December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011 at home

Merry Christmas, dear reader. I'm home this year after several holidays at my childhood home in Los Angeles. Everything is focused on home, how good home feels, especially at Christmas.

For me, wine is always secondary at the holidays. Essential for the great holiday meals. Enjoyable for visiting with neighbors, family and friends. Just not the focus, and not necessarily the best match for my favorite holiday foods. One thing I'm missing this year in Portland are some good tamales, something I'd like to make fresh for Christmas one of these years, once I learn how to make them.

On Christmas night, it's just the family at home at the 1998 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain and flat iron steak, a onion and gruyere tart, Brussels sprouts (yes, named for the city) and the most essential of holiday foods, the mashed potato. Dinner will surely be delicious.

But the wine? It is mature, lovely and ready now but I'm sure has the staying power this producer is known for. This is aromatic cabernet, more in the Loire style than Bordeaux, more about tobacco and herbs and the caramelization of age than heavier, richer cabernet of the Medoc. If you're into that, and I am, this is a wine you will love, treasure even. Something you'll keep when others might not, sure you'll be rewarded. I'm sure you will.

This is how Christmas should be. Home. And for those who can't be home yet, a taste of what will be.

December 08, 2011

Harvest 2011 part 7: celebration

Harvest 2011 in Oregon's Willamette Valley is complete. The grapes picked, the new wines safely through fermentation and in barrel (unless you're Barnaby at Teutonic Wine Company, who told me last week that he was picking his last riesling on Saturday - December 3!).

All that remains is the harvest celebration. This year the Guild Winemakers bunch celebrated together, a low key gathering of partners to talk about the harvest and anything else that came to mind. Such get togethers never last long enough. Why can't meals with friends last for days instead of hours?

I thought it appropriate to mark the occasion with an older wine I recently found. So the 1987 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva, pale in candlelight, brilliantly translucent, more than alive, growing with airtime to show its Tuscan sangiovese roots and all the layers of time. Not a great wine, but certainly pleasurable, much more than just a novelty of the past, so beautiful.

This harvest, this whole year was incredible. Unusual. Something I don't want to go through again. But the results are incredibly exciting. The wines we have in barrel taste electric. Ripe with a burst of flavor and yet so full of energy, so lively. They need to settle down and complete the secondary malolactic fermentation, which softens the young wine. Then time in barrel and bottle. Time will be everything for these wines.

We won't really see what we have for ten years, though of course we will check in frequently along the way, in cask and bottle. Already barrels need topping up only a few weeks after being filled. Otherwise, there is little to do now that harvest is done. This time is the elevage, the education of the wine, requiring patience.

So we eat and drink and finish the year, glad to be through with harvest and ready now for everything else a year brings. Harvest will be back again soon enough. But let's drink a little more old Chianti before thinking about that.