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Chicken potpies and holiday parties were the latest excuses for me to establish good positioning on the countdown as December has been whizzing past. In the last month of the year everything blurs as I tractor-beam closer to the New Year; between parties and scrambling for gifts the time flies by in a hurry. Barely getting my grip on the month, and desperately staying focused on the completion of my blog, I try to document some of these events that helped me redraw my attention on the 500-bottle prize.

Immediately upon my return, I was anxious to taste some loot from my trek up north. I planned to uncork the flute du Robert Sinskey, a bottle of 2010 Pinot Gris from Los Carneros (#15) modeled after the elegantly dry Alsace wines. I wanted to serve it with a dinner that I had planned with my folks. Over some homemade chicken potpies, I shared my travelogue with them while we sipped the chilled straw colored vin. I wouldn’t say it was a perfect pairing but the flavors meshed agreeably and I was able to go over the finer points of my trip through Sonoma and my surprisingly pleasant experience in Napa Valley.

When I returned I was off to a Sparkler tasting held at friend’s home in Glendale. The party was more festive as we were days from Christmas and each of us was to bring some bubbles. Of course, I did not bring a sparkling wine because I had only one bottle of Gaston Chiquet Special Club and was not prepared to have just a sip of that pricey wine. Instead, I brought a bottle of Summers Cabernet Sauvignon to have with dinner (roast beef and potatoes au gratin). There were too many bubbling wines for us to make it through so in the end my Cabernet was hit. We tasted through one of my favorite Sancerre’s by Hyppolyte Reverdy with some hors d’oeuvres. There were appearances by: NV Chandon Rose, Pierre Péters NV Grand Cru Champagne, Toques et Clochers Crémmant de Limoux, Roederer Estate Brut NV and a 2007 Grand Reserva Cava from Juvé y Camps Brut Nature. All were different; some showed granny smith apples and a light toast while others flashed nutty overtones in addition to the classic brioche that we expected. The Pierre Péters Grand Cru champagne placed best in show, wiping out the competition without breaking a sweat. It’s elegance and structure provided the highpoint of the tasting. And after the seven wines during the course of the evening and some desserts, I was back to the Westside, hunkering down for a crazy Christmas Eve’s Eve Party.

I worked feverishly on Latkes and selecting a festive playlist before guests would arrive in droves. The apartment was dolled up with kitsch items, Christmas lights, poinsettia and menorahs. In the air the sweet smell of fried potatoes enveloped the room. I had a Hawkes Cabernet Sauvignon uncorked, breathing on the countertop for the guests that would arrive early. In lieu of wine there would also be an assortment of holiday themed ales and some homemade-spiced rum for those inclined to spike their eggnog. Once the party was underway and Stanley Turrentine played in the background, I spied an interesting assortment of bottles open on my table: 2006 Termes, 2005 Rosenthal Meritage from Malibu Newton Canyon, 2008 Unti Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley and a bottle of 337 Cabernet Sauvignon. Hot damn it was a party. I would only include four of those bottles opened since there were a few repeats on my countdown. People warmed up comfortably with the wine while noshing on potato pancakes, olives and about six different cheeses before we transitioned into the other drinks on the menu.

I successfully conquered the holiday rush and in retrospect I could have handled the mayhem a little better. Next year will be different; I will hopefully be more prepared to handle the holidays and in a better position to write about them. With only four wines left before we move into 2012 I can honestly say that I’m enjoying the ride.

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