Every year it seems to me that the holiday spirit takes a little bit longer to face the reality of what lies ahead. To be honest, this year, I have barely given it any thought – between the torrential rains, the freezing weather, the hole in my roof, the tax bill extensions etc. etc. where would I find the time to settle into the Christmas Spirit? Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t yet have grandchildren (MP if you are reading this do not get any ideas….soon), and maybe it’s because I really don’t like going to the Malls and maybe it’s because I think we should probably celebrate Christmas on January 3rd when all the Malls sell everything off they didn’t sell the week before Christmas, and if we have to spend money on gifts why not simply wait a week and save some money. Maybe it’s because I identify with the Grinch? Who knows? What does get me excited though is the thought of preparing three days of great food without having to invite the turkey in for dinner. First I get the late, late Christmas Eve festival – late because we have to keep the shop open to accommodate all the customers for whom the Christmas Spirit also came late! Christmas Eve is all about the cold cuts – for my mother, being German, Christmas Eve was the real ‘Christmas’ – I even remember that we would clip actual candles onto the branches of the tree! Really…how stupid were our parents? And on the dining table would be all the cold cut trimmings – gravalax, hams, sausages, pate’s, a sort of Germanic Smorgasbord. Copious quantities of champagne flowed and of course the ubiquitous bottle of sherry to keep grandma from falling asleep and snoring and worse. Christmas morning was just about cleaning up from the night before, gathering all the wrapping paper and sorting out which pieces could be used again next year, looking to see if there were any unopened presents that would keep the spirit of receiving still alive, then Christmas Dinner. A spread of rich meats and gravy slathered vegetables and all the trimmings – usually a rib roast, sometimes a goose, never lasagna or spaghetti Bolognese. And then Boxing Day, that wonderful British invention that allowed everyone to take another day off in the name of Royalty. For those who don’t know the tradition, the Royal Palaces were always open on Christmas Day since the King or Queen invariably had friends over for a glass of port or two. The poor staff, throughout the Kingdom had to work whilst everyone else enjoyed the Spirit of Christmas, so one day the King of the land decided to reward his staff by giving them a shilling (or something of equal or lesser value!) in a box on the day after Christmas when they weren’t so busy. And so it became Boxing Day. For us of course, who didn’t work in the Royal Palaces it just meant another day off – which was good for the citizens of the land. And so we cooked again on Boxing Day.
Of course, as we got older we embellished these good traditions by adding large quantities of booze. In order of age we probably started off with lager, a few years later we progressed to pints of ale, older still we might have had jug wines of Barefoot and other delicacies (Gallo and Yellow Tail spring to mind) and then, once we were fully ensnared in the whole Spirit thing we finally laid out large quantities of good wine. Very often there was nothing better and more enjoyable than opening a gift that looked like a bottle, or a box that was filled with bottles and indeed, since the Christmas Spirit lasted three days, to receive a bottle on Christmas Eve, followed by more on Christmas Day followed by even more on Boxing Day was the true light of Christmas. And I hope that you will all ponder this idea as we head into Christmas – if the spirit hasn’t touched you yet, come into the store and we’ll see if we can’t help it along; and if we can’t find your spirit, not to worry, we have lots of them in the store – brandy, cognac, Armagnac, calvados, Marc de Bourgogne, single malt, aged malt, straight, bent, crooked – you name it, we probably have it.
This may also be helpful. Assuming that you are going to prepare three days/nights of festivities I have put together some suggestions and pairings for foods you may cook.
