our sub-division.  Though I have to admit, that we just received a desk calendar from our insurance provider, now that we are Senior Citizens and on the cover is a couple both using trekking poles, so perhaps it is the cool new accessory, anyways I think it is cool. I do know that they will come in handy for these old souls when the white stuff comes down and decides to stay, especially at the households that figure that their kind neighbor or God will remove the snow and ice from their sidewalks.

For the other gift, perhaps the urbane and suave Charles Boyer should play me, but the odds are that Jacques Tati would be cast.  We received a bottle, in all honesty way before Christmas and I am so bad about writing about items, of Boutinot Wines Les Coteaux Schisteux Seguret Cotes du Rhone Villages 2017.  Boutinot Wines is an American wine company that was founded in 1980 and they own vineyards and properties in ten countries, and though I have not heard of them, even of their California wines like Cabaret Frank from Lodi, they sound interesting and their website is fun.  Cotes du Rhone Villages Seguret is an appellation for red, white and rosé wines from the small parish of Seguret, and there are about twenty of these parishes that are allowed to add their name to the Cotes du Rhone Villages AOP.  The wines are a step up from the basic Cotes du Rhone, but not as honored as location specific crus like Gigondas or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Higher up the slopes of the mountainous terroir of Seguret is a single vineyard that is predominately Grenach Noir (eighty percent) and some Syrah (twenty percent) and it is Les Coteaux Schisteux or “the schist slopes” referring to the shale terroir.  Since we both enjoy Rhone wines, I am sure that when this bottle is opened, it will be a pure delight.

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Two Very Quiet Dinners

This past year as I presume most have notice has been a very strange one in the annals of mankind.  The lockdowns have culminated into family holidays with no family.  I think that is what the warden here was hoping for and alas it has worked.  I mean from strange rules like only one person in a car, masks while swimming, to only boats that have no motors and the list goes on.  Families have become splintered, because it has been demonized as a great way to get sick.  I have seen memes that offered invitations for catered dinners honoring the death of a family’s pet turkey, to family get-togethers in a certain aisle at a Wal-Mart.  At least we still have maintained our gallows-humor about us.

Christmas Day was a very quiet day and I briefly mentioned it, but normally my article would have been about all the people, the food and the wines.  Not this year, as we were all splintered off, which I am sure would make our termagant delighted.  My Bride wanted to makes us a dish that she has enjoyed and now she also enjoys making the dish Coquilles St. Jacques al crème de Xeres, or sea scallops sautéed with mushrooms and garlic, pan-sauced with Sherry and cream with rice.  A beautiful meal, just a shame that only the two of us had the good fortune to enjoy it.  We had a delightful bottle of Cave de Genouilly Bourgogne Aligoté 2018, the almost forgotten white wine of Burgundy, but it has its own appellation.  The Cave Des Vignerons de Genouilly was founded in 1932 as a co-operative of family growers in the Cote Chalonnaise region of Southern Burgundy.  Today it includes ninety growers with one-hundred-eighty acres based around Genouilly, Fley, Bissy-sur-Fley, Saint-Martin-du-Tatre and Saint-Clement-sur-Guye.  Bourgogne Aligoté is an appellation in Burgundy for white wines made from the Aligoté grape and the appellation was awarded in 1937.  The grape has been in Burgundy since the 17th Century, but only represent about six percent of the vineyards there, but is grown in about three hundred parishes in Burgundy, basically for the vignerons themselves.  The wines are generally made in Stainless Steel to allow the freshness and the crispness of the grape, if anything, some people are surprised at the high acidity and the resulting tartness that can occur, but that is part of the charm that I just recently discovered about this grape.  By all rights this wine should be much dearer in cost, but since it is hidden under the large shadow cast by Chardonnay in the entire Burgundy region, it is unknown and hence most people don’t take a chance, but believe me, I will tout it often and to anyone that I get a chance to.

