The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar — “Zooey’s Laughter and Elk Steaks”

Good morning! And happy December to you all! I had to take a few deep breaths before committing to this, and I’ll be the first to admit we may falter along the way during this most hectic time of year, but Sonja and I have decided to author our own advent calendar in a series of blogs, the focus of which will be primarily things which we are thankful for. The series will continue to review the wines we’re sharing along the way, and will give us a chance to reflect on our lives, the year, and all that brings us joy in life. We hope that you enjoy it.

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This morning, I want to focus on two things I’m especially thankful for. One of them is Zooey’s laughter — something both Sonja and I find incredible and which fills our hearts with love and gratitude instantly whenever it occurs. As seen above, the whole family actually enjoys it, and Titus joins mom and dad in tickling and goading her into laughing from time to time. Zooey also laughs at peek-a-boo, the occasional book, and quite frequently at her brother. As she has grown, so has her laughter; it’s something between a cherub’s chortle and a chuckle, and I wish you all could hear it. Then again, you may well have your own children and know precisely what I’m talking about. If not, if you’re out shopping this time of year and see a “Santa” station, go grab a little kid and start tickling them. (Actually, no, don’t do that — that’s terrible advice. Sorry.)

The other thing I’m thankful for is my relatively newfound love of cooking, which seems to have blossomed more this year than ever in the past.  I always enjoyed attempting to cook, but I feel as if I’m actually beginning to learn to do some things, and more and more frequently I produce meals that Sonja seems to enjoy. The other night, I grilled elk steaks that I had massaged in applewood smoked sea salt, with marinated onions and mushrooms on top, brussels sprouts charred in bacon, russet potatoes cooked in garlic and butter, and rainbow carrots. Sonja contributed a beautiful mushroom risotto to the bottom, and — though the vegetables didn’t remain quite as crisp as we might have liked, in all it was a terrific meal and one I enjoyed cooking. We paired it with one of our favorite wines.

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High on Spring Mountain in Napa, Stu and Charlie Smith, along with Stu’s son Sam, make some of the best wines in the world. I don’t think it’s any hyperbole at all to say that the Smith-Madrone Riesling is the best domestic Riesling out there, and I wouldn’t be too hesitant to drop the word “domestic” from that statement if pressed. Old world alcohol levels and nearly five decades of experience make this mountain fruit into an elegant, soulful sort of a wine. Dry and defined by subtlety, the underripe stone fruits, petroleum, and minerals make it a truly enjoyable, easy-drinking wine. I paired it with our steaks, as a friend and sommelier has long suggested to me that a good riesling pairs beautifully with steak, and he was right. I’m thankful for the Smiths, their friendship, and their tremendous contributions to the world of wine. I hope wherever this December 1 finds you, you’re happy, healthy, and have much in life to appreciate. As ever, I truly appreciate you and your readership.

Cheers to a wonderful Advent season, to children’s laughter, good food, and a wonderful weekend!

Mark

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