For Christmas Eve – usually quite a gentle meal, cold cuts, smoked salmon, maybe a tub of Caviar depending on where on Wall Street you work; but generally a relaxed sort of food night. Champagne is always a good start. It’s a pick-me-up, hell if the Italians hadn’t called their favorite dessert Tiramisu I would have suggested renaming champagne, tiramisu (Italian for pick-me-up). We have some lovely ones at the shop – the Billecart Salmon Rosé – still one of the greatest champagnes ever; less expensive but really good is the Billiot Rosé. We have Gaston Chiquet, one of my favorite tiny producers, in big magnum sizes (Vintage 2000 Magnum), we have the absolutely beautiful Pierre Gimonet 2004 Special Club Brut champagne and we have plenty of the Cristal look-alike bottle from Vranken, owners of Pommery, Heidsieck and Desmoiselle champagne houses, at the very affordable price of $40.00 – that’s a $15 discount to the street price. For the rest of the evening you really don’t have to pour anything else, just keep the champagne flowing – but maybe this year pretend that you had never heard of Veuve-Cliquot, or pretend that you just want a better champagne; one that isn’t charging you for all those little yellow travel boxes or is free to the bling bling set!
For Christmas Day – Personally I would start with some more Champagne, maybe a Prosecco if I felt that I had overdone the expense account the night before. But as the day draws on and the aromas from the kitchen become more intoxicating I would move into California possibly. On the table I would pre-open a bottle or two of our new Hunnicut Zinfandel (266 cases produced from Kirke Venge – son of the legendary Nils Venge, Venge Winery, and partner Justin Stephens of D.R. Stephens renown). It’s from the Moskowite Ranch in Eastern Napa and has that lovely bright cherry, strawberry and cinnamon pie crust flavor. This isn’t one of those typical, in your face, mushed up fermented fruit and grain spirit sort of zin. It’s good zin! Whilst that’s breathing I might hang around a bottle of our latest find from Sleight of Hand’s Trey Busch (possibly the most exciting new wine-maker to hit the grape scene this year), his Levitation Syrah. It comes from the Les Collines and Lewis vineyards, is aged in barrel for 18 months and tastes of roasted meats, raspberries, purple fruit – delicious. This is also the time to bring out some really good, as opposed to just boring, chardonnays. I don’t usually go for the ‘lift the skirt’ bare all, oaky, buttery, vanilla infused Californian chards, but there are some that I would gladly accept in the Spirit of receiving – Frank Family Chardonnay or even the slightly richer, Davis Family Chardonnay. For those who, like me, do prefer the more complex chardonnays I would suggest my newest find (at an absurd price), the Clos du Chateau Puligny Montrachet from Chateau de Puligny Montrachet – it’s from the great 2007 vintage and costs a mere $34.00. Higher in the food chain you could sip on Roger Lassarat’s famed Clos de France Tres VV Pouilly Fuisse; an almost sublime chardonnay that is one of the few that I might decide to decant before drinking. (2008 – $42.00). And if the caviar really is coming out then slip on over to Bernard Moreau Chassagne Montrachet 2008 – subtle and creamy in texture, flavors of lime, white peach and red berries, unctuous levels of waxy juice just make this a standout of Burgundian chardonnay from this great vintage. (2008 – $67.00)
For Boxing Day – Read above…I would start with some more champagne. Boxing Day was usually about the ham – roasted with cloves and honey and lashings of rum infused pineapple juice. It was also a day to snack on all the leftovers from the prior festivities. With this in mind I’m more in favor of going over to some pinot noirs. In the US camp I would favor our Thanksgiving favorite – the Norton Ridge, but others may decide to go out on a limb and pick up some of my favorite Californian Pinot – Road 31 (the one I found at a trade show in the fall and chose as the best pinot from all the tastings). Failing to entice with the Californian pinots, head over to France and pick up some Burgundians – Frederick Mugnier’s Nuit Saint George is to die for (and your bank manager probably will). Or closer to a reality price check, try the Chateau de la Malatroye Chassagne Montrachet rouge or the even better valued Dominque Laurent Nuit Saint George at $61.00
Whatever you choose to pair with whatever food you are eating, get into the Christmas Spirit now and open some wine. Have a wonderfully debauched time, be safe, do not drink and drive – please, and may all your gifts be bottles of wine wrapped in our trademark gold tissue, with the Wine at Five oval sticker artfully placed on the front!
