It has been quite a long time since I've written anything here and I am loaded down with a tremendous amount of guilt and hesitation. I realize that by blogging, I am cultivating a friendship with those who are my followers. And like every other important personal relationship, one has to devote a good amount of time and attention to it lest it whither away and die. Now, my lack of blogging in the last couple of months is not due to a lack of interest or love. I haven't stopped caring. I was just basically overwhelmed with working on Suzanne and my LA Loves Alex's Lemonade fundraiser, and with preparing for the restaurants and myself for the holidays. I just did not have any time left in my day to focus on this particular relationship. Of course, after such a long time away, I find myself consumed with the inevitable self-questioning that further exacerbates getting back on track: "Has it been too long? Will they even want to hear from me? Do they even care?" Either way, I've decided to "pick up the phone" and re-initiate contact. Hopefully the friendship is not over.
To aid in this, I actually found that Thanksgiving gave me a reason to blog again. You see, I'm one of the lucky few in the restaurant business who get to take the last Thursday of November off to eat turkey with the relatives. And the perk for having twenty people over for dinner is the occasional hostess gift in the form of a bottle of wine that can come my way, something that I obviously greatly appreciate. A friend of the family brought me a bottle of 2008 Lioco, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This is clearly someone who knows my palate and penchant for delicate Pinot. I've been a longtime supporter of Lioco and because of this, I waited to open the bottle thinking that as I've had the wine before, there was no need to rush. In the end I didn't wait all that long, since I opened it up the very next day to drink along side my plate of turkey and stuffing leftovers. It was the perfect choice.
Lioco was started by Kevin O'Connor, the former sommelier at Spago and his friend Matt Licklider, a former LA import wine salesperson as a pursuit to create well-made wines that speak of their location. So often, people perceive California as a place of fruity, juicy wines that lack a specific regional expression. These guys have proved that idea as false with their series of elegant single vineyard, single AVA whites and reds. As lovers of old world winemaking, they take inspiration from traditional European methods, seeking out vineyard sites that make the vines work harder to survive, thereby producing higher quality fruit. They focus on using little or no oak in the aging process, fermenting naturally and over-delivering in terms of the wine and its price point.
This wine exemplifies everything I love in Pinot Noir with its tart red fruit notes, bright acidity, earthiness and the fact that this wine literally speaks of the holidays. On the nose, cranberry and cinnamon notes mix with touches of cassis, raspberry and candied yam. The palate manages to be lean and slightly fleshy all at once with red plum fruitiness, ginger and cardamom spice, orange peel and long finish laden with bacon fat. It's a wine that clearly represents its Sonoma Coast location with its cold climate and coastal proximity, resulting in Pinot Noir that tastes like Pinot, rather than some suped-up, Syrah imitator. It would have been the perfect pairing for my Thanksgiving turkey, especially since I follow my family's tradition of covering the top of the bird with bacon and basting it with butter. What better to cut the fat and marry with the bacon than this earthy, spicy wine.
I'm always in a quandary as to whether to immediately open a bottle of wine that a guest brings to dinner and drink it on the spot, or if I should save it for a later date. I never want to insult my guests by not drinking the wine with them, or by acting as though their selection isn't special enough to save for an important occasion. Fortunately, I was so distracted by the crazy family gathering taking place in my living room that I didn't even have time to think about what to do. This would definitely have been a great wine to drink with dinner that night, but I'm really happy that I saved it for the day after. That way, I didn't have to share a drop with all of those people.