Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Solstice Affair

Boo and I received another unexpected Christmas present this year. The lovely and talented Miss Jaq was in town for a short visit during the holidays. It's a long way to travel from Abu Dhabi for such a whirlwind visit but she hadn't been here for Christmas in many, many years and thought she'd better jump at the chance when the opportunity arose. But, as I was getting ready to head out of town, this was going to be my one chance to meet up with her this time around. Trouble was we were eventually going to have to share her since this was also the evening for Tyrant's much anticipated, and not to be missed, Winter Solstice party.

Good thing that Tyrant also knows Miss Jaq and that he was happy to welcome her to join us. Despite being out of the country for over a decade, she still knew a number of the people at the soiree - many of whom were thrilled to be seeing her for the first time in all these years. We rather figured that would be the case thought and we surmised that we might not be able to monopolize her for the whole evening.

That's why we stopped by one the downtown lounges for a smart, but quick, cocktail.

680. N.V. Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Rose (AOC Cremant d'Alsace - France)

A little bubble seemed to fit the occasion and this one's known as one of the best sparkling Roses in France - regardless of the fact that it doesn't hail from Champagne proper. It's made in the Methode Champenoise of 100% Pinot Noir grapes and at $25-$30 in the local market, it's considerably lighter on the pocketbook than Champagne. We likely could have done some heavy damage to a second bottle but there was a Solstice to celebrate.

Anyone who's a regular to this blog knows that Tyrant is one of our regular drinking buddies and that he's often close at hand when we're enjoying some of the more extravagant bottles that make The List. I always enjoy seeing what his latest and greatest finds are when he's pouring. I won't be able to go into the wines or wineries much this time around, but I do often find myself looking to re-stock some of our empties with wines that he's introduced us to.

681. 2008 Sportoletti Assisi Rosso (D.O.C. Assisi Rosso - Italy)

I'd never run into this winery before; no doubt because I'm pretty much a novice when it comes to Italian wines and Umbria is not a region that I pretend to know anything about. I did find it interesting that this wine is still produced under D.O.C. regulations when it's a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cab Sauv (50/30/20). It's like a Super Tuscan but under D.O.C. auspices. Apparently up to half of Assisi Rosso wines can be non-Sangiovese and 10-30% of the blend must be Merlot. That's got to be a fairly new direction.

The wine is Sportoletti's entry level red, but it has still been hailed as "one of the great values in Italian wines" by none other than wine god Robert Parker. It'd be nice to try another bottle on another occasion when I might focus a little more on the wine than on the party - particularly when there's so much reminiscing happening all around. When you get the likes of Archie, Burl or Desmond all asking Miss Jaq if she remembers when..., it's hard to think tasting notes while you're laughing so hard.

682. 2007 Bodega Sur de los Andes - Malbec Gran Reserve (Mendoza - Argentina)

After our recent stopover in Mendoza, Boo and I naturally gravitated to the Malbec. I've seen these wines around town over the last year or so. They aren't general listings with the provincial stores but some of the private stores have picked up on the label. I've seen that the winery produces three levels of Malbec but I don't think I've seen the Gran Reserve before. Trust Tyrant to have found it. The website says that the winemaker has added a touch of Cab to the wine to fill it out just that much more. Although the vineyards feature well-aged vines, the owner only started up the winery in 2005 after he left a career in banking to pursue his love of wine in 2002. Looks like he's making an early name for himself.

683. 2005 Bodegas J.A. Calvo Casajus - Antiguos Vinedos (D.O Ribera del Duero - Spain)

I particularly like to see what Tyrant uncovers when it comes to Spanish wines. He decided to leave the classified French wines and cross the Pyrenees to revel in Spanish bargains long before anyone else I knew. So, if he thinks a wine has some bang for the buck, I generally think it's worth a look.

This winery is a relative newcomer on the Spanish scene. Although owner and winemaker, Jose Alberto Calvo Casajus, grew up in a winemaking family, he only left the local wine cooperative to pursue his own, more artisanal, wines in 1993. He runs a one-man winery and he apparently still carries on with his other livelihood as his small village's baker. He shuts down the bakery as early as he can in the day to move over to the winery and vineyards. Made with grapes from 85 year old Tempranillo vines - that are among the oldest in the appellation - his wines generate a lot of hits on the net. It's just that they all seem to be en espagnol and, thereby, not a lot of use to a gringo like me.

We'll just let the wine speak for itself. Despite the fact that work was calling my name early in the morning, I felt it necessary to return for another glass.

There were actually some other wines being served as well, but there's only so much damage a guy can do in a night.

As was to be expected, it was a great evening. We love every chance we get to catch up with Miss Jaq and Tyrant's hospitality is legendary. Here's looking forward to next visit with her and to next year's Winter Solstice.

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