All good cheer from all of us at Wine at Five
Cai, Marina and Bruno
Wow. The dogs and the cats won’t venture outside in the wee hours of the morning; means its cold which means that the big day must be round the corner. Can I call it Christmas? I think so, since that’s what it is. It’s also hugely commercial, which of course is great for a retailer, and it’s hugely centered on giving massive amounts of wine, brandy, champagne and other great libations to all your friends, co-workers, bosses, family and sometimes even the odd foe gets thrown into the mix – which is great for a wine retailer! We just finished stocking up with cases of goodies and top of the list is the Shebang Liter bottles. I made the mistake of mentioning this wine two weeks ago in my blog, but I hadn’t realized how little of it we actually had. Now we have plenty, and whilst two weeks ago it sold out in minutes, it will take a few hours this time I hope. Still, if you want some for Christmas better to let me know sooner rather than later. We don’t want you crying over a spilled jug. If you don’t remember the story, either scroll down (if you are on our website) or try to reopen the blog from just before Thanksgiving. The wine is brilliant stuff, made by Morgan Twain-Peterson, son of the legendary owner of Ravenswood wine. It’s declassified red from various estates and bottled in these great liter bottle jugs. Just the thing for a chubby Santa. We also received our second allocation of Billecart Salmon Rose champagne – not very much of it, so if you want some for the Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve reserve it now. For lovers of Plumpjack we received an allocation of their Reserve Chardonnay – sadly no Cabernet Sauvignon (next March I am told) and that too will sell out almost immediately. Some great new Burgundies, especially in the whites – still my favorite white wine in the world. Marina and I tasted a new champagne, at least it was for me, last week. It’s from the owners of Pommery, Demoiselle and Heidseck – to name just a few of the Vranken-Pommery brands. The champagne we tasted is the Diamant – looks like a bottle of Cristal champagne. Its a beautiful pale golden yellow color, bottled in a ‘cut-glass crystal’ style bottle and very simply adorned. Inside the champagne is very good – lovely depth of toasted brioche flavors, this is not a weak champagne but its balance doesn’t make it one of those heavy, yeasty drinks either. We rather liked it, liked the story behind it, liked the realtively small production, and loved the price. And Sophie de la Mer, the Vranken ambassador in New York obviously quite liked us, because we are able to offer the Diamant champagne at $40.00 rather than $55.00 which is its going price on Madison Avenue. For this price its really good champagne!
Let’s talk a little about one of my fvorite after dinner drinks – Marc de Bourgogne. What is it? It’s really hard to find outside of the few districts in Burgundy where it is produced. It’s essentially a heady, earthy-tasting French relative of moonshine. Actually a class of Brandy, it is made by distilling all the pomice left over from the squishing of the grapes during the making of pinot noir. Visualize all the pinot noir grapes being thrown into the vat, being crushed to death and their little juices extracted – pinot noir in the bottle. All the pips, seeds, skins, that tangle of detrious at the bottom of the tank, that’s what makes Marc. It’s very closely akin to grappa from Italy, except in the case of Marc it is aged in oak barrels. For me it’s a stroll down memory lane. Ever since I first tried it as a student in France it has always been my absolute go-to after dinner drink. I introduced it to my wife this summer in Paris and sad to say, she loved it. Sad, because it ain’t cheap – its very, very expensive. But then again isn’t everything that’s really really good, quite expensive? That rather nice Aston Martin is, so too that diamond from Woodrow Jewelers. So whats a hundred bucks when in return you get an eau-de-vie that is totally sublime. The whole process of making Marc is like a fairy tale – the pressing of the pomice after the harvest is finished, preserving the spirit in old oak barrels, racking the spirit every now and again (drawing the liquid of the solids and topping the barrels off), then storing the barrels in the coldest, dampest part of the cellar. There to sit, unmoved by winter traditions for 10-15 years. And then out it spurts into bottles and is sold to a benevolent few. Back in 2001 (when I found the latest French Government data on the subject), less than 600 cases of Marc de Bourgogne were made – in the entire country. Most wineries don’t bother to make it anymore and those that do manage to bottle only a few dozen. I still remember the Marc I had at Lameloise, a phenomenal restaurant in Chagny. And 20 years down the road I’ll remember the Guy Roulet Marc I drank with my wife outside a corner cafe late one night in the summer of 2010. That’s what it does to you. For me its a time capsule of memories, and its worth every penny. We received only a few bottles of Didier Meuzard’s two styles of Marc – his Hors d’Age, aged since 1990 with distillate going back decades more, and his Fine de Bourgogne, Marc de Bourgogne aged from grapes pressed in 1990 directly from vineyards in Vosne Romanee, Gervery-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny. The Fine de Bourgogne is $86 and the Hors d’Age is 110 – 5 bottles left of each.