Which brings me to New Years and another disaster of a holiday that I won’t even get into, but I pray that it never happens again.  It was definitely not one for the books, and my Bride and I, relaxed and watched a movie and had cheese and crackers and an early turn in, as we didn’t even wait to hear the firecrackers, as I am sure that no one was shooting rifles with the high cost of ammunition that I keep reading about. We had a bottle of Marilyn Monroe Wines “Blonde de Noirs” Cuvee Three North Coast Sparkling Wine 2004.  I feel rather vindicated nowadays as I have been an advocate of the wines made and distributed by Nova Wines of Napa Valley from the first bottle that I had, when everyone chided me for trying a throw-away wine, and now they are actually getting respect for being a fine wine and totally respectful of the memory of Marilyn Monroe.  We are talking about one of the earliest garagiste of St. Helena starting back in 1981 for friends and finally christened as Marilyn Merlot in 1981.  Beyond the flagship Merlot offering, they have released other brands featuring different varietals and always featuring a different photo of the legendary movie star.  One of the most curious features of this winery, is that the wines are always released on June 1, in celebration of Marilyn Monroe’s birthday. This particular wine is made in the Methode Champenoise or in the traditional way that is done from the Champagne region and the wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  There was still a bit of the brioche and notes of red berries, and a very easy wine to drink and not totally bone dry.  I definitely will try another one, when I get a chance. The best thing is that we did get a chance to chat with our children and grandchildren during these days.

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Winter Dining in Michigan

We recently went out to eat with friends at a restaurant, now before you say that one cannot eat in a restaurant in Michigan, our harridan has allowed outside dining, and the dining area can be enclosed, but it must be outside.  I understand that it sounds like double-talk from a Marx Brothers’ film, but it is true.  The state just closed a restaurant in the Upper Peninsula, but had to use a court in the Lower Peninsula that was in favor of making a woman stop earning a living for her children and couldn’t get the response that they were looking for up north, so they had to “court shop.” If you think this is strange, it also happens in California, and the governor there could not tell that he was breaking his own mandate eating with a group of friends at the French Laundry, and he claimed that he thought he was eating outside, even though they were clearly indoors.  All of this reminds me of dialogue from Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” that I will present at the end of this article.

We were going to a Coney Island restaurant that is located on a semi-private par-three golf course in a residential subdivision.  For the uninitiated a Coney Island restaurant can be a small singular storefront that historically sells Detroit style Coney-Dogs, which is a hot dog or loose hamburger placed in a hot dog bun covered with bean-less chili, onions and yellow mustard, a Detroit tradition with plenty of arguments to go around of who has the best Coney Islands.  I have my favorite and have made it point even to take my grandchildren there, if they are in town, but I am digressing.  The majority of Coney Island Restaurants have evolved into multi-page restaurants with most meals served at any time of day, including breakfast choices.  We sat outside of the restaurant, as the real restaurant was only being used for carry-out orders which are legal. The back patio of the restaurant overlooking part of the golf course was surrounded by thick plastic sheeting, with corner flaps left dangling open for fresh and cold air.  Inside the patio area were these big propane space heaters in a couple of different designs, but all cranking up the heat.  It was quite toasty, as they were a multitude of hardware store backyard thermometers placed all around the plastic enclosed dining area, and they were showing temperatures of eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit, in fact I had to take off my suede coat as I was getting hot.  There was an assortment of different dishes orders and the food was so plentiful that everyone took food containers home with them, and also the rice pudding that was part of the entrées that no one had room left to enjoy a dessert. 

I had wine with my meal and the waitress could recite the brands of wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling etc.  I decided to play it safe and order a Pinot Grigio and of course I requested to see the bottle, which was brought out for me.  I had a full glass of Salmon Creek California Pinot Grigio 2018 which came in the handy magnum size that is popular with catering companies and some restaurants.  Under the Salmon Creek label there are at least twenty-five different varietals and blends offered, and the label is considered one of the least expensive wines from California, and this winery/label is a division of Bronco Wine Company.  Bronco Wine Company is one of the largest wine producers and vineyard owners in the United States of America.  They are located in Ceres, California and they have ownership of about sixty different labels, including perhaps there most famous brand Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck).  They also own facilities in eleven other countries.  The company was founded in 1973 by Fred, Joseph and John Franzia after the sale of the Franzia Winery.  By the way it was not a terrible wine, perhaps a bit sweeter than I expected, but I find that the case with most bulk wines.

Maj. Major Major Major: Sergeant, from now on, I don’t want anyone to come in and see me while I’m in my office.  Is that clear?

First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir.  What do I say to people who want to come in and see you while you’re in your office?  

Major: Tell them I’m in and ask them to wait.

Towser: For how long?

Major: Until I’ve left

Towser: And then what do I do with them?

