“When what to my wondering eyes did appear,But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,With a little old driver so lively and quick,I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!'”from a “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore
(complete poem at end of post)
I always thought the line was dash away “home.” I’ve been thinking about home a lot recently because this is the time of year when people head home. However, this has been quite the holiday season in Ventura County. Not long after Thanksgiving, the Thomas Fire ignited in two places near Thomas Aquinas College between Santa Paula and upper Ojai, and on that first night, consuming at times a football field a second, and an acre a minute. Overnight the hills behind my home burned, and then the fire continued in three directions: toward Ojai, Santa Barbara, and Fillmore.
The bad news is that, at almost 275k acres, the Thomas Fire is now the largest ever in California history. The bad news is that every day I find out about more people I know who not only had to evacuate, but many who returned home to find it gone, one of the over 1000 structures that were totally destroyed.
A simple question– how did you do in the fire? — leads to a story in every case from evacuations to illnesses to poison gases to the loss of everything except an old ice cream truck parked on the street, with the keys destroyed by the fire.
“We’re okay,” everyone says because the good news is that as catastrophic as this fire has been, there have only been two deaths associated with it. The other good news is that the fire is at 65% containment and the toxic smoke is not as bad as it was.
After two weeks of uncertainty, finally, people are out and about completing holiday shopping. We went searching for a Christmas tree last night and learned that one lot had to throw out over 400 trees because of the low humidity, the smoke, and the ash. The Lions Club closed their lot in Ojai and sent their trees to the Boys and Girls Club Thrift store on Ventura Avenue — where we picked up our tree this morning.
As you can imagine, many businesses have been devastated. My favorite local wine shop, The Ventura Wine Company, had to cancel their holiday sparkling wine tasting which is their biggest one day of sales each year.
At the same time, many businesses have stepped forward to support locals and firefighters alike. Patagonia has been donating down jackets and sleeping bags to firefighters working in the freezing cold. They’ve also opened the doors to their store and welcomed locals and firefighters with 40% off prices so that we can take care of ourselves, our fire crews, and our less fortunate neighbors.
With this as a backdrop, my family joined Sue’s around the dinner table for the first time in Ojai since the Thomas Fire threatened her home.
So what do these Wine Predators recommend for your holiday table? How about helping out wineries from Napa Valley which experienced horrific fires in October?
While Flora Springs and Jon Nathaniel wineries were not damaged, the Napa economy, like the Ventura and Santa Barbara economy has been. So here are two Napa Valley whites and two Napa Valley red blends wines from the Komes and Garvey families of Flora Springs Winery and Jon Nathaniel for your holiday consideration.
2016 – Jon Nathaniel Honest Bucker – White Wine – Napa Valley – 14.2% alcohol – $40
2015 – Flora Springs – Dashaway – Chardonnay – 14.3% alcohol – $45
2014 – Flora Springs Holiday Red Blend – Joyful Angel Joy – 14.2% alcohol – $65
2014 – Flora Springs Trilogy – Red Wine – Napa Valley – 14.2% alcohol – $80
- Cheese plate:
Bouncing Berry Snowdonia, Petite Supreme Marin French Cheese, assorted cheeses, spiced toasted nuts, bread
- Caesar salad with anchovies
- Shrimp bisque
- Instant Pot Lamb shank
- mashed potatoes
- sauteed greens.
2016 – Jon Nathaniel – Honest Bucker – White Wine – Napa Valley – 14.2% alcohol – $40
50% Sauvignon Blanc; 25% Chardonnay; 25% Malvasia
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Malvasia combine to provide a garden full of florals including honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia, plus light stone fruit and a bit of rosemary. The Chardonnay provides more complexity to the palate, smoothing it our and adding body. The clear bottle sports a beautiful label that’s classy, yet fun and playful. This bottle would be a great gift for a hostess with the mostess or that special female friend who is outside of the box and a bit outrageous — because that’s what this wine is!
Color: Pale, silver golden, which shows nicely in the clear bottle that it comes in. The color plays off of the gold and silver label
“This smells like minerals. Where’s my oysters?”
Nose: Honeysuckle, and rose petals, like a double delight rose, with a bit of salted caramel. So many unusual floral notes!
Palate: From the Sauvignon Blanc, apricot kernel, fresh apricot, and a fresh tingly acidity at the tip of the tongue. Bright and crisp with nice acidity and sweetness from the Malvasia. A bit of candied pineapple like a pineapple upside down cake from the Chardonnay. Coriander, lemony bright cardomon, and other baking spices come forth in this wine.
