The new addition sparkled in the late afternoon sun, its pristine white walls giving an airy brilliance to the room. A rough-hewn wood table was weighed down with bottles of wine, a fall-themed centrepeice and three different kinds of cake (lemon, choco-hazelnut and coconut-carrot cake, to be precise. And yes, I tried a slice of each. Holly’s mom said I could.)
I was invited to two birthday parties this weekend, and neither of them involved a trip to Cosmic or toddlers on a sugar high. No, these were grown-up birthdays. My favourite kind.
The first was my brother’s. He’s sworn off drinking so I made sure his share didn't go to waste. Mum had “The Rascal” Marques de Riscal 2011 Rueda chilling in the fridge for afternoon sipping. I initially thought the meal—marbled slabs of striploin bathed in a spicy Thai-style peanut butter sauce—would be tough to pair. But the Black Chook Shiraz I brought did just fine: gobs of jammy sweetness to offset the heat, and subtle tannins to maintain structure. There were lots of happy noises and wistful sighs going around the table when the last of that bottle was poured.
In my family's house, "Happy Birthday" is ... well, let's just say it's one-of-a-kind. And it tends to scare small children. Off-tempo, done in a half-dozen different styles, with a screeching Axel Rose-esque finale from Hubby, it certainly adds that je ne sais quoi to a celebration.
The second party was for Holly (of Wine Out Loud fame). She looked gorgeous in a red silk Chinese dress, basking in the glow of her home's new kitchen, the company of friends and family, and a few glasses of wine. Her "house" choice was a definite crowd-pleaser: Malivoire 2009 Guilty Men White (riesling/sauv blanc/chard) which had a satisfying balance of juicy-dry / tart-sweet / oaky-floral. Holly's ever-charming Dave circulated throughout the room with the red equivalent of the Guilty Men, but as I had to drive home, I politely declined.
We all convened out on the postcard-sized deck in the blazing Indian summer light to sing "Happy Birthday" (in normal, neighbourhood-friendly unison.) Holly stood in the middle, looking all the world like the queen in her castle, and nothing at all like her age. Of course, aging gracefully and with stunning beauty is in her genes - did I mention I met her mum? Runs in the family.