phanaerozoic

Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Advent Day 16 – December 16, 2021

Day 16 – California Pinot Grigio and Gouda with Red Pesto

The last tasting of Pinot Grigio was with Mediterranean Gouda on Day 5; Gouda with red pesto was previously tried with Chardonnay on Day 3 and with Raspberry wine on Day 8. So this is another match-up. Fruitier than the Chardonnay, much less sweet than the Raspberry, the P. Grigio was a fine match as well, sort of bridging between the other two, the fruitiness enhancing the sweet tomato and red pepper notes of the cheese, but not bringing them to the fore the way the sweeter wine had done, so this was an interesting group of pairings.

Tomorrow will be a week before Christmas Eve, our family’s traditional gift exchange day, so we will begin the cookie baking, a batch of labor-of-love-intensive Lebkuchen, and a batch of chocolate chip cookies, especially for brother-in-law Jay. The Lebkuchen dough needs to spend a day in the fridge maturing (a molasses-based heavy dough), so it will be assembled on Friday, then all the baking will be done on Saturday. Other specialties under prep by our daughter Lori and her husband Chris, lots of homemade cookies and candy, then our family tradition of pizza for Christmas Eve. Here is a photo of Lebkuchen from previous years just to whet everyone’s appetite. And a copy of the recipe just in case.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 16 December, 2021

Advent Day 15 – December 15, 2021

Day 15 – California Pinot Noir and Gouda

It appears we are now rearranging previous cheeses with previous wines. Interestingly enough, although the wine choice here, Pinot Noir, was nicely varietal in nose and taste back on Day 4, this one (Day 4’s was “Shimmering Lights Series Winter Wonderland” whereas this one is “Oh, Reindeer Series Winter Wonderland”) was back to a more generic Central Valley red with no varietal character at all. The Gouda, paired with “Merry Red” in Day 2’s tasting, was just as good, but I don’t feel this Pinot Noir was as friendly as that generic red. So, a dissatisfying pairing, although the Gouda was still very tasty.

After the awful tornado that ravaged parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky this week, we had a thoroughly frightening (but thankfully considerably less harmful) day across Kansas, with a haboob in Tribune, 80+ mph straight-line winds, gusts all day in the 50s and higher, wildfires scattered about, and dust and smoke-filled skies. Temperature in the 70s as well made this quite untraditional Winter Holiday weather. Now that the cold front is through, the wind calmer, the temperature more seasonal, perhaps things will settle for what remains of the year 2021.

Well, gloomy tasting notes, gloomy weather, the least I can do is include another watercolor Christmas Card effort to add a modicum of cheer:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 15, 2021

Advent Day 14 – December 14, 2021

Day 14 – California Red Moscto and Mature White Cheddar

A variation on Day 4’s pairing, here we have Red Moscato replacing the Pinot Noir. Moscato has that florid, alluring nose that can almost be like perfume – your nose in the glass might be said to be nuzzling the aroma. On the tongue, a sweet almost cloying flavor but without the lingering layer of sweetness that sometimes almost coats the tongue – here the aftertaste departs quietly without the need to be flushed and slushed away. But that does not mean the next small bite of cheese is not welcome, and the two alternate well. Not as subtle a pairing as the Pinot Noir, but one that comes close to succeeding and needs not to be belittled.

Another almost summery day, no snow and the only hint of Christmas in sight the decorations and lights that have been appearing with regularity all week on our block. Today or tomorrow the last day to mail cards and gifts if they are to arrive at their destinations before the Holiday. So here, in digital form, is another of my watercolor Christmas cards:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 14, 2021

Advent Day 13 – December 13, 2021

Day 13 – California Sauvignon Blanc and Red Leicester

My first encounter with Red Leicester – a hearty cheese, just enough moisture to hold it together, on the way to crumbling, perhaps but not yet on the verge, lovely deep apricot color. Reminiscent of cheddar, but richer, a bit smoother than a sharp cheddar but with real depths of flavor. And a green, grapefruit-tinged, extremely refreshing California Sauvignon Blanc to balance that richness with a cleansing lemony acidity. This was a fine pairing, the wine and cheese the yin and yang of one another, nearly perfect, and I nibbled and sipped and slurped my way slowly through them wishing all the while that I had more of both.

