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Holiday libations: Part 3

If you are having roast turkey with all the trimmings, then we have plenty of all the usually recommended wines in stock such as a lovely Drouhin white or red burgundy.

The New World counterpart of chardonnay or pinot noir would be fine as well. Personally, the two of us in our home have had enough Thanksgiving turkey and the follow up sandwiches and soup and so for Christmas we have decided to downsize to duck a l’orange.

The preference of wine to have with our quacker may differ from the norm, so let me start with two that are more traditional, the first being 2018 Stags Leap Winery Napa Valley Chardonnay. This wine is a story of balance, delicious richness and minerality that causes critic James Suckling to comment: “A beautiful, complex chardonnay with sliced apples and pears, as well as hints of cream and matchstick. Full body. Stone fruit. Long and flavourful. Drink now. 93/100.”

We have the 2017 at home and some should still be in our shops with its 95/100 rating from Suckling. This wine is on a roll due to its excellent quality and the winery is totally out of stock. $48.45 (Stock #6340).

The second wine is 2015 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, another Napa winery that, like Stags Leap, was founded in the 1800s. Whenever I write of Schramsberg, I have to mention that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of enjoying their wines on his honeymoon and also that their Blanc de Blancs was the wine that President Richard Nixon took to China to toast for friendship with Chairman Mao Zedong.

Open it and experience bright aromas of apple, tropical fruit and baked bread as they intermingle with lemon blossom, vanilla wafer, baked pear, candied citrus, apricot and pineapple. $35.95 (Stock #7023).

Now let us get down to what we probably will have in our home, and here we often compromise, as my first tendency on special occasions is to head for the cellar to bring out a bottle that may be 25 to 50 years old. I may, however, be gently reminded that I am merely the sous chef and a younger, fruitier bottle would be more appropriate, possibly malbec, merlot or cabernet sauvignon. I happily bow to this wisdom during this year of the duck with just us at the table.

We have such wonderful memories of travelling in Argentina and spending time with the Catena family and I am thinking that 2016 Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec should be among the few we will consider. Robert Parker rates it a fine 94/100 and writes, “It’s serious and elegant, with the year’s signature freshness. 2016 marked the wines with great freshness. This is serious, complete and direct. $45.30 (Stock #6160). We have magnums (#6156) for $89.20.

Moving on to an Old World blend of 90 per cent merlot with a touch of cabernet franc, I am thinking of visits to Chateau Teyssier in St Emilion where Englishman Jonathan Maltus bottles his small production 2014 Chateau La Forge. The modern cellar moves wines by gravity flow for the gentlest treatment during production. This elegant wine is now at a very appropriate age to enjoy its blueberry, blackberry, orange blossom, Peruvian pepper, gentle French oak and elegance.

Wine Enthusiast comments: “Ripe and fruity with smooth tannins and generous fruits, this is a concentrated wine that is also stylish. It has plenty of tannins that are so well integrated. The wine is going to be delicious with its acidity and juicy jammy fruit. Drink from 2020.” $58(Stock #9543).

If I really want to score 100 per cent I could bring home all three requested grapes in a quite young stage of their development and open a bottle of 2016 Shafer Napa Valley Vineyards TD-9 which is blend of 58 per cent merlot, 26 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 16 per cent malbec. As we enjoy it with Christmas dinner, we can think of fine food shared with Barbara and John Shafer (sadly no longer with us) in our home. Also, looking at the telephone, we can remember the night it rang and it was John Shafer – calling from Tokyo of all places – to ask my wife if she would represent his wines here. We were not sure who he was.

This second vintage of TD-9 offer bright, energetic aromas and flavours of red plum, raspberry, strawberry, spice box, exotic fruit, and red liquorice. The momentum of all this enticing fruit, along with ripe tannins, is carried through to a long, tantalising, feast of a finish.

Wine Enthusiast gives it 95/100 and writes: “The winery's proprietary blend is hugely impressive and memorable, with a smoky, toasted oak character. Plush flavours of blackberry and cherry jam meld with spice on the rich, round mid-palate. It offers plenty of grip and concentration, finishing on a handful of dried herbs.”

Robert Parker has this to say: “It has a very deep purple-black colour and displays ready-for-biz, fragrant scents of warm plums, Black Forest cake and blueberry compote with touches of baking spices, bay leaves and potpourri. Full-bodied with a serious, firm frame of ripe, grainy tannins, the palate delivers loads of black fruit and spicy layers with bags of vivacity and panache.” Why would the Shafer family winery, now run by son Doug Shafer, name a wine in this way? Well, it was the number of the very first tractor that his dad purchased. $79 (Stock #6819).

I wish you all well during these such difficult times but now, we have the hope of a vaccine in the New Year. As we sit at our Christmas table, we will of course be thinking of sons overseas and other family, but our home will also be filled with memories of so many dinner guests and house guests from so many wineries around the world – an industry that is not necessary for survival, but where would we be without music, art and wine? Certainly not on my kind of planet.

Look out for the next Grape Expectations on Tuesday, December 29.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

President Richard Nixon took Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs to China to toast for friendship with Chairman Mao Zedong

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Published December 18, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 17, 2020 at 7:50 am)

Holiday libations: Part 3

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