Major: I don’t care.

Towser: May I send people in to see you after you’ve left?

Major: Yes

Towser: You won’t be here then, will you?

Major: No.

Towser: I see, sir.  Will that be all?

Major: Also, Sergeant, I don’t want you coming in while I’m in my office asking me if there’s anything you can do for me.  Is that clear?

Towser: Yes, sir.  When should I come in your office and ask if there’s anything, I can do for you?

Major: When I’m not there.

Towser: What do I do then?

Major: Whatever has to be done.

Towser: Yes, sir.

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El Ixsir Cuvée X’eme Anniversaire Red NV

It was Christmas Day 2020 and it was just like the rest of the year, following the longest “15 Day Lockdown” known to man.  My Bride had lectored at her church as usual, at the 9:00 AM mass, but it was not to the usual hordes of worshippers, as the governor had mandated rules for those that thought that they still wanted to congregate, other than at a Wal-Mart.  She came home after the service, as we were going to have a quiet Christmas Day, after seeing everyone the night before.  It was the oddest Christmas that I have ever witnessed in my sixty-six years, but then I have had the good fortune to have never spent Christmas in prison, an extended lockdown is bad enough. 

We saved our presents to open for Christmas Day, and I had the bulk of the presents to unwrap, only because my Bride as I have mentioned a few times here, went on a weight-reduction regimen and was very successful and she has had to buy a completely new wardrobe, as even working from home, she needed a professional air about her on the many Zoom sessions and other similar type of sessions that she has been doing since she began her constant work schedule from her home office.  I on the other hand have had a much more casual daily attire as I had retired, just before all this nonsense began.  So, she was having fun surprising me with packages to open up.  She likes to pamper me.

The last box that I had to open was not even wrapped and it was a wine that we had tasted at our wine shop The Fine Wine Source.  It was a box of EL Ixsir Cuvee X’eme Anniversaire Red Non-Vintage.  It was number sixteen of an issue of one-thousand, and the box held three bottles of this special edition wine as well as a beautiful “coffee-table” book The Wines of Ixsir.  Ixsir Winery was founded in 2009 in the northern part of Lebanon in Batroun which is a coastal area.  They are a mountain winery, and one of the highest in elevation for the Northern Hemisphere.  The name Ixsir derives from the Arabic word “Iksir” the original Arabic word for “elixir.” History has recorded that man has searched for the perfect elixir for eternal youth and for love.  The winery is very progressive and has been named one of the greenest buildings in the world.  The winery owns one-hundred-twenty hectares in the Batroun with several different vineyards capitalizing on the terroir.  The winery grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Caladoc, Cinsault, Merlot, Obeidy, Viognier, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.  Quite impressive for a young company, as far as I am concerned.  The EL Ixsir Cuvee X’eme Anniversaire Red Non-Vintage is a special bottling of three very recent vintages of their EL, which is their top cuvee and a blend of fifty-five percent Syrah, thirty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Merlot.  Each of the wines had aged for twenty-four months and then had been blended and aged in French Oak, of which half were new barrels. The concept of having the three bottles in the case was that the first bottle should be tasted in five years, and then at least ten years for the second bottle and the last should be held even longer.  As a reference point, this wine was issued 30 April 2019 and the Wine Advocate awarded it a score of 93 Points and a suggest “Drink Date” of 2022-2040.  When we tasted the wine, we were told that the 2014 vintage which was the real powerhouse of EL was leading this wine and it was big and inky and really overpowering; it was way too young and feisty to be properly enjoyed and there was real merit in cellaring this wine.  So, this is a gift that will be giving joy in the years to come.                                                  

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Christmas Eve Dinner

By the time that you read this, we will all be safely past the hectic moments of the Christmas and New Year’s.  We will still have lots of other craziness, but that is life I guess, especially when government intrudes, remember Prohibition?  There were still debates about having a family get-together and how to do it.  I am all for it, and I think that the more we avoid interaction, the longer it will take for our bodies to adapt.  Otherwise, I think that there would be millions of homeless street people that would be littering the streets with carcasses, because I strongly doubt that they are practicing all the rules that we are being lectured to, by those that don’t follow their rules for us.  It has been decided that families will be seated at separate tables with their families, but all under the same roof.  Masks are personal preference, but I find eating and drinking just as difficult, as when we were first told to wear a mask swimming.  I also abide to the rule that once you are sitting at a table, you are safe from any germ, it is supposedly walking to and from the table that is lethal.

