The first sounds in the middle of the night are grunts, husky guttural warthog noises that impossibly float out of that precious newborn mouth. Eyes open and looking into the darkness that gradates from dark to darker and darker as the seconds pass, waiting for further evidence that she is in fact awake and not just dreaming. If she wakes, then I awake, arrange my pillows, and pick her up. There is plenty of time to think in the middle of the night, plenty to fret about, plenty to blow out of proportion with drowsy panic (a specialty of mine). My time in those dark and darker hours is far better spent absentmindedly collecting ideas for the looming holiday, a little online research I hope will filter its way into my subconscious so I’ll perhaps remember it in the morning. Cookies? Decorations? Food? Wine? Yes.
My goals this year are simpler than the last few, as my Bundle of Joy will most likely keep me from walks outside in the cold, late and leisurely dinner parties, and extensive baking adventures. But we will still have our tree trimming party, I think. That was the highlight of the season and offered the best excuse to participate in all of my favorite holiday things: good people, good food, good wine.
Last year, the tree trimming party was a handful of friends and many treats. A platter of fresh oysters hoisted from the Bay that morning found their way to our table, a delicacy I’d never participated in previously and were pretty remarkable. Briny, salty, minerally, and paired with a sharp citrus and shallot vinaigrette, they begged for a glass of something with equal precision and intensity, and there is nothing better for an oyster than a glass of Champagne.
If you’ve never had a glass of true Champagne, that is, the world famous sparkling wine from the northernmost growing region in France of the same name, you are cheating yourself. To think that you can substitute any sparkling wine in place of a glass of Champagne is simply untrue, not because I’m a snob, but because the terroir (read: soil, climate, human input) of Champagne is entirely unique and unmatched in the world. The primary mineral content in the region’s soil is chalk and is translated into the fruit as a clean, laser-like minerality that echoes that of oyster shells or other shellfish. The production method is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and ancient. Only three grapes are invited to the party: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. It’s beautiful. Some are perfect. And the best ones can be opposite delicate and ethereal or earthy and powerful and both are equally amazing.
Granted, I’d never make a mimosa or bellini out of true Champagne (travesty!) and there are so many amazing Cavas from Spain, Proseccos from Italy, and Champagne-style sparklers from the US and other places, but in the words of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. Read More →