Follow Us

Holiday Cheer

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Here at Gang Central, we celebrate the year-end holidays mainly through the sharing of good food and wine with friends and family. We tend not to participate in the commercial rat race that so dominates Christmas, though we do indulge in gleefully viewing two opposite extremes in Yuletide movies; Polar Express (they still don’t have 3-D quite down for home viewing yet, but that’s a minor complaint), where a boy’s doubts about the existence of Santa Claus are happily resolved with a dazzling, sometimes harrowing train ride to the North Pole, and the very different Badder Santa, in which a vulgar, drunken, safe cracking department store Santa is ultimately redeemed, if not necessarily entirely reformed. (Remember, Gang of Pour has often been described as “irreverent,” and we do nothing to discourage that descriptor.)

Then, of course, there’s New Years Eve, when bubbly rules, and that’s where we’ll begin our rundown of the Gang’s 2009 holiday cheer. Please note that not all of the sparkling wines listed here were enjoyed on December 31st, but rather, are grouped together for a more cohesive report. All were enjoyed during the holidays, however, and I’m happy to report that Kim continues to show progress in becoming a true bubblehead.

Champagne Bonnaire Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV, 12.5% alc.: Clean medium color, with ample mousse and a fine, active bead; creamy yellow apple, with a note of citrus in support, a little yeasty bread dough well in the background and subtle mineral at most. Medium full to full-bodied, with excellent acids and a long, lingering finish. Rich and delicious, in a rather different style than many and an absolute delight to sip with a rich crab dip and bread. Find this wine

Imported by Vineyard Brands Inc., Birmingham, AL

Champagne Duval-Leroy Cuvée Paris Brut NV, 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 12% alc.: Always a welcome and enjoyable glass of Champagne, this shows medium straw in color, with big mousse and a very active bead; creamy green apple flavors are accented with nice minerality and finish with a note of lemony citrus that plays an interesting counterpoint. Medium full to full-bodied, with good intensity and brisk acids that leave an almost peppery sensation on the palate, this played well with kim chi dumplings (kimchi mandu) and mung bean pancakes (bean dau duk) dipped in soy and Sambal Oelek chili sauces (the secret being to apply the chili sauce sparingly). Interestingly, this bottling even has its own Facebook page; must have something to do with the snazzy Leroy Neiman painted bottle… Find this wine

Imported by Duval Leroy Imports, Manhasset, NY

Click image to enlarge.

1996 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée Royale Brut, 12% alc., $35.99: After love-love-loving the ’93 I found down in Key Largo last August, this was an easy choice to pick up and pop the cork for our partner-in-crime Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan, and it’s every bit as good as the earlier version. Medium colored, with good mousse, and if it’s not the most active bead, it’s certainly there; rich and expressive in the mouth, with yeasty, flinty mineral and what tastes like well integrated and somewhat secondary oak over a solid core of yellow apple fruit. Excellent acids and length and a great match with the aforementioned kim chi dumplings and mung bean pancakes, this time dipped in soy and Sriracha chili sauces. Find this wine

Click image to enlarge.

2006 Hillebrand Niagara Peninsula Showcase Sparkling Riesling, 12% alc.: Chef Kerr brought this with him for his holiday sojourn in Day-twah, and it’s more than just interesting, it’s downright delightful. Medium color, with good active bead and mousse and bone dry green apple and mineral character that is tart, and almost, but not quite, sour. Medium bodied, with excellent acidity and nice intensity; I’m happy to drink this one any old time. Find this wine

Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Brut NV, 74% Sonoma, 26% Napa: More than good enough to be included in this report (we had a few sparklers that weren’t; for instance, this utterly blew away a Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut opened right after it, but then, what doesn’t these days?), this is pale to medium in color, with the requisite mousse and active bead and nice green apple character shaded with yeasty overtones and subtle mineral. Good intensity, excellent acids and a note of creamy oak adds interest without overdoing it. A solid effort. Find this wine

2008 Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5% alc., $19.99: Chef Kerr found this at a very good price during his visit and opened it for us. Pale in color, and a little lighter in body than we remember these to have been (it’s been at least three or four years since we last had this), with good Sauvignon character shaded with some nice herbaceous and mineral elements. Kim finds it to be boring, and while I felt a little kinder towards it, it’s certainly not the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon that we remember from back when we drank it fairly regularly. Find this wine

Imported by Moet Hennessy USA, Inc., New York, NY

Click image to enlarge.

We have yet to try a wine we don’t really like from Patrick and Connie Allen at United Estates Wine Imports, Ltd., out of Columbus, Ohio. They have an excellent portfolio of handcrafted, high-quality wines, from artisan estates in France that are distributed in southeastern Michigan by our friends at AHD Vintners. This little beauty not only went very nicely with Christmas dinner, but it’s also an excellent coice for Red Wings and Red Rhônes festivities.

