Friday, December 26, 2014

Dreaming of a White (Wine) Christmas

I don't think that it was the result of an over-abundance of Bing Crosby's or Michael Bublé's crooning, but my holiday dinner turned out to be an all-white wine Christmas. As is our family tradition, my sis, Vixen, hosted Christmas dinner for the gang. Other than to spoil the nieces and nephew, my job is to bring along the wine. Funny that.

1833.  N.V. Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut (AOC Crémant de Bourgogne - France)

I was tipped off to this bottle following a bubbly tasting held at Marquis Wine Cellars awhile back. I wasn't able to make the tasting but this Crémant was apparently one of the hits of the tasting. Crémant wines, simply put, are Champagne-style wines that can't be called Champagne because they don't come from the Champagne region. The Crémant de Bourgogne (or Burgundy bubbly) was the first Crémant appellation to be authorized - along with Crémant d'Alsace - in 1975.

Bailly Lapierre is a cooperative of 70 families growing fruit around the town of Bailly in the northern part of Burgundy. Their sparkling wine is made from the region's permitted grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Aligoté. in reading about the cooperative, I was intrigued that the wines are aged in the old, underground quarries for the town, especially since the quarry work extracted from Bailly provided stone for some of France's best known architectural triumphs - Notre-Dame de Paris, Chartres Cathedral and the Pantheon Paris.

The limestone-based soils lend themselves to a minerality that the bubbles cut through and elevate. A nice balance between subtle tree fruit and the biscuit-y notes so typical of Champagne doesn't hurt either.

And to add to the celebration, with the bucks you save by buying Crémant instead of Champagne (generally a half to a third of the price), you can spend more on presents for the family. This is a particularly enjoyable aspect of this wine to the young'uns who don't care to join in with the toasting and sipping.

1834.  2013 Sea Star Siegerrebe (Gulf Islands - BC)

When picking the turkey wine, I thought I'd forego the classic Gewürztraminer and take one of the wines I was lucky enough to pick up during our Thanksgiving visit to Axel and English Doc on Pender Island. I say, "lucky" because all of Sea Star's wine have been totally sold out for some time now. Quite the feat for a first vintage release, especially when you produce varietal wines like Siegerrebe and Ortega - grapes that most folks have never heard of before.

As it was, I didn't stray too far from the "tried and true" since Siegerrebe is a cross of the Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer grapes. I also knew there's wasn't much risk - even for the family Christmas dinner - since the wine was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2014 Northwest Wine Summit - one of the wine competitions I actually pay some attention to. Plenty of aromatics, with great acidity and some nice soft fruit, along with that bit of Gew spice, coming through on the palate.

I'll definitely be on the lookout for some more of this in vintages down the road.

1835.  2012 Red Rooster Riesling Icewine (VQA Okanagan Valley)

To close out the dinner, I grabbed a bit of a treat - for both those gathered and for me. Admittedly, it might have been a tad selfish, but knowing my family's inclinations for various wines, I was pretty sure that only Vixen and I would think about seconds. Choosing an icewine was also a conscious choice though to try and build on the nieces' introduction to wine. As newbies to the wine scene, a little - or in this case a lot of - sweet never hurts.

I think this is the first icewine that Red Rooster has released and, even then, this was a limited production of 547 half bottle cases. Boo and I grabbed some bottles during our last visit to the winery for an Adopt-A-Row event. As one of the treats the winery pulled out for the adoptive parents, we tried a barrel sample of the Riesling Icewine. Nabbing a couple of bottles was a no brainer.

I also figured that, since it was once again my responsible to bring bread pudding, the Icewine would be a grand match to the dessert - especially since I remembered to add the sugar to the pudding this year. The Icewine likely would have still paired nicely with last year's more savoury bread pudding but I think the match was a little more traditional this year.

An interesting note on the wine was that the folks at Red Rooster started picking the grapes around 2 a.m. on January 1, 2013. You've got to wonder about being out in the vineyard in -8 to -14°C weather to pick frozen grapes on the first day of the year. That's either one helluva way to finish your New Year's Eve celebration or quite the start to the year to come - a 2 a.m. wake-up call.

I'm glad they bit the bullet for us though - because that Icewine was a far nicer "end" to the dinner than the end the girls were subjected to once the table was cleared. I'm not entirely sure what prompted this display but it was hardly in tune with the joy of Christmas and suiting up in your onesie to watch Mama Mia.

Except to say that it was one "mother" of a way to end the dinner.

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