By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

In her Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson calls Santenay a “forgotten” village. She may be right, but I have never forgotten it because its northernmost sign post was my turn-around point in my jogging days. I would follow the vineyard paths from Puligny to Chassagne and the Departmental Highway from there to Santenay. It is almost erotic to breathe the air of Meursault and Montrachet while on the run.

Santenay is on the southern end of the Cote d’Or’s finest wines. Known originally as a spa town, its vines always flirted with greatness, produced quite good wines, and occasionally came up with a designated Premier Cru. Its wines tend to the rustic rather than the elegant, but Santenay is definitely in the fine Burgundy wine club.

That’s why the suprise gift of a 2011 Clos Faubard from Santenay was so special. A Premier Cru from the vineyards of Lucien Muzard whose family has been producing wine since a.d. 1645, this bottle acquitted itself well, Pinot Noir as it was intended to be, soft and lingering. I had been attracted long ago to one of the Muzard vineyards by its name – La Maladiere, which translates roughly as sickness. In earlier times, it was believed that lepers would find comfort on the hill where the grapes now grow.

I haven’t been back there for some time — except to drive by a little more than a year ago, but the label told me of past visits. Isn’t that what separates wine from all other beverages? The nostalgia, the memories, the conversation it induces. May the Muzards florish for another three-and-a-half centuries.

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 9:45 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

One cause of my tearing up this time of year is thinking of Strasbourg. Always one of the most beautiful of cities, its dress is at its finest during the Christkindelsmarik when every house, every business, every church, every street lights up the oldest Christmas Market in Europe. Started in a.d. 1570, this market resulted from a time when Rhine Valley dwellers believed that children should present gifts to the Christ Child. Till recent times, those gifts were presented on Christmas Eve, the night when the Christmas tree was put in place. Yes, the Christmas tree, created if not in Strasbourg, then in Colmar, or somewhere between, was not put up till the night before Christmas. There is little doubting that the Christmas tree originated in Alsace, probably to brighten the longest, darkest nights of the year.

Today’s Christmas Market reflects the secularization of Christmas by opening a couple of weeks before the holiday but without losing any of its Middle Ages romance. Market stalls — an estimated 300 of them — resemble miniature Alpine chalets and spread throughout the main city squares around the cathedral, city hall, the train station, and the municipal theater.

Wherever you stroll (and yes, you must stroll as even in normal times there is no driving in the center of town), you catch aromas of pine and cinnamon and chestnuts and oven baked fruit tarts and overhear the oohs and ahs of those glimpsing for the first time the main Christmas tree, a hundred feet tall in the Place Kleber.

The market is truly beautiful. The ambiance is overwhelmingly joyous.  The crafts and ornaments and snacks are world class. But, alas, for this correspondent, the drink of the festival is mulled wine, usually served gently heated, heavily seasoned with spices such as cloves and anise along with orange. I have to confess; I just don’t like mulled wine. Even so, I love the season, especially in Strasbourg, and my nostalgic tears are genuine.

 

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By Sue Shelden   |   Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 8:07 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Why entertain for the holidays with humdrum drinks when you can make everything sparkle. Here are some recipes and ideas for entertaining in style!

Hanukkah

This is my own recipe, simply because I like this more than the other recipes I found!

Hanukkah Champagne Cocktail
Blue Curacao
Champagne
Star fruit, sliced in 1/4″ slices to make a star shape
Silver decorating sugar

Fill a Champagne flute with 1 ounce of Blue curacao and top with Champagne or sparkling wine.
Garnish with star fruit slice and sprinkle with sugar.

Christmas

This is a beautiful red drink, designed by Michelle Magidow, manager and bartender of Seattle’s Lark restaurant:

Michelle’s Martini
3 oz Moscato d’Asti
1 oz Campari
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1 orange twist

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the orange twist and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the orange twist.

Champagne Mojitos
New Orleans chef John Besh created this recipe–incorporating the Champagne to make it more festive.

3/4 c sugar
3/4 c water
1 1/2 cups packed mint leaves, plus 12 sprigs, for garnish
6 limes, cut into wedges
2 cups light rum
Cracked ice
3 cups Champagne or sparkling wine

1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over high heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
2. In a large pitcher, combine the sugar syrup with the mint leaves and lime wedges and muddle well with a wooden spoon. Add the rum and stir well. Strain the drink into another pitcher.
3. Fill tall glasses with cracked ice and pour in the drink, filling them about 2/3 full. Top with Champagne, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve.

New Year’s Eve

French 75
This classic recipe is New Orlean’s style, using cognac rather than gin, from famous NOLA mixologist Neal Bodenheimer:

1 1/2 oz VSOP cognac
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Sparkling wine

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the cognac, simple syrup and lemon juice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass, top with sparkling wine and serve.

Champagne Cocktail
From Nashville Tennessee’s Merchants restaurant:

1 sugar cube
Angostura bitters
Sparkling wine
Lemon twist for garnish

Put sugar cube in a Champagne glass. Lightly sprinkle the sugar cube with Angostura bitters and pour in enough sparkling wine to fill the glass. Garnish with a lemon twist before serving.

Now, as pretty as these all may be, I think it is fun to add a bit of color and sparkle–cranberries, pomegranate pips, maraschino cherries, slices of star fruit or frozen grapes, are a great addition to the drinks, as are ice cubes frozen in shapes, made from fruit juices. Use colored sugars to rim the glasses, or sprinkle sugars on the top of the drink.

Happy Holidays!

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