Last Friday I sent a pdf. file of our Christmas Catalogue – quite a few readers were unable to open it so I have refiled it on our web site: www.wineatfive.com. Some of the highlights include a 6 pack of Burlotto’s Barolos from three legendary vineyards, Monvigliero, Cannubi and Acclivi and represent a bottle from each vineyard from each of the 2004 and 2006 vintages; a vertical of three bottles of each vintage, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 from Giacomo Borgogno’s Barolo bottlings; a semi-vertical of Brunellos from Il Palazzone, including his 1998, 2001 and 2004 reserva brunellos; a two vintage vertical of Bodega Arzuaga’s Reserva Especial (the winery neighboring the legendary Vega Sicilia winery); my favorite, just a few bottles from the man who made it all happen for cult Californian wines, Manfred Krankl’s Sine Qua Non, with a bottle of each of his Labels Syrah and his Pictures Grenache, together with his onetime cellar rat Maggie Harrison’s Lillian Syrah; there are some Billecart Salmon primers, a collection of Jean-Luc Thunevin’s bad boy wines from the man who began the garagiste movement in Bordeaux; a collection of Ridge zinfandels from each of his four primary vineyards; there is something here for every lover of really good wine. So check out the file on the web site and place your orders by December 15.
This year, for the first time since we opened, Christmas will fall on a Saturday. We are required by law to be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s day so to alleviate that mad rush and subsequent feeling of doomed failure we will be open the Sunday before Christmas, December 19. The store will be open from noon-4:00pm. Take some time off from shopping for socks and sweaters and come in and buy what you really want – a few good bottles of wine!
Give Bread ♥ Give Thanks ♣ Give Wine ♦
We have put together a catalogue of hard to find verticals, vintages, Ports and other good things to slip under the tree this holiday. I have formatted it into a pdf file that can be printed or viewed online. There is a deadline for ordering since some of the wines are so highly allocated that we can not guarantee availability – first come first served I’m afraid – the easiest way to order will be to e-mail me at: email@example.com
We will try to fulfill every order but where a wine is not available we will have to honor those that sent in their requests first.
If you have any questions regarding the wines please call us – we will be delighted to help in any way we can.
The pdf catalogue can be downloaded from this link: Christmas Gift Catalogue 2010
Highlights from the catalogue include Burlotto Barolo from each of three vineyards and two vintages, a vertical from Giacomo Borgogno of his Barolos, a vertical of Brunello from Palazzone, 2 very rare wines from Bodega Arzuaga, the neighbour to Vega Sicilia, and an offering from the legendary cult wine-maker, Manfred Krankl and his Sine Qua Non wines…plus loads of other goodies.
Monday10.00am – 7:00pm
Tuesday10.00am – 8:00pm
Wednesday10.00am – 8:00pm
Thursday10.00am – 8:00pm
Friday10.00am – 8:00pm
Saturday10.00am – 7:00pm