This is the time of year when the sun hangs low in the northern hemisphere bringing sparkles to snow, water, eyes — and, of course, our glasses of wine!
This year the winter solstice comes on December 21. That’s the day of the year with the least amount of sunlight meaning the shortest day and the longest night and because it marks the moment when the sun returns, it’s an important moment for humans who, around the word, have constructed monuments and held ceremonies at this time of year. Stonehenge which I visited last summer and is pictured below is one such site; you can make your own henge out of gingerbread next year! (I’d pair it with a tawny port like one of these).
In “The winter solstice begins a season of storytelling and ceremony” The Smithsonian Magazine, writer, asked Native friends about winter solstice traditions. The answer?
Winter is the time for storytelling and star gazing!
“Storytelling is reserved for the winter months for many tribes. This was a practical choice given the fact that during the other season’s, people were busy growing, gathering, and hunting food. It was in the winter, with the long dark evenings, the snow and wind blowing outside, that telling stories was a way to entertain and teach the children. Another reason is that many traditional stories contain animal characters. To be respectful, people waited until the winter when animals hibernate or become less active so they cannot hear themselves being talked about.
To have a storyteller tell you a story is like receiving a gift.
To be respectful, a gift of tobacco is offered to the storyteller before the story begins. The storyteller will often take the tobacco outside and place it on the earth as an offering to the spirits of the story.
As we round the bend into winter, we’re ready to open more bubbles to pair with these stories and stars! More bubbles? Yes! Earlier this month, we opened Italian Bubbles! In November, we opened eight different Cremant rose from France! In October, we opened French bubbles for Champagne Day — and in August grower and biodynamic Champagne!
This winter, check out one of these unusual sparkling wines from Oregon, Alsace, Italy, and Germany:
- 2017 – Left Coast – Sparkling Pinot Noir – Queen Bee Bubbly – Willamette Valley OR SRP $36
- Gustave Lorentz – Cremant D’Alsace – Brut
- Santa Margherita – Valdobbiadene – Prosecco – Superiore SRP $25
- Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt NV, Pfalz, Germany
2017 – Left Coast – Sparkling Pinot Noir – Queen Bee Bubbly – Willamette Valley OR 12.0% alcohol SRP $36
Only 85 cases produced!
sample provided for my review consideration
Such a beautiful label! And I love love love this wine. I first tasted it on a press trip to Left Coast last fall with a group of wine writers from Los Angeles. We were sitting on benches on the back of a truck with views of vineyards, the Van Duzer Corridor, and the hives where the pollen for this wine came from (in the background of the picture below). While the wine was a tad warm (it was a warm day and the yellow jackets were buzzing!) I just loved the honeyed essence on the nose, the beautiful color, and the fresh fruit on the palate. So when Left Coast owner and CEO Taylor Pfaff contacted me after the trip with an offer of samples, I said “Sure! but please please please send me the Queen Bee Bubbly!” (Stay tuned for more about Left Coast and the wines there!)
Left Coast is one of the six wineries within the brand new Van Duzer Corridor AVA; in the past they used Willamette Valley AVA. Read more about the newest AVA and what makes it special in this article by Elaine Chukan Brown.
You can see the bee pollen in the bottom of the glass bottle…
What a fun festive wine!
Color: Peachy, pink grapefruit, translucent.
Nose: Honey! You can smell the bee pollen in the glass.
Palate: Crisp and bright, it is surprising because the nose is so sweet like honey, on the palate it is crisp and dry with a lovely bee pollen finish.
Pairing: Great brunch wine, we could see enjoying it with many of the foods that are popular at a brunch. This is a wine that you would want to sip when you are appreciating or honoring the Queen Bee.
With only 85 cases, this is a special wine. Get it if you can!
PS Left Coast also makes a Blanc de Noir (SRP $55) and a Cider (SRP $36)!
