Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Advent Day 20 – December 20, 2021

Day 20 – California Moscato and Double Gloucester

Continuing our swing back through cheeses, here we find Day 10’s Double Gloucester paired with a white Moscato in place of the earlier Riesling. This Moscato again sweet and fragrant, white rather than the Red of Day 14, but finding in this cheese what the Red Moscato discovered in Mature Cheddar. In any event, the great texture and feel and the substantial depths of the cheese contrasted and complimented the swish of Moscato sweetness cascading over the tongue, each sip like the waves washing up on the cheese’s shores. How’s that for a salty metaphoric serenade to Advent?

Short day length, long nights don’t seem to make Christmas come any sooner when you are a child awash in the Season’s magic. The neighborhood has turned all atwinkle in the night, a lesser but perhaps more comforting display than the local botanical garden’s Holiday light show. Illuminations is truly spectacular and worth anyone’s time for an unhurried visit. Just watching the children’s reactions is heart-warming and a reason to take in the abundant visual and aural gifts of the Christmas Season. Here’s a family photo shot that was taken 5 years ago by our daughter, Lori, of Pat and me and Lori’s family at Botanica for the Christmas light show – four generations, from us to great-grandson Daxx (Koe was still just a twinkle in his parent’s eyes). Enjoy this time of family and faith and reflection and hope. May blessings and God’s grace befall us all.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 20, 2021

Advent Day 19 – December 19, 2021

Day 19 – Winter Wonderland California Chardonnay and White Cheddar

Interesting fact for those inclined toward numerology or those tracking their Advent tastings of wine and cheese. On Day 19 we repeat the pairing of Day 9: Chardonnay and white cheddar. Fortuitous? Yes! If one had to be repeated, this was a wise choice! Significance of the 10-day spacing? The base of our numbering system? So glad we don’t use the hexadecimal system, as we would never have gotten back to this combination (any programmers out there who can recall making their way through dumps of hexadecimal numbers trying to debug a piece of code?). Enough of this hocus pocus hiddeley-piddeley wandering. It was great to repeat this pairing.

Especially after we went through the long and lovingly but almost endlessly detailed assembly of our batch of 2021 Lebkuchen. We have been making these cookies every year for over 30 years now. The dough is made by bringing molasses or dark syrup almost to a boil, dissolving brown sugar in it, then mixing in a whipped egg and lemon zest and then combining it into flour and cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, then letting that dough age in the fridge overnight or a couple of days. The dough gets cold and stiff and needs to be that way to keep from flattening out as the cookies bake. So we pry a quarter of the dough from the bowl at a time, put the rest back, roll out a circle a quarter-inch thick, then cut rounds. Back they go into the fridge until we are ready to place them on a cool cookie sheet, adorn them with candied cherry halves and five blanched almonds each, turning them into little Christmas flowers, then bake them to a turn Then they cool on the sheet and rest 5-10 minutes until they can be lifted safely from the sheet. They cool some more, then we mix the glaze: Powdered sugar and white rum. Carefully glaze the top. Let it dry. Turn them over. Glaze the bottom. Let them dry. place them carefully into a tightly sealed container and then they go out to the breezeway where they can stay cool and protected from us until closer to Christmas Eve. An entire evening for two-dozen cookies. But Oh, So Worth It!

Pat turning dough rounds into flowers, Lebkuchen preparation 2021.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 19, 2021.

Advent Day 18 – December 18, 2021

Day 18 – California White Zinfandel and Jalapena Gouda

Oh No! Not Jalapena Gouda again! Gone the “Reindeer Red” of Day 11, and in the wings to try to last at least one round with this hot cheese is White Zinfandel, that rosé that was very popular as a cooling quaff oh so many years ago. And, it turns out, a tougher competitor as well. The strawberry/cherry flavor hints and the natural spiciness of the zinfandel together did a better job of holding up against the hot pepper flames of the cheese. Still not a match made in heaven, but at least one that made having this cheese with wine tolerable. I would rather have it with one of the tamer goudas if you please.

And, again, to reward myself I repeat the Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon and Lasagna of yesterday again this evening, with a side of braised spinach with orange zest. Voila!

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 18, 2021

Advent Day 17, December 17, 2021

Day 17 – Red Blend California Red Wine and Gouda with Mustard-seed

Last nicely paired on Day 6 with a Cab, Gouda with Mustard-seed is paired today with a tasty generic red wine, “Red Blend.” The red was fairly hearty and the pairing seemed of a kind with the earlier one. The red stood up to the mustard seed’s assertions and replied in kind: Result, a draw.

A pause for some dental work this morning. Then another wine pairing for dinner to make myself feel better. I made a large baking dish full of lasagna, the filling a mix of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan, hearty meat and tomato sauce spiced with basil, and a lovely Burgess Cellars 2015 “Hillside Vineyards” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a magnificent match, and the most wonderful thing is that I get to do it again tomorrow. Although Tom Burgess is no longer active at his winery, I recall good times spent with him on a week-long visit to Burgess Cellars 30 years ago. I have consumed many great bottles from there and hope to get in more than a few in the future. Salute!

Here I am at the Napa Valley VIntners’ Association “Crush ’91” about to be given a tour of his vineyards by air by Tom Burgess. Pat and I stayed with the Burgess family for a week and became quite partial to Burgess Cabernets.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 17, 2021

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