As we race toward Christmas and the new year of promise that follows, I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful and poignant experiences that have transpired over these last 12 months.
Post-Christmas, last year, began with a wonderful evening among friends at a cabin in Tagish, meeting and making new and special friends and celebrating the candlelit winter night with baked pears and Blandy’s Duke of Clarence, Madeira dessert wine ($26.65) that bears a sweet and yet not-cloying nutty taste that worked so perfectly with the fruitiness of the pears and the pinch of nutmeg mixed with maple syrup.
Later in the year, I explored alcohol-free wines along with a friend who helped me to venture into new realms and introduce me to the idea that wine could be free of alcohol and yet still contribute to conviviality and the power of laughter.
The experience helped me to expand my wine horizons, trying the Liquor Corporation $8.55 Loxton Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon Chardonnay ($8.55), but ultimately preferring the Superstore President’s Choice sparkling non-alcoholic offerings (then $3).
It was an even more festive occasion when it dropped the price to $1.50, right after I wrote the article. I’ll stick to regular wines, but would no longer hesitate to make suggestions to those looking for non-alcoholic alternatives. Thanks to the friend who opened my eyes to that.
Early summer, and two dinner guests re-tracing their grandfathers’ roots to the Klondike, afforded me the opportunity to serve these two American brothers a lakeside dinner of grilled salmon, paired with the very good and well-priced B.C. VQA wine, Artist Series Sovereign Opal ($14.95).
This fruity and very slightly sweet white goes brilliantly with moderately spicy Asian dishes as well as the salsa-encrusted salmon that I served that night. The evening yielded one of the wine articles that I am happiest with and left me with a wonderful lifelong memory. I hope it was so for my guests as well.
I was blessed to have a rich expanse of time to share with my children, this summer, who are now approaching young adulthood. We had a wonderful series of summer taste treats that all seemed to involve outdoor evenings by a fire, looking out at gorgeous views.
My son was part of an early-summer gathering at my cabin where he tasted leg of lamb prepared by a French friend, infused with fresh garlic, salt and pepper and roasted over wood fire.
Doused in brandy, just as it was pulled from the flame, and served hot and smoky-tasting with a wonderful Australian Two Hands “The Lucky Country” Shiraz ($20.50) – a steal for the quality and made for a spectacular taste combination.
August found me sitting on a sandy crescent beach in Haida Gwaii, accompanied by both of my wonderful children, on the last night of a spectacular two-week trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands.
We cooked fresh salmon over a cedar beach fire and enjoyed a great bottle of 2008 Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench White from the South Okanagan Valley ($17), a wine that is not offered in the Yukon. It was, perhaps, the best evening of my summer.
And finally, this past weekend, I had the chance to get to know Tammy and Mark Beese a little better, the publishers of the paper I have had the good fortune to write for, for these past 15-plus months.
Tammy and Mark welcomed me into their home where we sampled a bottle of Albariño, a lively, crisp, aromatic and slightly minerally white wine from the north coast of Spain where they recently travelled. A great seafood wine, unfortunately not offered in the Yukon.
We followed it up with a new addition to the shelves of the liquor store, the excellent Saulo DO Emporda ($17.30). The Liquor Corporation blurb describes it this way, “Sweet berry, earth and spiced aromas with delicate notes of rose petals in the rain. Smooth on the palate with juicy red berries, minerals, tobacco and roasted coffee.”
I love it because it is one of the few wines I have tasted in this price range (up here) that has an excellent and pronounced bouquet, a complex mouth taste and a slight but smooth pepper flavour after you swallow. It’s my newest wine find and I’m sharing it with everybody I can, this season. If you like interesting red wines, try a bottle.
Wines can add to the experience of a wonderful occasion. It’s not the alcohol (as I learned), but how the experience, and perhaps the taste and smell, bond with the memory of the happy occasion and lock it indelibly in our minds.
And, at the same time, opening a bottle of wine with friends and loved ones can be a symbol of hospitality, sharing and welcoming. It can be one of the open hands that we stretch out to gather in the ones we love and care about.
At this season, I thank you, dear readers, for letting me share my experiences. And I hope that, in some small way, I have contributed to yours. I remind you that many are not as fortunate as we, and I encourage you to extend a hand in generosity to them this season and, indeed, throughout the year.
And finally, I wish you warm fires, safe travels, the view of loved ones and friends by the generous light of candles – and health and happiness in the coming year.
Cheers, and Merry Christmas!