Monday, January 2, 2012

How To Get Through Christmas Eve Without A Tree

True confession: I have never been very good at dealing with Christmas. I have spent my entire life trying to cozy up to it, trying to get into the spirit of things, and this year I've finally let go of it. No tree, no lights, no presents, no singing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” The Bach Christmas Oratorio is permitted on the stereo, because The Chef favors Bach at the holidays, as is Huey “Piano” Smith singing a Bourbon Street version of “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” But that's the limit. The only remaining hurdle is convincing myself that I am not a Bad Person for being this way, but that's my problem, not yours.

Well, there is one other aspect of the holidays that we do engage in: We open a lot of bottles of good stuff, and drink it with people whose company we enjoy.

It's supposed to be "photograph, then drink," I know…

On Christmas Eve, our friend The Road Warrior showed up, eyes glazed over from an unspeakable number of hours spent on I-40. We began the business of bringing her back to the living with Champagne from Jacques and Brigette Copinet, who make small quantities of Rosé composed of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in their vineyards in Montgenost, southeast of Reims. There is some confusion over the composition; it is usually identified as 75% Pinot and 25% Chardonnay, but at the Champagne Copinet website it is described as 100% Chardonnay, to which up to 20% Pinot Noir is added after the second fermentation. When I posted a query about this at my preferred geek source, the best response was from Joe Dougherty (aka the notorious SF Joe), who suggested querying some French mathematicians. In the event, it was lovely stuff, with aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry, peach, apricot, and a clean, refreshing, mineral-driven finish. It was around $55 and came from Josh at Table Wine.

While the Chef put the finishing touches on cute little plates of tapas, we opened our next bottle, a 2009 François Pinon “Cuvée Silex Noir” Vouvray. Pinon has about 35 acres of vineyards in the form of small parcels scattered around the village of Vernou-sur-Brenne, which is sort of a suburb of Vouvray. He follows organic practices, picks by hand, ferments using indigenous yeasts, keeps racking, fining, and filtering to a minimum, and is sparing in the use of SO2. The “noir” in Silex Noir refers to soil rich in flint. This definitely shows up in the nose, which begins with a note of smoke, then follows with pretty aromas and flavors of ginger, citrus; pineapple, honey, pear, and brown spice. The paradox of rich fruit and very firm minerality caused a few abrupt “wows” when consumed with the Chef's vinegary sweet pepper/fresh anchovy/tuna/green olive/mozarella tapas. This was $23 at Vinsite.

Les and Kathy showed up after closing the store (“They say wine and spirits are still one of the top last-minute gifts,” says Les, who kept the doors open until 8) and brought two organic Burgundies, along with some DVDs to watch. Thierry Brouin, regisseur at Domaine Des Lambrays, in the village of Morey-St.-Denis in the Côte de Nuits, crushes whole clusters with no de-stemming, no fining or filtering, more interested in ageworthiness than fruit. The Domaine is organic but not certified. We drank the 2005 village-level wine, not the Premier Cru, and it was lovely, with clove, tart red berry, and a back end that offered well-proportioned tannin, acid, and minerality. Years ago, I sold a couple bottles of Lambrays, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, and never had an inkling that they were organically produced.

Then there was a bottle of “Bel Air et Clardy” 2009 Chablis from Alice and Olivier De Moor, which made me sing “Oranges and Lemons say the Bells of St. Clement's” in my head. I urge you to read this interview with Alice and Olivier De Moor. They come across on the page as honest, sensible, and charming people, an impression that is reinforced by their wine, which may not be “typical” in the usual sense of Chablis, but definitely speaks to you of limestone, clay, and brisk temperatures.

The Chef's tapas; excellent with Vouvray.