Dear Friends of Flatiron,
I am compelled to write about what special wines I’ll be drinking over the Holidays as Christmas approaches despite the fact that you have, no doubt, already read a great deal on the topic. But what makes my musings a bit unusual is that this is my first time actually making such choices not just for myself. As a professional retailer, and someone who is loosely Jewish, I’ve always volunteered to work for my gentile co-workers on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day has always been a lazy day of watching movies (specifically Home Alone and Die Hard), drinking a nice red Burgundy and slowly devouring an entire Peking duck. Some may think that sounds lonely, but I love it. That being said, I am truly excited to be spending this Christmas with my wife’s family up in Napa. Here’s what I snagged from our shelves to share with my family during my first Christmas.
I’ll use any excuse to drink Champagne and Christmas is an easy one. My recommendation is to choose a Champagne that is a little rounder and fruitier so that it can easily be enjoyed with or without food. Lean Extra Brut wines can be a bit too sharp right off the bat and oxidative/savory versions might be a bit too esoteric for infrequent drinkers to fully enjoy without food. I’m bringing Jean Vesselle’s Brut Prestige Millesime 2008, a grower champagne from Bouzy. Made of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay and a dosage of 7 grams/L this is a perfectly fruity and floral champagne for everyone to enjoy. It’s filled with remarkable homey flavors of creamy lemon, cloves, cinnamon and wildflower honey and finishes silky with notes of raspberry and red apples.
We’re all traveling on Christmas Eve so we’re keeping dinner pretty simple with a casual make-your-own taco bar. This was always one of my favorite dinners when I was a kid. As an adult I’ve added Mezcal to the table as an essential fixture. I’m making a big batch of Palomas for a Mexican-inspired libation filled with local and deliciously ripe ruby red grapefruits and Cara cara Oranges. When we got the Mezcal from Verde Momento, which is the best value Mezcal I’ve ever come across, I knew this was something I had to make for the my family. This Mezcal is produced using 8 year old Espadin agave and roasted using three different types of wood. The smokiness is strong, but extremely pleasant with a musky grassy, peach pit quality that makes it great for cocktails. It also has a variety of quirky labels which make it a creative gift and affordable one at only $29.99.
Since our family isn’t bound by any particular tradition, on Christmas we’ll be feasting on dry-aged steaks and a version of potatoes au gratin that is truly an homage to the dairy gods. I’m going with a bottle of Francois Carillon Bourgogne Blanc 2016 for my white wine, a round and supple Chardonnay filled with flavors of candied citron, apple and distinct grilled pineapple note that doesn’t come across as over-oaked. For the red I chose a 2016 Rosso di Montalcino from Conti Costanti for the red. If Biondi-Santi is outside your price range, Conti Costanti is a great alternative. Their history in Montalcino dates back to 1555 and you can taste that fact in their wines. Their Rosso displays deeply pitched and brooding notes of leather and cigar box which often fools experts into thinking it’s a fully-fledged Brunello. This wine is young, but I’m going to decant it in the morning to let it open up.
But probably the most festive wine I’m bringing is a bottle of Palo Cortado sherry. The first one I ever had, Valdespino’s Calle Ponce Palo Cortado, immediately transported me to a warm antique rocking chair in front of crackling fireplace in my mind. Few wines can take you on a journey like this one, with flavors and scents ranging wildly from mushrooms, leather and tobacco to butterscotch, maple candy and dates. Our family eats ice cream by the bucket and this is a sensational wine to have with it, especially a really good vanilla version. Having something sweet and creamy in the background lifts all the nuanced flavors the wine has taken on from over 25 years of aging. Buy this for yourself as a Christmas treat.
Happy holidays to everyone!