In the kitchen, I can hear the harsh, scraping sound of Sonja pushing a mop across the hardwood in our kitchen, as my son Titus happily munches at a cranberry oatmeal muffin his grandmother made (I had one too — they’re delicious). I had begun to help tidy up the place when Sonja dumped a glass of watered down mixed drink on my bare feet while she was loading the dishwasher. It was then that I decided that coffee and writing this blog post could no longer wait.
Last night we held our annual Christmas party at the Gudgel household. It’s an event that has evolved over the years and has, for us, become an important tradition. Sonja began holding the party years before we even met, and I like to think I’ve added a little something to it by incorporating my own wonderful friends into the mix, and insisting upon better wine than Sonja used to serve. Yesterday was cold in Omaha, in most of the Midwest, from what I hear. We had temperatures in the single digits, slick roads, and blustery snow. Half of our guests had cancelled by midday. Those who made it we rewarded with a warm house filled with food, wine, and merriment.
First to arrive were Sonja’s mother and her husband, followed by one of our neighbors who, in spite of living right next door, we almost never see. Then some friends who just moved back from Colorado came with their delightful and well-behaved two-year-old son, who got to interact briefly with our own before Titus was toted off to bed. Over the course of the evening, old friends and new ones arrived, most often in pairs. People I saw just yesterday and people I hadn’t seen in years filled my house until every room on the main floor and the basement was full of people I love. Sonja and I agree; we couldn’t possibly receive a better gift than that.
In the past, I have ordered far too much wine, only to slink back into the store the next week and return half of it en masse. This time around, taking the looming weather into consideration as well as the fact that we were well stocked with beer and liquor, I went far lighter on my wine order, picking up a lone red wine, the 2012 Granacha from Lo Brujo. From Calatayud, a region of Aragon that two of our guests had actually visited a few years back, this is a plush, pulpy wine with a mouthfeel of soggy velvet. Regretably short on tannins, it’s somewhat flimsy, very fruit-focused, but did open up a bit after a while for those with the patience to let it happen in such an environment. I got a lot of blueberry flavor and some forest floor, but didn’t enjoy it all that much and switched to cocktails before much time had elapsed. This morning, I mentioned to Sonja that the wine wasn’t destined to be a favorite, and found myself being kindly reprimanded: “You have to remember that you’re often drinking hundred dollar bottles of wine; most people don’t do that. I thought the wine was very good.”
She has a point. All of the wine being submitted to me for review has spoiled me a great deal; I drink far better wine than I used to. But this reminds me of something important, one of the few truly significant thoughts I’ve ever had, albeit probably not an original one. If you read this blog with any degree of frequency, you’ve no doubt heard me say this before: Wine is but the compliment to the experience. It enhances a fine meal, adds to conversation, and pairs perfectly with a good book, yet it is almost never the focus of what is going on. I could have been pouring Opus One or Chateau Lafite Rothschild for people last night, and it wouldn’t have enhanced the experience much if at all. The party, the reunions taking place in our home, the stories being told and memories shared, all were complimented by wine — not by any specific wine, but merely by the ability to clink glasses in honor of one another, and to share a drink with friends and look optimistically towards warmer weather and what all of us hope will be a bright future.
The 2012 Lo Brujo Garnacha was ultimately a pretty forgettable wine, and perhaps that made it perfect for an occasion such as last night’s gathering. I can’t honestly recommend this wine, though the QPR is hard to argue with. What I can recommend is that we all take more time to spend with friends and family, this time of year and always, and that when possible we pair those wonderful times with wine. I’m grateful to everyone who spent time at our house last night. It truly was the greatest gift we could receive.