And here, on this day destined to be in the upper 70s, with gusty winds tonight and more spring or fall like than wintery, is another of my little watercolor holiday cards:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 13, 2021

Day 12 – December 12, 2021

Day 12 – California Merlot and Black Pepper Gouda

What a change from Day 11 to Day 12! A much more approachable and successful pairing. The black pepper gouda with just the right amount of ground pepper to lend a distinct aftertaste, the California Merlot with a rich varietal character and fruity straightforwardness that allowed it to tame and match the cheese in complexity and interest. This deep purple Merlot matched the “little blackbird” name with its inky depths. A combination that was very effective and a pleasure in which to partake.

As part of my ongoing learning the craft of watercolor painting, I tried painting a few Christmassy scenes onto Arches 140 lb watercolor paper and sending them to some folks. I didn’t keep track of who I sent which card and didn’t take photos of all of the scenes, but here is one of them, a wooded snow scene after an artist named Rick Surowicz:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 12, 2021

Advent Day 11 – December 11, 2021

Day 11 – “Reindeer Red” and Jalapeno Gouda

OK, there’s always room for a joke in a tasting event, right? This one is it. I mean, who would even try to pair a wine with jalapeno gouda? A hot pepper cheese begs for a cold Mexican cerveza with a lime wedge in the neck of the bottle. I mean, ok, a very generic “Reindeer Red” – a grape wine of indeterminate origin with unnamed sweet fruit flavors added (it tasted sort of like strawberry pop) did cut the heat of the peppers, but it was not a match made anywhere close to heaven…or even purgatory.

That inappropriate pairing brought to mind one of our Holiday trips back in the 1980s. We took a trip to Australia and New Zealand, leaving just before Thanksgiving and returning home the day before Christmas. Not a trip I would have the stamina for these days. It was marvelous: we hiked the Routebourne Trail in the New Zealand alps, spent time in Sydney and Melbourne Australia, and had a real fun trip. But seeing Christmas decorations and hearing those great accents made the whole thing seem surreal. All those folks getting ready to depart on their summer holiday trips over Christmas reinforced the idea that the world was upside down Down Under. Kind of like mixing jalapeno gouda and Reindeer Red wine.

~Roy Beckmeyer, 11 December, 2021

Advent Day 10 – December 10, 2021

Day 10 – California Riesling and Double Gloucester

The Johannisberg Riesling grape is a wonderful berry, yielding a fragrant, delightfully fruit-filled wine that can run from dry to semi-sweet to sweet, but always a special treat. This California Riesling proved to be true to the variety, slightly sweet, a pale light lemonade color, deliciously fruity, with a tinge of that apricot-nectar flavor I particularly treasure in Rieslings. I am most familiar with German and Washington State Reislings, but found this example from California very pleasant. That apricot fruit hint fit as well the lovely apricot color of the Double Gloucester cheese. A bit of sunshine on a mostly cloudy December day. This was my first taste of Double Gloucester but won’t be the last. A slightly firm exterior, giving way to a texture that was creamy on the verge of flaky, very satisfying both in mouthfeel, fragrance, and taste. A right proper pairing to explore further in other incarnations of milk and grape and locality or origin.

We set out for our walk today with visions of the high 60s temperature I had experienced as I returned from my doctor’s office trip, only to find the cold front had just arrived, with blustery north winds and temperature already in the 50s. A quick duck indoors for a hoody and sweater, and we were off again. Our path takes us south first, so that initial brawling brute had moved on by the time we turned back north and our trip home was much more pleasant. Bracing, as the Brits might say, as here we and Old Earth went on, pirouetting towards the year’s shortest day.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 11 December 2021

Advent Day 9, December 9, 2021

Day 9 – California Chardonnay and White Cheddar

How euphonius! Chardonnay and Cheddar! Easy on the palate as well. Pleasant Chardonnay and a cheese with a bit more body and mouth feel and lingering complexity than the edam and goudas. An overall hearty combination that invited a slower, lip-smacking consideration and appreciation. Kind of wished I’d also had a chunk of warm crusty bread right out of the oven to go with it.