We all met at another sister’s home that is more centrally located, as we are all scattered about, and we would also have a Zoom session later on, after dinner.  My Bride made some of her specialties that everyone wanted.  Our host was making the main dishes and using outdoor cooking equipment for some of the meat dishes, and the kitchen appliances for some of the side dishes.  He had everything plotted on Excel for starting and completion times, and he was making a turkey and prime rib.  There were plenty of appetizers and munchies, sides and of course, there were plenty of desserts.  Interspersed with all of this, was the opening of gifts, and bundling up gifts for people that were A.W.O.L. (for any of several reasons) and of course the Zoom session on multiple laptops and cellular phones, so we had plenty of dissonance from the multiple speakers, and we also figured out that those nosy contraptions from Amazon also added to the squeaking as they had to be turned off as well, at least my in-laws won’t be bombarded by tons of unnecessary advertisements that the little spies report on, but we did get rid of the echo feedback.

It was actually a good wine day and we went through four bottles of wine and I will mention two of them, as they are not wines that can be found everywhere.  One of the white wines that we started the day was Laurentide Winery on the 45’th Parallel.   As I quote from their web site about their name.  “Welcome to Laurentide, named in honor of the last great ice sheet that receded 10,000 years ago from the upper tier of the North American continent. With the completion of this great geologic event, the Great Lakes and surrounding lands assumed their present forms. The Leelanau peninsula was exposed and the rocks and fossils from a 350-million-year-old ancient sea floor started to formulate the soil that sustains our vines today contributing to the unique terroir of the region.”  William and Susan Braymer have a classic, almost romantic history leading up to their ultimate decision to becoming winemakers.  In 2006 they bought a cherry farm and began planting some grapevines.  They now have six varietals planted on ten acres, and we opened up a bottle of Laurentide Emergence 2016, which when we went to the winery, this wine was listed under the heading of “Standard Sweets” as they were really touting this wine, and we agreed to a tasting.  We are truly fans of dessert wines, but normally sweet wines we tend to avoid.  Here was a wine that was a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay and it was not a sweet wine, especially compared to the old sweet wines that at one time Michigan was known for.  The few years in the cellar added to the wine it was more complex with some floral and fruit notes, but the acidity was very balanced and totally an easy wine to drink with socializing and noshes.  Then on the other end of the spectrum and perfect for the prime rib was Boete Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown Saunders Vineyard, Carmel Valley 2007. In the early ‘80’s John Saunders made wine at this Soledad Ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands as a hobby.  He was so encouraged by his friends that he and his wife traded their two-hundred-fifty-acre citrus orchard in Soledad for fifteen acres in Carmel Valley that had gone uncultivated, because of a lack of water.  The first well he drilled, was sufficient to irrigate his vineyard forever, and he is only growing on seven acres at the moment, so the wine is still a labor of love.  By reading between the lines, I would venture to say that this is aged for about sixteen months in French Oak and probably produced about two-hundred cases of wine. Thirteen years later, this was still a big wine, but the tannins had mellowed along with the dark fruit and I had a second helping of prime rib to enjoy a second glass of this wine. Now if only Santa could figure out how to make the cellar bigger. 

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We wish everyone a Happy New Year and a blessed 2021.  I am not a gushing type of guy, and I am not really acerbic, maybe somewhere in the middle.  I think of two pieces of art, one we tried to buy and another that we did and it is hanging in our living room.  I think the first shows that man, and excuse me, but I use it in the collective sense from another era, always tries to be positive and thinks that somethings should never change, even though they do.  That is the thought we try to overcome every New Year’s Eve, that life will get better and after 2020, even if Barbara Walters didn’t herald that New Year in.  That young artist in the first print early in his career announced “Yondah, lies da castle of my foddder’s dreams.”

The other piece of art, reflects perhaps the world-weary, but forever happy-go-lucky spirit of another age.  Even in the midst of a Great Depression, one could still find strands of happiness and that is what we strive for.  To try to shrug off the nonsense that may come our way, and to try to find our own brand of sanity.  I guess we have always been from another era, and remember the great advice from the man in the tails with a Nina in his white tie and in his corsage and it may hold the secret to the coming year “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”

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