It came down to 3 wines, including an ’05 Justin Isosceles, an ’05 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Foxen, and the Groth, also 2005. I hemmed and hawed, so Carey decided. This was our first Christmas away from the folks in 29 years, so we had to do something special—and this happened to be one of the bottles I lugged home from Napa after our honeymoon. Tonight it sits proudly in a specially made Nantucket wine basket given to us moments earlier by Carey’s parents. Our initials are scratched into a bone medallion on the underside.
Our dinner, venison backstrap, was provided courtesy of my co-worker, John, the most talented and steady-handed pursuer of all things hoppy, furry, and bounding. John is a enviable male figure—he can supply his own food (and I do not mean gathering berries in a kerchief like a damn hippie) and in his truck can be found buck urine and wintergreen chawsky.
From my tasting notebook:
Soft mint and stewed plums, plantains and intense almond marzipan. The 2005 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon is blessedly medium-bodied and hauntingly complex with tannins so fine grained, there is no loss opening such an age-worthy wine this young.
The heft is on the palate, but the nuance is in the nose—dark berry, a touch of smoke, violets, and a musty earthiness of potting soil. Look for dark chocolate and waxy nuttiness on the finish so savory it will make you want to scream. Got it?
The backstrap was cleaved into workable 2-inch strips fit for a smoking cast iron skillet and some sea salt—20 seconds on each side was all it took to ensure a room temperature center and 1st-degree cooking marks. This venison was incredibly lean with a tofu-like tenderness. For a sauce, I found an easy recipe for a green peppercorn and Madeira demi-glace with shallots, which was successful thanks to a neighbor’s butter.
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!