Take Time to Smell the Holidays

By Sunny Brown

Category: Seasonal Feature

The holidays are all about hustle and bustle. We run, we work, we shop, we eat and then on Christmas Eve we all say "Holy Crap! It’s Christmas Eve! Where did December go?" We have been so busy running around and trying to squeeze in a visit to Best Buy in between the office holiday party and dinner at Uncle Nick’s that we have completely lost the spirit of the season. This year I say we take a little time to relax, unwind with a nice glass of vino, and enjoy our time together with friends and loved ones. Instead of packing in all of our holiday cheer into just a few short hours around the Menorah I say we find a few days to really live in the season. And what better way to do that than with a fine glass of wine?

Start with a bottle of Champagne. You deserve it. You work too hard all year long just to throw down a glass of cheap sparkly-stuff in some over-crowded restaurant at 12:01 AM on January 1st. Treat yourself to a fine bottle of terroir-driven bubbles a full week before Christmas. This way you can enjoy the wine and there is no pressure to kiss people you barely know or put on one of those uncomfortable pointy hats just to ring in the New Year. A little dedicated time with your carbonated friend a week or two before the big night is an easy reminder of just what an amazing experience a good bottle of Champagne can be.

And for this special time go with the Larmandier-Bernier Extra-Brut Tradition. Priced right around the $50 mark retail this wine offers so much more than the average Champagne. Notice that I said wine. Unlike many of the more well-known name brands in Champagne the Larmandier-Bernier is made by a small family that harvests, ferments, ferments again and bottles their wine. No factories or production in gigantic proportions here. Only really good fruit farmed organically and biodynamically from old vines in really good soils. Extra-Brut means that less sugar was added in the dosage as the Larmandiers believe that ripe fruit should provide all the sweetness a Champagne really needs.

The initial aromas range from orange peel to chamomile to white lilies and back to a little zesty citrus note. The entry of this wine is intense and fragrant, with lovely tangerine, quince, anise and thyme elements mixed with golden delicious apples and a broad feel. The finish begins with a twang of bright acidity and minerality but proceeds to flesh out across the palate and develop into a harmonious and lovely balance. Find a friend, find some oysters, find some glasses and you will find inner peace.

Nothing recreates a true Burl Ives moment quite like a big glass of beefy red wine in front of a roaring fire. Who needs snow when you can bust out your reindeer sweater and fill the fine crystal near the rim with a delicious and bold bottle of red? Try a sip or three of the 2007 Caldwell Rocket Science. The name is a play on words that making wine isn’t rocket science, but this lush and long creation is surprisingly complex given its handle. A mix of estate-grown Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot from John Caldwell’s vineyard to the east of the city of Napa, the Rocket Science begins with a deep nose filled with black cherries and raspberries mixed with earthy notes of wood smoke, sweet spices and a hint of cedar. The palate is gobby and gooey and filled with black fruits and chocolate mixed with spicy notes, but then a delicate balance of acidity and tannins comes weaving its way into the mix to keep the wine from feeling heavy or cloying. The finish goes on and on and is certainly a great way to pass the time not thinking about your itchy sweater.

Finally if there is one thing we will all do this holiday season it is eat too many sweets. Be it Panettone, sugar cookies, fruit cake, or icing-covered Santas if they are there for the taking then they are there for the grazing. This season I propose that we indulge in a little sweet stuff of the liquid kind if you know what I mean. Take for example the 2008 Fattori Recioto di Soave. Production of this style of wine dates back to the 5th century (or just about the same time as St. Nicholas of Myra!) and the unctuous goodness stems from the harvest of very ripe grapes and drying said grapes on straw mats until well into the following year. The result is a wine that offers balanced acidity, a pleasing mouth feel and just enough sweetness to keep us from raiding the snack bowl.

The Fattori Recioto begins with a hue that is closer to gold and polished bronze than any white wine around. The amber nectar almost seems to have been made to be put in a glass and ponder holiday lights through. Aromas of baked apricots, toffee and pecan pie waft from the glass. Once on the palate there is a huge rush of flavorful emotion, and as a tear is shed (well, almost!) a mix of orange marmalade, roasted hazelnuts, dutch apple pie and a splash of lemon zest spring forth across the palate. The finish is long and lush and doesn’t seem to want to leave. But this houseguest can stay as long as it likes!

" 'Tis always better to give than to receive" is the old saw come holiday season, and while this will always be true, take a few moments this year to give back to the person in the mirror. Because if they aren’t happy how can the holidays be bright?