The first week of December now firmly ensconced in everyone’s rearview mirrors, Christmas decorations are appearing at an increasing rate so that our block and the one to our north (we are on a corner lot) is now almost a dazzling display of demure daintiness, esteemed elegance, or unfettered exuberance, depending on the whims and predilections of the homeowners. Walking safely at or just after dusk is possible because all the lights illuminate the sidewalk in their colorful glow and even we old codgers can navigate without worrying overly much about tripping.

Advent seems to be almost scurrying by to all of us adults, especially those who have been around many decades, but remember, it is going by achingly slowly for all the little ones, so keep an eye on them, take a second look at the lights and mangers and Santas through their (or your remembering) eyes, and bask in the warm glow and familiarity of the Season.

Manger Scene in our yard, Christmas 2020

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 9, 2021

Advent, Day 8 – December 8, 2021

Day 8 – “Snowberry Blend” Raspberry Wine and Gouda with Red Pesto

A fun pairing once again. A fruit wine, this raspberry concoction did indeed have the scent of raspberries – a bit sweet and of course, berry fruity flavor. Interestingly it brought out a hint of sweetness in the sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers interspersed through the gouda that I had not noted when I tasted this cheese with Chardonnay on Day 3. So a neat little lesson that you can always experiment with what might at first seem to be strange pairings and find that they do work together.

Today’s pairing reminded me of my most successful attempt at a fruit wine. In the days back when I was making wine in my basement and experimenting a lot, a friend and I made a batch of cherry wine. He had two cherry trees in his yard, one a sweet cherry and the other a tart one, and that year was a banner one for cherries – a huge crop and the sweet ones were indeed high in sugar. So we did a blend of sweet and sour cherries. I think we bottled three or four cases. We each kept a case and used the rest for gifting. The wine was pretty much loved by everyone who tried it. I was sad when we drank the last. My friend moved away the following year, and I never made another bottle of cherry wine, but still can almost taste it all these years later.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 8 December 2021

Advent, Day 7 – December 7, 2021

Day 7 – California Rosé and Edam

Ah, and we have begun “recycling” – the Cheese Advent Calendar has only 12 varieties of cheese, so there is some repetition – we get a second chance at the cheeses as it were; the Wine Advent Calendar, however, does have 24 different kinds. On Day 1, the pairing was a Brut Rosé sparkling wine with Edam, on Day 7, today, a non-sparkling Rosé with Edam. The wine with the typical rosé insouciancea tiny bit (perhaps a first kiss sort) of sweetness, and forthright (not too shy to be proud of bestowing that kiss) fruitiness. I felt the lack of carbonation allowed the nuttiness of the Edam to make itself evident, allowed it to take center stage whereas on Day 1 the Edam was more of a secondary actor with only responsive, never assertive lines. Enough personification and metaphor. A week in and still having fun!

Today is grandson Daniel Howard’s 35th birthday (Happy Birthday, Daniel!!). He was born in 1986, which was a good year for French Bordeaux; I bought mixed cases of designated crus, including Pichon-Lalande, Gruaud-Larose, and Lynch-Bages. These I tasted at intervals, saving examples for Daniel’s 18th birthday, and even having some left to include in a wedding gift, for Daniel and his wife Kalyey, of older vintages from my cellar. Now, these wines were far removed from today’s light and simple little plastic-bottled quaff, but that is one of the lovely things about wine. It needn’t be all esoteric and exotic and expensive. There is some wine, somewhere, that will make your lunch or dinner a bit more special. The fun is in the search, and in the finding.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 7 December, 2021.