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A Carpe Vinum Christmas

The right wine for you- 6 bottles for just $34.99!

Carpe Vinum Christmas is always one of my favorite Carpe Vinum meetings of the year.  Great friends, great wine, great food . . . and presents!  Our assignment this month was to choose a wine that we associate with a memory . . . and a food to pair with it.

Here’s what we came up with:

Domaine Drouhin Cuvee Laurene Pinot Noir Oregon 2009 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ /92
My girlfriend and her husband enjoyed this wine while on vacation to Oregon.  One afternoon, they sat outside in the Oregon sunshine, with their family, and drank a bottle (or two) of this beautiful wine.

A gorgeous ruby color in the glass.  Aged in French oak (not more than 20% new).  Nose is strawberry jam.  Beautifully balanced and so smooth.  Vanilla finish.  I can taste the Oregon sunshine . . . and the memory!  $65.

Paired with Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese
This stuff is amazing — it’s definitely going into the family dinner rotation at Casa de Armchair Sommelier.  Superb flavor combinations.  I don’t do goat cheese, so my girlfriend made mine with feta, and let me tell you, it was just as yummy!

The Pairing 👍
The mushrooms and caramelized onions are a no-brainer win with Pinot.  Beautiful.  You’re gonna think I’m nuts, but there’s something about the parsley that just sings with the Pinot. Delicious!!


Thibaut Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Virginia NV
 ⭐⭐⭐ /89
My girlfriend chose this wine to celebrate all of the wonderful times, wines and food we’ve enjoyed over the years as Carpe Vinum.  Awwww, right?  We all got appropriately verklempt.

100% Chardonnay from the Monticello appellation.  Medium acidity with tons and tons of bubbles.  I tried to capture all the bubbles in the photo below, but they were moving too quickly!  Flavors of pear, yeast and stone.  I’ve wanted to taste this Virginia sparkler for quite a while now.  So glad I got the opportunity.  Loved it.  $30.


Paired with Shrimp and Grits Squares
Mmmm . . . shimp and grits is one of my favorite foods on the planet!  It’s comfort on a plate. And I love the spin on tradition, using fried polenta as a base here.


The Pairing 👍
You’d think the bacon in this dish would fight with the bubbles, but the saltiness actually works beautifully.  Surprise of the paring — the tarragon in the dish is incredible with the bubbles!


Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Alsace Turckheim 2005 ⭐⭐⭐ /85
My husband and I recently enjoyed an aged Riesling (Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling 2006) at The Inn at Little Washington while celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary.  Aged Rieslings are magical!  And this wine blew my mind — it might be the best Riesling I’ve ever had.  Naturally, I couldn’t find it for sale anywhere.  So I ordered the closest thing I could find.  (The Riesling we had at The Inn is one of Zind-Humbrecht’s single vineyard wines — the one I ordered is from the much broader Turckheim region).

Honestly, I was disappointed with this wine.  Don’t get me wrong — it’s still a good wine, but I suspect it was better a few years ago (this is one of those times I wish I hadn’t bought in threes — I’d better drink the other two bottles ASAP).  The nose is nice and petrol-y.  Flavors of apricot and Werther’s Originals candy.  But it really falls apart in the middle, and turns flabby.  If only you could add acid to a wine like you add Splenda to tea!  $45.

Paired with Coq au Riesling
Coq au Riesling is a traditional dish of the Alsace region of France.  It’s a variation on the traditional French classic, Coq au Vin (chicken braised in wine).  Julia Child once said, “this popular dish may be called coq au Chambertin, coq au Riesling, or coq au whatever wine you use for its cooking.”  I love Julia.  I had some reservations about braising chicken in Riesling, but it turned out fabulous (the lemon and crème fraîche you add at the end sew the whole dish together)!

The Pairing 👍
Here’s that mantra again:  Pair ethnic food with ethnic wine.  You cannot go wrong.  A great pairing (even if my wine was a little flabby).


Travaglini Gattinara Vendemmia 2008 ⭐⭐⭐ /85
My girlfriend chose this wine because of the special memories (too many to list!) she has of trips to Italy with her family.

From the Piedmont region of Italy.  100% Nebbiolo.  A ruby red color — think Twizzler red. Violets and a little tar on the nose.  Flavors of red (there’s the Twizzlers again) and then black licorice on the back end.  The mouthfeel is a bit light for what I’d expect from a Nebbiolo, yet the tannins are pretty aggressive.  13.5% ABV.  $27.

This is one of the coolest bottle shapes I’ve ever seen — it’s asymmetrical and funky.  According to the Travaglini website, the bottle shape was purposely created to be both unique and functional.  The curve of the bottle is intended to catch sediment.

Paired with Garlicky Beef Tenderloin with Herbs
This would be a perfect holiday dinner . . . tender and flavorful.  The herb rub is perfection. And then my girlfriend went all over-achiever on us and added a dollop of truffle butter to the finished roast.  Sooooo good!

The Pairing 👍
The steak is a tenderloin, so fairly lean — I worried for a very fleeting moment there wouldn’t be enough fat to stand up to the Nebbiolo.  No need to worry.  The Nebbiolo was delicious with both the slightly rare steak and the herb rub.  The truffle butter added some fat back into the dish.  And then there were truffles.  You can never go wrong with Nebbiolo and truffles. Hooray!!


And for dessert, my girlfriend made White & Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce.  There are no words for how amazing this dessert is.  Put this on your holiday table . . . you won’t be sorry!  (Disclaimer:  I am not responsible for the +3 pounds this will add to your holiday weight gain total).

And then it was present time!  We just draw numbers and take turns picking a gift from under the tree (there aren’t enough of us to do that elaborate stealing scheme).  There are some really great gift ideas here:

Next month, we’ll be studying Winter (heavyweight) Reds.  Stay tuned.


Armchair Sommelier Wine Tasting Guide

Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.