Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tasty Treats & Big Reds

I can pretty much be guaranteed that the holiday season is officially under way as soon as I've nibbled my way through Jeaux and Matinder's Christmas Cookie Extravaganza. The event's formal moniker might well be more generically seasonal but no one's kidding anyone - this shindig is all about the baking.

Months of planning go into the annual bake-fest and regular guests were treated to a new array of cookies this year as Matinder wanted to try out some new concoctions in addition to his regular faves. He and Jeaux even added my all-time favourite - their 2010 Olympic red mitten cookies. Knowing that their guests can't simply gorge themselves on nothing but sugar all night, they not only have an assortment of savoury munchies but the bake-happy couple are well prepped for the real fun of the night - choosing a full slate of take-out treats. No one's "allowed" to leave without a doggie bag - or more appropriately, a goodie bag - filled with one's faves from the neverending buffet.

Boo had to work nights and missed the live munching but Matinder made sure that Boo was the recipient of an extra large "to go" care package - loaded with Boo's fave espresso bean shortbread cookies.

With Boo not able to make it, I "coaxed" Mr. D. to join me. I didn't really want to play "fat boy" and nibble all on my own; so, I figured Mr. D. could handle the extra calories - and help add a couple of bottles to The List.

1481.  2009 Bodegas Ochoa - Garnacha & Tempranillo (Navarra D.O. - Spain)

Yet another Spanish producer that I don't recall having run across before. I'm not exactly sure why since Bodegas Ochoa was founded in 1370 and was the "personal winemaker for the King of Navarra and his royal court for nearly 500 years." Not having personally spent much time around Spanish royalty, maybe I don't know them because the winery's only been exporting their wines for 150 years. Okay, maybe not.

The winery is family owned and uses all estate-grown grapes from the family's Navarra vineyards. The Navarra region is in Northern Spain in the foothills of the Pyrenees and is home to a large range of grape varieties. This wine is more of an entry level blend of Tempranillo (70%) and Garnacha (Grenache)(30%). A bit big for the occasion at hand, I think it might have made a bigger impression if I'd been sipping it along with more traditional Spanish tapas.

The winery sounds interesting and worth a little more looking into though. Bodegas Ochoa is slowly seeing a transition into the next generation as patriarch, Javier Ochoa, is turning over winemaking and other operational responsibilities to his daughter, Adriana. She, in turn, (according to one of their importers) has been named "Best Young Female Winemaker in Spain" on more than one occasion.

1482.  2011 Bodegas Carchelo - C (Jumilla D.O. - Spain)

The second wine that Mr. D. and I tried was the third vintage (to be added to The List) of a rather unique 40/40/20 blend of Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre), Tempranillo and Cab Sauv. I'm guessing that Mr. D. brought this wine along because he was party to the 2009 vintage that was added way back at #630 as well.

Unlike Bodegas Ochoa, Carchelo is a fairly new winery - having been established in early 1980's. Once founded, it was one of the pioneers in working to modernize winemaking in Jumilla - a previously nondescript, if not backward, wine region in Southern Spain.

Jumilla is generally hot and arid - even by Spanish standards - and, understandably, the wine is bold and full flavoured with plenty of fruit and spice dominating. Like the Ochoa wine, this was a bit over the top for the occasion but its abundance of fruit helped out on the sipping, cocktail front.

There was enough chocolate among all the tasty treats that guests didn't need to worry about a bit of red wine though - intense or not. And, speaking of tasty treats, Matinder's addition of "nipple" cookies to the menu led to a bit of extra-curricular fun as well - especially after a few glasses of big wines had been enjoyed - that is, if this shot of Jeaux and Fifi is any indication.

I can only imagine what might happen if these treats were left next to the fireplace for Santa. I'll need a special order of Matinder's cookies if I'm ever going to find out though. I'm certain that the ones I took home in Boo's doggie bag will never last until Christmas Eve.

Poor Santa.

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