While everyone else pigs out this holiday season (and god bless them), we thought it might be nice to give you a box that offers respite from a world inundated with cloyingly sweet candy and rich, syrupy dessert wines. Yes, those celebratory edibles are certainly a treat we indulge in this time of year, but we also think it’s a great time to really splurge on items of such utter elegance and refinement, you wouldn’t think of treating yourself to them any other time of year. From earthy Malvasia Nera and steely Chablis to the refined bouquet of flowers in Big Picture Farm’s hard aged goat tomme, there’s plenty of thought-provoking stuff to be had here. But because we can’t completely ignore the season, we also included a bangin’ sparkler and a locally made apple butter that gets surprising help from black pepper, cardamom, and maple syrup. We hope this box gives you some balance in an otherwise whirlwind month. See you in 2015!
Orsolani Cuvée Brut Spumante: What better way to kick off your holiday celebrations than with a bottle of bubbly? This one, full of fruit that mellows to a crisp minerally finish, makes a great aperitif that will go with any of the finger food you put out to keep guests at bay until the roast is done. Made in the classic champagne method, Gian Luigi Orsolani prefers to work with his native grapes in Piedmont—this bottle uses all Erbaluce. He then does a secondary fermentation in the bottle to provide fizz and ages the wine with its yeast for 18 months. This produces a unique wine with very delicate carbonation and great complexity, perfect with virtually any cheese.
Domaine de la Motte Chablis Premier Cru Vau-Ligneau 2012: Your box contains one of the last bottles of this Chablis we’ll be receiving—some of the last ever made. And when you taste it, you’ll understand just how lucky you are! This bottle hails from Vau-Ligneau, the westernmost Premier Cru vineyard in Chablis (a region in northern Burgundy known for producing pure, refined Chardonnays). This is all that a Premier Cru Chablis should be, with a classic flinty, mineral edge to the otherwise straight Chardonnay fruit profile. Hints of grass develop as you taste, and the wine concludes with a long, steely finish. An excellent choice for food pairings this season, and an impressive region to rep on your holiday table. Pair with your cheese and apple butter, or serve with Christmas poultry or New Years fish dishes.
Girasoli di Sant’ Andrea Malvasia Nera 2008: The Malvasia Nera is the darker-skinned member of the Malvasia grape family. Most commonly used in blends in Piedmont & Puglia, a handful of small winemakers in Umbria use this grape in single-varietal wines boasting earthy herbaceousness and dry, vivacious tannins. This deep ruby wine has complex flavors of licorice & balsamic, with the elegant closure of cherries and plums on the finish. An excellent food wine and a stunner to surprise your guests with this holiday season, we recommend pairing it with a roast, a flavorful cheese, and an equally complex jam or honey. Also great with the salty licorice in your box!
Anarchy in a Jar’s Salty Caramel Apple Butter: From New York foodie Laena McCarthy, who grew up in Woodstock making jam with her mom out of whatever they could find at the local farmers markets, this apple butter makes us weak in the knees. Cooked just enough so that it still tastes like market-ripe apples, Laena then adds a salty maple syrup caramel she makes with black pepper, cardamom, clove, vanilla, and cinnamon, and the resulting spread can go on literally anything in your kitchen. Toast, crackers, latkes, pancakes, waffles—spend your days off this Christmas figuring out what it goes best with. We recommend the bottle of bubbly in your box and a hunk of cheese.
Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Licorice: The first company to harvest salt from the Oregon coast since Lewis & Clark, Jacobsen is a company based in Tillamook, OR that we can’t get enough of. We fell in love with Jacobsen by way of their Salty Licorice, a pliant pillowy soft chew that tastes like an ocean breeze from the large-flake Netarts Bay varietal it contains. Ordinarily a rich ebony black, the chews in your box are from a limited run Jacobsen did of un-dyed licorice. The result is a burnt sienna candy flecked with tiny traces of anise. Not just for the elder stateswomen in your life this Christmas, we think this confection makes a great gateway for licorice haters, and a welcome oasis for those who’ve loved it all along.
Big Picture Farm Sonnet: In honor of this guy being dubbed one of the best cheeses in America by Food & Wine in 2014, we included it here in the last box of 2014. We’ve loved watching Lucas & Louisa from Big Picture Farm become a major force in the goat world. The couple met at Middlebury College, then worked at Blue Ledge Farm (known for their East Coast answer to Humboldt Fog, Lake’s Edge). When the two got engaged, they registered for only goats and bought a piece of land in Salisbury, VT. They started making goat milk caramels, which are divine, but always knew they’d work their way back to cheese. They’ve made Sonnet for years now, but it’s at a flavor peak right now. Sweet, grassy, floral and complex, it has an easily-shaved salty paste that showcases every plant and wildflower the goats eat. Great with any and all wines, but especially nice with the Malvasia Nera in your box.