Wines for Holiday Feasts 2010

Holiday Wine

It’s only a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving and then we experience the rush toward Chanukah and Christmas. This is a season of tradition...religious tradition, family tradition, national tradition. There are special worship services, annual family gatherings, national proclamations. And it’s a season of gift giving, a time when we think about those we love, as well as remembering our neighbors, friends, teachers, the mailman.
     At Wine & Words, we focus especially on the fact that this is a season of food and wine. If you’re a wine drinker, selecting the wine for the holiday feast is as important as the preparation of the food or the designing of the decor. Holidays are when we bring out “the good stuff” whether that means the fine china and silver or that great bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
     Lucky for you, this is also the season of our annual “Holiday Wine Sale.” In order to give you a good price on our entire range of wines, rather than on just a few that are being “Featured,” we are offering 10% off any 6 bottles and 15% off any 12 bottles.
     People ask me, “What’s your favorite wine for the holidays?” Ummm, that’s very much like asking me about my favorite child. I’m very proud of our wine selection here (as I am of my children, of course). I think we have something for everyone. So the real question is “What’s your favorite wine for the holidays?” You don’t need just one. During the past year, we’ve introduced a lot of new wines, as well as keeping stock of tried and true favorites. So you have a lot of wine to choose from at Wine & Words. But don’t be daunted by the task. Have fun. We’re always in the store to help you pick out just the right wine for your occasion, but just to give you a few tips, I offer...
The Wine Guy’s advice for holiday wine:

  •   Choose wines with classic style that are made to go with food and will appeal to a good range of tastes. Don’t worry about what kind of wine goes with what kind of food. The typical groaning board Thanksgiving feast has so many different flavors that you’d be hard-pressed to find a wine that “goes with” everything from roast turkey to oyster dressing to sweet potatoes with mini-marshmallows and Aunt Mary’s pecan pie. I give you some suggestions below, but it’s wide open. Come in and let’s talk.
  •  Don’t forget about dry rosé. When you can’t decide whether to serve red or white wine, a classy dry rosé can be just the ticket. We’ve got some that are made of single grape varieties that are just perfect to pair with a feast. And they look great in the glass! You don’t even have to chill these beauties. This time of year you can just leave them out on the porch, then bring them in and Voila!...perfect cool serving temperature.
  •  Start the meal with sparkles. If you’re preparing a big feast, you probably don’t need “appetizers.” People will be working up an appetite just by the smells. But nothing draws people together and whets their whistle like a glass of bubbly. Flutes, those tall, thin glasses made for bubbly, are nice because they hold a small amount and provide a nice vertical column for the bubbles to strut their stuff. Serve the sparkling wine well-chilled and offer a toast that sets the mood and brings everyone to the starting gate. Bon appetit! Salud! Cheers! God bless us every one!
  •  End the meal with sparkles. The traditional wines for the meal’s end - ports and sherries, for instance - can be used as desserts, but they’re a little heavy (and high in alcohol content) to follow a big meal that has included dessert. Here’s where a glass of bubbly can be the perfect closure as we sit back from the table with our belts loosened. It’s refreshing and palate cleansing and the bubbles help settle the load of the meal. This is a time I’d bring out the good Champagne to be sipped slowly with great satisfaction. Ah, life is good!