Sue loved this wine with both the caesar salad and the shrimp. Great wine that can go well from light appetizers, to the soup and salad. Great appetizer wine, entry wine, or seafood wine plus with our mashed potatoes! This would also go well with chicken and it has plenty going on to work well with duck or turkey. Order this wine now and cellar it for next year’s holiday feasts!
Jon Nathaniel is owned and operated by the Komes family. In 1978, John Komes along with his parents, sister and family began Flora Springs but when he yearned for a smaller, hands-on venture, he and his son Nat formed Jon Nathaniel Wines.
2015 – Flora Springs – Dashaway – Chardonnay – 14.3% alcohol – $45
Dashaway Chardonnay for your holiday table pairs well with richer seafoods like shrimp bisque, caesar salad, or fowl with a particular nod toward turkey. It’s got a fantastic label for a gift wine and a cute name for the holidays,
Color: Pale golden straw in the glass.
Nose – Classic California Chardonnay with lemon curd or even lemon meringue pie rather than just lemon curd. Sue noticed a vanilla bean custard or a creme brûlée.
Palate: This Chardonnay offers plenty of creamy oak. People who flock to Rombauer would enjoy this wine. It can handle heavy rich foods including shrimp scampi, lobster bisque, fetticuine alfredo, lobster, crab — and it went really well with our rosemary spiced nuts! a nice cheese tray. It loves the fatty goodness to tame the oakey wine. Any rich seafood flavors are going to set off this wine. On its own there is a pineapple butterscotch smoothie characteristic, and paired with the acidity of the sautéed greens, it had even more butterscotch.
This is a Chardonnay that can take on big creamy flavors.
For Sue the heavy oak of this wine is not as pleasant unless it is paired with rich creamy foods, and I agree — this is wine best appreciated with a meal.
2014 – Holiday Red Blend – Joyful Angel – 14.2% alcohol – $65
64% Caub Sauv, 19% Petit Verdot, 17% Syrah
Color: Purple red, plum red, dense.
Nose: Nice spicy nose, plum, blackberry, not overly oaked, the oak is integrated in the nose of this wine, sweet tobacco, and leather as it opens up.
Palate: Bright cherry and mint, herbal qualities, mint on the tip of the tongue, then the mintiness of this wine hangs on with a very nice lingering finish. After the wine has been opened for a while, the bramble berries come out: Blackberries, blueberries, elderberries. Elderberries have a bit of herbal, stemminess.
I’d try this wine with seared ahi tuna salad with blueberry stilton cheese. Another intense fish like salmon might work also. Great with our snowdonia cheese company bouncing berry cheese; we love these Snowdonia cheeses from Wales! This wine went wonderfully with the lamb shanks and mashed potatoes; it was not as fantastic with the sautéed greens (the chardonnay was the ticket there!). It fought with it a bit; it would have been much better with a steamed broccoli or roasted brussel sprouts.
On the second night, we finished it off with filet mignon. My husband was disappointed when this angel flew the coop…
2014 – Trilogy – Red Wine – Napa Valley – 14.2% alcohol – $80
86% Cab Sauv, 8% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot
And if you have the opportunity to taste it you will know why: it is rich, opulent, yet balanced with subtle cherry fruit mingled with dark blue fruits and marked by refreshing herbal notes as well as vanilla bean and cocoa.
Color: Really deep rich purplish red; opaque in the glass.
John: “This is a giant nose.”
Nose: Decant and let it breathe to get more from the nose. Cherry, but it is the herbal qualities of pine and mint that prevail, even eucalyptus. The cherry fruit is very subtle.
Palate: This is a big bold wine, with rich tannins and balanced oak. Cherry plus black and blue fruits, cocoa and herbs. This wine wants savory foods over berry foods. Rich minerals roll across the mid palate with a nice long lingering finish. This wine needs the salami and cured meats. It yearns for savory. A heavy hitter, this wine is all about the Cabernet sauvignon but with the malbec and petit verdot bringing color and blue fruits. John felt that this had all of the Cabernet essential parts to it, plus it was bigger and bolder than might be expected. There’s a pop of lemony cardamom that brightens it up.
Great now, but built to last; we would love to taste this again in 10 years. Because it will lay down so nicely, it would make a wonderful gift or save for a special anniversary.
Every evening we ask which was our favorite of the evening. Tonight, Gwen felt that her favorite was the Bucker, but Sue felt that every one of the wines tonight were equal in wonderfulness. She did not have a favorite, but favorites with different foods throughout the meal.
If you are in Napa Valley, head on over to the winery. Otherwise, consider ordering it today and cellaring it for next year! Happy holidays and safe travels!
A Visit from St. Nicholas
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!