As we are all trying to make some semblance of life, we were going to my cousin’s home for Christmas. For years, Christmas Day was her bailiwick and then her son got married, bought a home, then had a child (a natural progression of life) and then my cousin discovered the joys of a married child. One year she has Christmas, and the following year, she goes to her son’s home (in another state) for Christmas. This was her Christmas in Michigan with her son’s family making a homecoming. A delightful compromise and all the cousins attended with their children. Years ago, I can remember at my aunt’s home (my cousin’s mother) the kids couldn’t wait to matriculate from the kitchen table to the dining table to be with the adults. Now, it is another way, as there are so many children of the cousins, that they enjoy having the table in the kitchen away from the “old folks.”
My cousin had a beautiful selection of Armenian appetizers fresh from the oven. There was Cheese Boereg, a flaky pastry stuffed with a white brick cheese. There was Lahmajoon, the Armenian individual pizza for a lack of a better description, topped with sauteed ground lamb, onions, garlic and parsley. Another cousin brought this huge irregular long board that was finished and was a Charcuterie Board with several versions of olives, peppers, Armenian String Cheese and of course the cherished shavings of Basturmah. Now Basturmah, is an acquired taste, because it is a dried beef that has been covered in spices and allowed to age and dry (as there was no refrigerators back then) and the meat is then cut paper thin. It sounds pleasant enough, but the spices make the meat deadly lethal in spicy hot tastes and then to boot, the spices emanate out of your pores for a couple of days after digesting the Basturmah. Needless to say, since I was in retail, I abstained for my customer’s sake. I only covered some of the main dishes. I also brought some Gazela Branco Vinho Verde DOC Minho 2019 from Portugal and owned by Sogrape Vinhos. Sogrape Vinhos began in the wartime environment of World War Two and was started in 1942 by a group of friends and the vision of one man to promote Portugal into an international wine making country. Fernando van Zeller Guedes led the group and the first global brand that they developed was Mateus Rosé which is now sold in over one-hundred-twenty countries and was a total success. They began as a negocient buying barrels of wine from small producers in the Douro and bottling in a rented facility. Through wise investments and careful development, they now own over eight-hundred-thirty hectares of vineyards in all the key Portuguese wine regions. In 1982, they acquired Solar and Quinta de Azevedo in the Vinho Verde region and created their brand of Gazela in 1984. Vinho Verde DOC in the Minho region is famous for their straw-colored light, tangy youthful wine, in fact the wine is so youthful, that is how it got the Vinho Verde name, which means “green wine” and it is also used for the small amount of red (tinto) wine from the district as well. The wine is so “green” that there is a natural petulance or effervescent finish, not enough to be considered a sparkling wine, but distinct from a still wine. This wine is pure Loureiro for a varietal, which is a light skinned grape famed in Minho, it tends to be blended with Albarino, which is thought to be a relative, but the jury is still out. There are references to Loureiro going back the late 18th Century in Minho of this grape. This light alcoholic wine was just perfect with the assorted spices and flavors for the appetizers.
Now you have to understand that at an Armenian dinner after the appetizers, everyone says “I could have stopped after the appetizers,” but that never happens. My cousin had made as the centerpiece of the dinner this huge beef tenderloin that actually fed the troops, cooked with onions and garlic and other spices. There was Clams Spaghetti, my uncle’s favorite dish that is still served in his honor. There were several assorted sides of vegetables. My cousin also asked if my Bride could bring her Caesar Salad, which I have to say, is a traditional hit as well. Then whatever is left is clear off the island counter in the kitchen and then the desserts are brought in. I am no longer a big dessert fan, as I seem to have lost my sweet tooth, but there was some Pomegranate Macaroons that one of the younger cousins made and it was delicious, and a very popular fruit in Armenia. For the dinner I had brought Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious Estate Napa Valley Red Wine Unfiltered 2016. When I first had the wine, I was told that it was created in the image of Le Pin and Chateau Petrus, and quite a lofty goal. The wine is a blend of seventy percent Merlot and thirty percent Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged in new French Oak for twenty-two months and has become their affordable signature wine. This had a big nose of black fruit and strawberries, with a taste that was dominated originally by the black cherry, and finishing with some rich terroir and some great acidity for cellaring. Yes, while my Bride was still waddling while wearing her orthopedic “boot,” I think I was waddling just from all of the food that I had consumed and I was very happy.