This month, for Wine Blogging Wednesday #64, wine bloggers were asked by Jeff "El Jefe" Stai of Twisted Oak Winery to write about the following theme:
"Pick any winter holiday or observance EXCEPT Hanukkah, Christmas Day, Kwanzaa, or New Years Day or Eve, and choose a wine to celebrate it! For purposes of this WBW, the holiday date chosen must be between December 7, 2009 and January 7, 2010. You may also pair a food with your chosen holiday and wine, but that is optional."
Although those who know me know that I think about few days during this time period besides Christmas, I could indeed think of another wonderful day to write about. Winter Solstice. You see, as you may know, I am in no way shape or form a fan of winter. It is cold, it rains a lot, and it is dark. What is there to like? And it just keeps getting darker and more gloomy until this magical day in the middle of December.
Winter Solstice occurs each year around December 21st or 22nd (in most years) and is the day where the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. It is considered the shortest day with the longest night. To some it represents a celebration of rebirth giving a reason to gather and celebrate a new beginning. For after that day, the sunlight starts to reappear for longer and longer periods each day. I live in the Pacific Northwest, which means it is darker here than many other locations in the US because we are so far north. This is why I chose to celebrate Winter Solstice this year. Because I want my sunshine back!!!
So I invited a good friend over who shares my dislike for rain, cold, and darkness and we had a winter feast involving some amazing wine, food, and a couple holiday movies.
We started out with a super easy and delicious appetizer:
Goat cheese topped with caramelized shallots.
Basically, all you do is thinly slice a shallot, put it in a small pan with about a ½ tablespoon of butter and a drip of olive oil over medium heat and let them cook for about 12-15 minutes (or browned/caramelized). Then add a pinch of brown sugar and salt and let them incorporate with the shallots. Then serve over a log of goat cheese with crackers or toasted baguette slices. Deeeelish.
We nibbled on the goat cheese with shallots while sipping on a celebratory bottle of 1998 Argyle Knudsen Vineyard Brut which was tasting delicious! Argyle is one of my favorite bubbles producers in Oregon and for good reason. Their bubbly is consistent and delicious year after year. The Knudsen Vineyard Brut, which is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, has been one of my favorite wines of theirs since I moved to Oregon and started drinking Argyle. For being over 10 years since its vintage, this wine was toasty with a beautiful body and texture, with crisp yet delicate bubbles. If you haven’t had any of Argyles bubbles before, please seek them out. They are reasonably priced and can stand up to some of the best sparkling wines in the world.
As we continued to nibble on our appetizer, we moved onto a 2005 Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, from Burgundy France. In the celebratory mood, I wanted to open something that reminded me of my trip to France a couple of years ago. Burgundy was a truly amazing region to visit and gave me an intensely deeper understanding of why that small wine region is one of the most important in the world. This white wine is made of Chardonnay grapes and was beautiful, floral, with green apple and lemon, along with mineral notes on the palate with a long balanced finish. I had this same wine about a year ago and this time it seemed much more balanced and had mellowed out a bit.
Not quite ready for dinner yet we moved onto a most delicious bottle of 2007 Chateau Montelena Potter Valley Riesling. On my what a beauty! This is what Riesling should taste like. Bright and perfumed with honeysuckle, dried apricot, and honey on the nose moving into a very well balanced and refreshing mouth with more honey, and a very teeny tiny touch of sweetness. This was a fresh and refreshing Riesling and I want more… now! You may know of Chateau Montelana for their mesmerizing Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon but you should really seek out this beauty. I bought it last summer for about $20 when visiting the winery for the first time and am now kicking myself for not buying more.
After our refreshing treat it was finally time for dinner. My friend, who is also an amazing cook, made the Lasagna with Mushrooms and Lamb Sausage, featured in the current Food & Wine Magazine, and paired it with a wine she brought, the 2005 Domaine Serene "Two Barns" Pinot Noir, from the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley. The wine had toast, spice, rich cherry, dark berries, lush, and a touch of vanilla. At one point I announced, “wow, it smells like everything that’s yummy about a good Pinot Noir”, and the body matched the nose. Rich and beautiful and amazing with the sausage and mushrooms in the lasagna.
As we finished up our evening we ended with another recipe featured in this months Food & Wine Magazine, Chocolate Pots de Crème with Maple Caramel and Salt. WWWOOOWWW! All I have to say is rich and delicious. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, there are really few culinary things better in this world than salt and caramel together. It is an amazing match! I am just sad we forgot to take a picture of it. We were too busy devouring each bite.
All in all I’d have to say it was a nice way to celebrate the end of the nights getting darker and the beginning of the return of sunlight for us here in the Pacific Northwest, and the rest of the northern hemisphere for that matter. It was also a fun excuse to break out some lovely wines that have been hiding away in the basement.