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Alvear Pedro Ximénez Solera 1927 

Parker's Table
8137 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-863-4090.

This holiday season's appetizer menu included fistfuls of cheese popcorn, which melted into the tongue, struck the palate with a burst of cheese, and finished long and hard with popcorn and salt. "One of the best vintages of the century!" Equally excellent were the sausage-stuffed mushroom tops; half as good was the pesto bruschetta. Extra-large pepper-cheese chunks built sturdy cracker sandwiches. We dunked finger-carrots into ranch dressing, crunched mixed nuts like Rover over a bowl of dry dog food, suckled celery-root soup, destroyed fluffy bread with mortar-like butter. We dipped tortillas into guacamole, and the angels rejoiced.

Like Homer in doughnut Valhalla, this feasting season when we were breathing we were eating, shoveling slop into the oven like lard into a fryer. We nearly broke a tooth on a chocolate-covered fig, had a near-miss esopha-event with a chunk of unchewed cereal, burned a pinky on a hash-brown skillet.

Don't forget the bacon! And the biscuits and gravy! And the mushroom-onion scramble, the everything bagels and the almond-honey cream cheese. Melt-in-the-mouth beef ribs, not to be outdone by chunky little gourmet sliders on brioche with ketchup and pickles. Shrimp and scallops from Bob's Seafood; McGurk's fish and chips (good with lots of malt vinegar); Vito's pepperoni and mushroom pizza, which kicked major ass. We got fat. It was nuts.

To drink? Let's see. A Diet Coke, some hot cider-spice rum, a Ca' De' Medici lambrusco that upended our admittedly uneducated and ill-informed opinions on the Italian sparkling red — often called the Coca-Cola of Italy. Yes, a few pints of oatmeal stout, some Blue Moon; a rich, creamy Bell's porter, a jumbo pint of Birra Moretti and a sip of Bud Light. The wines? An abundance of petite syrah (Rosenblum Cellar outta Sonoma County; Crane Lake's $5 bargain), a half-bottle of Freeman Sonoma County pinot noir. It makes us warm and glowy just thinking about it.

But our pants feel funny, like an evil tailor bound them in all the wrong places. We can't get comfortable. The couch doesn't fit the same way, and we feel our body sagging.

So now, on a candle-lit night with the holiday in the rearview mirror, we've got a glass of Alvear Pedro Ximénez Solera 1927. We're digesting one long three-week meal with a Sherry-like Spanish fortified wine.

Nestled on the couch with a blanket and a book (Chris Adrian's fantastical meditation The Children's Hospital, about a Noah's-Ark-like floating children's hospital that survives The Flood), we're silently saluting Parker's Table, the ace wine, spirits and food shop on the outskirts of downtown Clayton. Jonathan Parker and his sommeli-elves have been constructing and delivering gift baskets for the past month, and their best have included this wine. Tastemaker Robert Parker (no relation) awarded it 96 points, calling it "a profound effort priced unbelievably low. It is meant to be drunk alone at the end of a meal." It's $20.

The Alvear crawls over the tongue like honey over hot toast. It's not as viscous as many other sherries (because Alvear's winery resides outside southern Spain's official sherry region in Andalucía, it's not officially "sherry"), but if you get some on your fingers, your cell phone's gonna get sticky. Sip it, and a flavor grenade hits the tongue with smokey molasses honey and a little chocolate fig in the rear. Wine genius Jancis Robinson describes it perfectly: "Very, very dark, like ancient raisins steeped for years."

Which, come to think of it, is exactly how we feel right now. Like ancient raisins, steeped for years. We're just gonna sit here for a while, sip the Solera '27 and let the body melt into the sofa. Eventually we'll fall asleep. We'll wake up in the morning with crusty eyes, and begin the journey that is 2007.

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