2005 Château Gigognan Châteauneuf du Pape “Regent” Rouge, 14% alc.: Clean dark color, with a pretty nose so typical of fine Châteauneuf du Pape, all smoky dark plum and berry shaded with cola and iron; earthy flavors echo loudly, being full bodied and well structured for many years in the cellar and yet more than approachable with an hour of more in a decanter. A fine balance of power and finesse, this should be at its best between 2015-2020 and hold well beyond that. Find this wine

2001 Jean Foillard Morgon “Côte du Py,” $25, 13% alc.: Our last bottle of this dear old friend, I opened it to show Mr. Kerr that not all Beaujolais is to be sneered at, and he not-so-grudgingly agreed after having a glass. Ever-so-slightly cloudy ruby garnet color, with earthy pomegranate, cranberry and cherry flavors and aromas complemented by what Alan describes as “quite complex pepper, like a mixture of white and saffron pepper.” Medium full bodied, still well structured for some years yet in the cellar and not yet at its peak. So long, it’s been good to know ya… Find this wine

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

Click image to enlarge.

1986 Château l’Arrousee Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe, 12.5% alc.: Chef Kerr brought this fine claret along with him for his holiday visit. Showing surprisingly little rust for its age, and a little funky in a good way, offering earthy old wood, black currant and blackberry character, but no lead pencil whatsoever. Full bodied, well balanced and well structured, this may not be a great Saint-Emilion, but it’s certainly a very good one, and it made a fine match for Kim’s and Kerr’s killer lamb tagine. Find this wine

Imported by Lastella Importing Co., Rochester, NY

2000 Schweiger Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, $26.99 – 48, 14.2% alc.: I first tasted this back in 2005 with Sally Schweiger, and was quite impressed then, so I was especially pleased when Shar Douglas and Ken Heibenstriet opened one on New Years Eve. Clean, dark color, with a pretty nose of cedar, black currant and cassis that follows through so nicely on the palate; full bodied, very smooth and deceptively well structured, this is deep, dark and concentrated. The oak is very well integrated, and all in all, this is just the kind of Napa Cabernet I like to drink, but then, I always have been a fan of Schweiger wines. It spent 20 months in 60 gallon oak barrels, 5% new American, 65% new French, 28% 2 year old French, and 2% two – four year old American. (If you’re wondering about the 2005 price differential listed above, the Schweiger family has a special relationship with their Michigan distributor that allows for wholesale pricing much lower than anywhere else in the country; I believe that this also involves moving surplus stock of vintages previous to those that are current, but having tasted many of these over the past several years, the wines are always fresh and delicious, so there is no need to worry about them being tired wines beyond their prime.) Find this wine

2001 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus: I tasted a later vintage of this red Bordeaux blend in a previous life as a retail wine department manager and liked that one so well, I added it to my inventory. Deeply, darkly colored, and very pretty and stylish, with sweet oak over rich, ripe black currant and black cherry; full bodied and well structured, with good length, this one is still on the way up, so drink or hold. Find this wine

2003 Domaine du Mas Blanc Collioure les Junquets, 13% alc.: Perhaps better known in this country for their Banyuls (Docteur Parcé & Fils), but Domaine du Mas Blanc Collioure is deserving of wider recognition, if this and the following selection are any indication. Dark color, with a deep, dark voluptuous nose of rich black plum and berry shaded with notes of cedar and mahogany that carries over beautifully on the the palate; with air, a note of garrigue emerges and plays an increasingly influential role in the overall character of the wine. Full bodied, deceptively well structured and very rich and smooth in the mouth, this is a pleasure to sip with short ribs. A blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Counoise. Find this wine

2005 Domaine du Mas Blanc Collioure les Junquets, 13% alc.: Shows a similar deep, dark color to the ’03, but has a green, almost piney note to the rich, dark core of black fruit that complements rather than detracts, and sets the tone for the wine’s personality. Like the ’03, this is voluptuous in texture, full bodied and nicely structured for several years in the cellar and yet it’s eminently drinkable already. A blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Counoise. Find this wine

Domaine du Mas Blanc imported by Vineyard Brands Inc., Birmingham, AL

Finally this last selection is the closest we came to a dessert wine during the entire holiday season. It’s not that we don’t like dessert wines, because we do, and while this one doesn’t really qualify as such, it IS absolutely delicious. It’s somehow fitting that it’s a “Mr. Ridge” and that we opened if for the man who coined the term, Alan Kerr.

Click image to enlarge.

2002 Ridge Sonoma Zinfandel Late-Picked Caboose, 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 15.6% alc.: Showing clean dark color, this is rich, ripe, sweet and lovely, offering red and black raspberry flavors and aromas shaded with a note of blueberry, a hint of lavender and a well integrated kiss of sweet oak. Smooth and silky, almost sleek, this is right there, right now, with a prettiness to it that is, for this taster, reminescent of the lovely ’93s and some of the ’03s as well. Classic Mr. Ridge, sourced from Nervo Vineyard and dedicated to Ed Nervo’s love for railroads, and especially the old caboose he has stationed in the middle of his vineyard. Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

2 Responses to “Holiday Cheer”

Leave a Reply

Pr Newswire
Recent Comments