The whole truth, and nothing but the truth
Leading up to Christmas, I suggested chardonnays and pinot noirs that would be ideal with roast turkey. With long ago memories of my headmaster suggesting “Robinson I think that you are handling the truth rather loosely”, I have decided to give an actual account of how it came down in our home.
It is the Friday before Christmas and halibut has been roasted in our oven. It is served with a pink, Italian rice that someone kindly gave to my wife. Broccolini is the vegetable. Do we open a fine chardonnay? Nope. Instead, the cork is extracted from a bottle of 2019 Gerard Bertrand L’Indomptable de Cigalus Blanc, Languedoc, a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier blend that is certified biodynamic. In other words, not only is it organic, but biodynamics assures me that our planet is also being healed and restored to its former glory. Why did we select this wine as we had little idea of what it tasted like? Well at $42 it had better be good. It turned out to be perfect with its lovely white peach, ripe citrus, honey and nuts. You should try it, and to make it simple to ask for, the stock number is 7255.
Now it is Christmas Eve. Creamy mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach are about to be served with two sizzling beef tenderloin steaks. I carefully extract the cork from a 2004 Colonial Wine Company Emigré from Barossa Valley in Australia. We no longer import these wines as Jonathan Maltus sold out in 2009 to start up World’s End in Napa Valley. Today his reputation is in St Emilion and we stock 2016 Chateau Teyssier Grand Cru and his “garage wine” 2016 La Forge Grand Cru —$46 and $62 and stock #8314 and #8291 respectively. Robert Parker calls him the “English winemaking guru”.
Back to 2004 Emigré. Amazingly powerful fruit for an old wine. Ripe black fruits from this grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre, carignan and cabernet sauvignon blend remind me of the days when we would take two small boys berry picking in the largest expanse of virgin timber still left standing east of the Mississippi River (in Northern Wisconsin).
“Maybe something gentler,” the wife says. I open 2017 Rodney Strong Symmetry, a Sonoma blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc. Silky layers of dark fruits, vanilla and dusty oak drift from our glasses. As expected, there is harmonious elegance and refined tannins. I remember meeting a lady in Bermuda who told me that she owned a vineyard that supplied fruit for this wine. $68 (Stock #6502).
We are still not 100 per cent convinced, although both wines are delicious, and so 2013 Sbragia Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma’s Moon Mountain makes it a threesome. We know that we will never go wrong with Ed Sbragia, the only person ever to make both a red and a white wine that placed first on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year (in his Beringer days with their Private Reserve chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon — a programme that he developed). We swirl and sip and think of a time when discussing winemaking with Ed here on our porch, blind-tasting wine with him in Los Angeles, and of visiting his family winery at the end of Dry Creek Valley. Of course, this wine is sumptuous. Properly aged and from an iconic vineyard planted in 1880. Parker rates it 94/100 and calls it a superb effort. $69 (Stock #6801).
Now there are three glasses in front of each of us. No worries as we will just sip all of them and then take a small vacuum pump and remove 85 per cent of the oxygen left in each bottle. These devices are very inexpensive, very effective and allow you to enjoy the wine over a few days with little or no deterioration. We use ours every week. Overall, this dining experience is just so memorable and represents what our lives have been all about on special occasions.
Now Christmas Day is here, and no aroma of roasting turkey fills the air. Instead, we opted for Cornish game hens accompanied by roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts, beets and potatoes which we picked up from the farmers’ market. We open 2020 Fort Ross Sea Slopes Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. It is just the right wine to have, with its lemon blossoms and Golden Delicious apple. It definitely shows the beauty of that cool, foggy and spectacular place, where my wife and I have so enjoyed the vast Pacific joining the mainland. The Wine Enthusiast rates it 91 and picks it as an “editor’s choice”. $43.50 (Stock #6483).
It is now New Year’s Eve and we have gone to a neighbour’s house early — 6.30pm — to spend a couple of hours enjoying some hors d’oeuvres and wine. Somehow the new year is minutes away and we are still there. I am of a mind to do something that I have attempted to do for more than 20 years. I nip home and carefully fetch a magnum that is sitting on our dining table. Also, a block of Stilton.
As I am so ever gently extracting the cork, I explain that this Graham’s 1977 Vintage Port was bottled, in very limited quantity, to celebrate a new century as the year 2000 dawned. Each year I have gotten it out and each year I think of a summer day in June of 1977 when these grapes were happily ripening and considering whether it was time for veraison (verr-ray-zohn), the time when they change from green to red and begin to ripen and develop sugars.
On that very same day so long ago, I happened to notice a young woman in the lounge of the Midwest hotel in which I was staying. “How can I meet her?” I thought. Little did I know that four days later I would ask her to come and live on my island with me. She did!
The 1977 Graham’s was wonderful to share and I still have some, as half the magnum was gingerly poured into a regular wine bottle and re-corked! If you want to keep for as long as you like, we have Graham’s 2000 that gets 98/100 from James Suckling ($142, Stock #3046); Graham’s 2003 with 96/100 from the Wine Enthusiast ($115.70, Stock #3019); and Graham’s 2017 which earns 97 points from Suckling ($120, Stock #3047).
Happy New Year and remember that no one should consider leaving this planet without first tasting a great vintage port!
This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd written by Michael Robinson. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available at www.wineonline.bm