Gustave Lorentz – Cremant D’Alsace – Brut – 12% alcohol
sample provided for my review consideration
What makes this unusual? It’s a sparkling wine from France — but it’s not Champagne but a Cremant from a different region: Alsace. Only sparkling wine made from grapes grown in Chapmagne can be called sparkling wine even though this wine is made using the same methods. Sparkling wine from Alsace offers a faculour French wine and less than the price you’d usually pay for one from Champagne making it an excellent value as we #Winophiles learned last month.
The beautiful label looks like royalty– very classy on the table.
Color: Very pale, golden straw, catches the light nicely.
Nose: Mostly minerals nice undertones of citrus flowers, orange blossoms, or tangerine fruit, just a touch of yeastiness, almond croissant
Palate: Bright citrus, tart tangerine up front with a lovely tangerine finish. It reminded me of Christmas morning — the piney tree, the citrus in the stocking, the baking spices and pastries…
Pairing: So good with the caviar so it would most probably be perfect with oysters or seafood — we could even see Fish and Chips!
Santa Margherita – Valdobbiadene – Prosecco – Superiore – 11.5%% alcohol SRP $25
purchased on sale at Vons
What makes this sparkling wine unusual? One, most people know this winery from their popular pinot grigio, and two, most people don’t think of prosecco as a food wine. Let this beauty change your mind; it’s a serious wine worthy of pairing with serious food. This is not your typical greeting sipper, and certainly not a wine you’d want to turn into a cocktail!
Color: Golden, like the color of gold jewelry.
Nose: Funk on the nose, sulphur, dirty socks, earth, almonds. Fascinating!
Palate: Sulphuric minerals come across on the palate as well, similar to the sulphuric characteristic in black salt.
Pairing: We’d love to try shaved white truffles on top of pasta, mushroom risotto, or wild mushroom polenta. I could see a white pizza with mushroom and olives on it especially if the mushrooms were smoked…Rosemary marcona almonds make the wine super sweet!
I’ve had this wine around for awhile and that could be why it has such a deep color and such complex flavors.
Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt NV, Pfalz, Germany 12.0% alcohol
sample provided for my review consideration
Did someone say OYSTERS? I tried to get some for our pairing this evening but none were available which is really too bad because this wine was named
Best Sparkling Wine for Oysters in the world in 2017!
On November 6, 2017 at the Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters Competition from 279 still and sparkling wines from all over the world this wine was selected as the best!
So next time you think bubbles and Germany, forget beer, and try a sparkling wine!
Color: So very pale, platinum, beautiful brilliance!
Nose: Typical petrol notes, but also like…
you are in a meadow that is full of flowers and the bees are buzzing and the pollen is in the air…
Palate: Lemon lime soda and apricot kernels on the finish, really amazing. Tart citrus and white stone fruit, lovely with lots of acidity up front, There is such a vibrancy to this wine, and long lingering finish that leaves you with a clean refreshed palate.
The bubbles are a bit gross, in the sense that they are rather large and not finely textured, but everything else is so fabulous with this wine we’re happy to over look this!
Pairing: Not as great with the caviar, but we found it to be perfect with alpine cheeses. Would be so fun with fondue. Ementhaler brought out the fruit in the wine. Would be great with a quiche that had alpine cheese in it.
Each of these wines were very distinctive and individual wines. They are thought provoking and require their own separate pairings and enjoyment. Unusual and out of the ordinary, sparkling wines. All 4 of these wines are fun to learn about and converse about.
Here’s a fun holiday party idea — or even just for a gathering of friends; to warm up the winter! Have everyone bring a different sparkler from around the world to compare. What a great way to compare cava to prosecco to pet nat to traditional methods used in Champagne to make sparkling wine!
Hmm, I feel a blog post coming on… but first I’m headed to Art City’s Winter Solstice Celebration!
A Winter Solstice Prayer
The dark shadow of space leans over us. . . . .
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.
May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night,
hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice
that spans the world.
In the heart of every person on this Earth
burns the spark of luminous goodness;
in no heart is there total darkness.
May we who have celebrated this winter solstice,
by our lives and service, by our prayers and love,
call forth from one another the light and the love
that is hidden in every heart.
—Edward Hays, from “Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim”
So what are your favorite stories to tell this winter? Cheers!