And here’s a review of a few of the wines we think you should consider for the holidays:
Cousiňo-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley, Chile)
This wine was originally “the good stuff” that the paterfamilias put aside for family feasts and celebrations. Now you can have it at yours. The 2007 vintage represents the 80th year in which Cousiño-Macul has produced an Antiguas Reservas, the winery's signature wine. Over the years, Cousiño-Macul has maintained its classic style with this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon by combining New World ripeness with Old World elegance, finesse, and a framework to age long and well. Since 1997, virtually every vintage has been rated 90 Pts by the wine press.
Sierra Cantabria Crianza (Rioja, Spain)
This has been one of our “holiday feasts” recommendations year after year. That’s because it’s one of our favorite red wines to go with a wide variety of foods. It has a medium body and smooth finish that make it a very welcome guest at the table.
Château de Saint Cosme Les Deux Albion 2008 Côtes du Rhône
Rhone wines are great for holiday feasts because they’re a blend of flavors. Different foods bring out different aspects of the wine. As is the tradition for Côtes du Rhône, this wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre and Clairette co-fermented all together with six weeks of fermentation to bring out all the depth and complexity of the various grapes. Bring on the feast!
King Estate Signature Pinot Noir (Lorane Valley, Oregon)
Pinot Noir has a much-deserved reputation for being a master food-pairer. Its lighter body and earthy spice character make it a fine companion to everything from roast fowl to green beans with mushrooms. This one is made of organic grapes from the King family property. It’s one you’ll be proud to serve.
White Burgundy
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think white Burgundy wines, made from the Chardonnay grape, are the classiest table wines for an elegant meal. With little or no oak and a clean, dry finish these wines can handle anything on the table and you’ll still come back for more. Our list includes Pascal Renaud Mâcon-Villages and Saint Veran, as well as the gorgeous Normand Mâcon La Roche Vineuse.
Del Bondio Chardonnay (Oakville, California)
If California Chardonnay is more your style, this one from Napa is the way to go. It’s very well balanced, with just the right amount of toasty oak and a clean finish that prepares your mouth for the next bite. Other good California Chards we carry are Wente “Morning Fog,” “Women of the Vine” Central Coast and Castle Rock Central Coast Barrel Fermented.
Adelsheim Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov wrote, "Oregon Pinot Gris is one of the least-talked-about, best-value wines on the market today." The Adelsheim family introduced this grape (and the Alsatian style of making wine from it) to the United States almost 30 years ago, during which time a lot of other producers have discovered how well this grape does in the dry, cool climate of Eastern Oregon. This wine has long been a customer favorite in our stores because it is dry and crisp, but with a luscious layer of fruit.
Meyer-Fonné Edelzwicker (Alsace, France)
The word “Edelzwicker” (called “Gentil” in the French-speaking community) translates to mean “noble blend” and it gives you the opportunity to try several of the region’s white grapes at once. The Meyer-Fonné “Edelzwicker” is 60% Pinot Blanc, 15% Muscat, 15% Chasselas, and 10% Riesling. That’s a lot of different flavors, blended expertly for a holiday table. If you want a white wine that everyone will like, try this one.
Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
The flavor and “grip” of Cab to go with the meat course...with the lightness and finesse to pair with the vegetables. Crios Rosé of Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) Argentine Malbec is made to go with beef. This dry rosé style lightens it up so it pairs with the whole meal. And it’s very pretty in the glass!
Charles & Charles Rosé of Syrah (Washington State)
Aging rocker Charles Smith teams up with young Charles Bieler of Provence, France to make this deeply colored dry rosé from the famous red grape of the Rhone. It’s a gem with ham.
Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese (Columbia Valley, Washington)
Sangiovese is the main grape of Italian Chianti. This lighter style goes just as well with food.
Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris Rosé (Corbieres, France)
Light enough to satisfy white wine drinkers but with enough body and grip to go with a wide range of food. This is a beautiful wine with a lot of French flair.
If your holiday table tends more toward the sweet than the savory, or if you just like your wine a little on the sweet side (I find this particularly true with feasters who aren’t really wine drinkers but enjoy a sip on special occasions), these two semi-sweet blushes from our friends at Vineyards on the Scuppernong in Columbia, NC will fit the bill:
Girls of Summer - this is the one I’m getting my White Zinfandel drinkers to switch to
Catawba Belle - the first NC wine to be made from the native Catawba grape
If you want a wine that will go with the cherry or pumpkin pie or even chocolate cake, try the Sant Evasio Brachetto D’Aqui (Italy). It’s a beautiful Christmas red in the glass, lightly sparkling, with just a kiss of sweetness. A beautiful wine with or as dessert.
You can serve the sparkles before or after the meal, as I indicated above, or you can serve them with the meal. The White Flower Riesling and the Santa Julia Brut (Pinot Noir) are especially food friendly.
Pacific Rim “White Flowers” Sparkling Riesling (Yakima River Valley, Washington)
This was a big hit when we Featured it a few weeks ago. It’s got all of Riesling’s ability to play with food, but it’s dry and floral and not as bubbly (burp-y) as Champagne. And the bottle will be lovely on your table.
Santa Julia Brut Rosé (Mendoza, Argentina)
I mentioned above that Pinot Noir is one of the most adaptable of feasting wines. Add sparkles, as here, and you have one fine feaster.
Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux (Languedoc, France)
The original made-in-the-bottle French sparkler. It has French elegance and finesse at a very reasonable price.
Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P (Champagne, France)
For special occasions you just can’t beat Champagne. This is a new selection for us, from a Champagne house that was established in 1812, and I’ll write about it in a separate piece. As their website says, “Crisp, fresh, and elegant, Brut L-P reflects the fundamental essence of our Champagnes.”
So there are some suggestions for the feasts of autumn. You can use them as a guide, an introduction to the territory. Come into the store and we’ll help you find wines for any occasion, at prices that won’t bust your wallet.