Fall weather has kicked in and the holidays are fast approaching. That in mind, I thought I’d have another go at recommending some wines for your holiday tables-wherever those tables may be and whatever may be on them.
To make it easier, I’ve broken my wine selections into categories: sparkling, white, and red. I went a bit heavy on the reds this time around, which is only appropriate considering the dropping temperatures and increasing weight of the cuisine this time of year. But, let’s start with some super sparklers sure to bring a smile to your face and a brightness to your holiday offerings.
I simply love the sparklers, dubbed Cape Classique, emanating from South Africa these days. Graham Beck is perhaps my favorite producer. This wine, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with its light yeasty aromas, lovely stone fruit aromas, and creamy complexity, is perfect as an aperitif, but could also stand up to the many flavors and weights on a standard Thanksgiving table. And at less than $20, it offers great value as well.
This is a new producer for me, and a relatively new category of Prosecco-rose. What’s not to love about this wine, a mix of Glera and Pinot Noir? Sporting a beautiful pink hue, the wine gushes with aromas of apple, pear, and red berries. Again, perfect as an aperitif, the Valdo Marco Oro Prosecco DOC Rose would pair well with pasta, fish, or some of those delightful Italian hard cheeses.
As I’ve written many times before, I adore the wines of Washington State, so I come to you today with three Washington State white wines I would personally be proud to pop the cork for any occasion. First, this lovely Columbia Valley Chardonnay, which is full-bodied enough to please those who prefer a yeastier style of Chardonnay, but still lithe enough to satisfy those who gravitate to leaner, Old World-style Chardonnay. With plenty of fruit, bright acidity, and great balance, this wine will be the hit of the evening, or the day if you get started earlier!
I’ve always found Semillon, the second grape of Bordeaux Blanc, to be much under-appreciated. Often playing the understudy to Sauvignon Blanc, this Semillon shines on its own with melon and floral notes buttressed by lovely acidity. Throw in a creaminess on the palate and you’ve got another holiday wine winner!
Prospice Gamache Vineyard Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington $28 SRP
A third white from the versatile Columbia Valley showcases the tricky Northern Rhone white grape, Viognier. Beautiful and expensive from its native region, Viognier treads the fine line between honeysuckle sweetness and balance and acidity. Many New World versions strike me as flat and blowsy on the palate, but not this one from Prospice. Clean, bright, and fresh, Propice’s single vineyard Viognier has all the hallmarks of the grape: a light golden color, floral and fruity aromas, creaminess, and ultimately, cleansing acidity. Bravo!
If you love a bolder-style Sauvignon Blanc, you are going to love the Unshackled version. With motes of ripe melon, peach, and tropical fruit, this medium to full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc checks a ton of food pairing boxes while staying light on its feet. A splash of Chenin Blanc and Roussanne in the mix adds to the brightness of the texture and the complexity of the wine.
Long one of my favorite New World wineries, Landmark started as a Chardonnay producer before venturing into Pinot Noir. I’m certainly glad they did! The Overlook, which features grapes from three meticulously sourced vineyards in Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma Counties, is perhaps my favorite Landmark Pinot. Berries, cherries, and plums dominate the wine’s aromas and flavors along with notes of spice and a bit of toasty oak. A great food wine, the Landmark Overlook Pinot would be the perfect fit for your Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.
A great Gamay, most notably found in a Cru Beaujolais, is a true thing of beauty. Brimming with fruit, but always backed with terrific acidity, Gamay can be among the food-friendliest of grapes. That is certainly the case here as Syncline’s Gamay checks all the right boxes. An alluring blend of spices and briary fruit waft from the glass as cherry and blackberry flavors envelope the palate. The wine’s acidity holds it all together into one beautiful and delicious package!
You simply will not find a better value in Cabernet Sauvignon than this offering from Vina San Pedro. Made with the grapes San Pedro’s Maipo Valley vineyard, the wine is dark, smooth, and complex. Dark fruit and spice dominate the wine, but it’s the wine’s balance and soft tannins that won me over. This is a wine to please Cabernet lovers and those that prefer a lighter red wine at the same time, and you can’t often say that!
Staying in South America, let’s hop over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina where Malbec is king. MAAL’s Biutiful Malbec is a bit outside the norm for Argentine Malbecs as it is made with no oak. The resulting wine, made with sustainable practices, is a pure expression of Malbec with layer upon layer of gorgeous high tone fruit. Had I not known this was Malbec, I likely would not have guessed it. And, while this wine may not be for everyone, it is definitely worth a try. I love it!
In my opinion, the Uco Valley produces the finest Malbecs in the world. The valley’s elevation generates a style of Malbec with more fruit, less tannin, and lower alcohol. With the classic Uco Valley violet floral aromas and flavors of plum, cherries, and dried fruit, Padrillos’ Malbec is everything I want in a Malbec in a beautiful package and a glorious price.
Selected from Old Vine vineyards at the foothills of the Andres, the Tahuan Malbec is more of what you expect in a Mendoz Malbec: intensity, lush red fruit, notes of oak, and silky, well-integrated tannins. If I were opening all three Malbecs, I would open this one last!
Justin is one of the premier producers in Paso Robles, and this wine is another example why. An ambitious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Petite Verdot, Justin’s Right Angle is more like a circle, blending dark fruit, spice, and savory elements into a harmonious and delicious wine! I’m saving one of these for the beef tenderloin in a shallot-cream sauce my wife makes every Christmas, and I can’t wait!
I’m not usually much of a Zinfandel fan, but if one wine could change my mind about that, it would be this one. Packed with tons of jammy berry fruit, the wine also unleashes aromas of leather, oak, and spice while finishing with dark fruit and a host of spices. Unbelievably complex for the price, this Old Vine Zin is also flexible with a wide range of cuisine.
I just had to put in a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon on the list for all of my Napa Cab-loving friends. This one from Textbook is a great example of a solid Napa Cabernet that doesn’t require a hike in your credit limit to purchase. Dark fruit, currants, and supple tannins make the wine approachable now and delightful anytime!
Stark Condé Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa $27.99 SRP
Finally, from South Africa, comes this Stellenbosch beauty. Subtle and complex, the wine woos you with elegance and finesse rather than opulence and power. Discreet dark fruit aromas mingle with earth, woody notes. Nothing overpowers, and the sum of the wine’s parts is certainly greater than its individual elements. Quite simply, this is a delicious, well-made wine that will pair well with anything from duck, to lamb, to beef!
The Prisoner Red Blend, Napa Valley, CA $49 SRP
I honestly don’t know any red wine lover that isn’t a fan of The Prisoner. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah Syrah, Charbono, and Zinfandel, The Prisoner is a full-throttle party for your palate While I’d serve this with a lovely roast or steak, there’s enough fruit in this fruit bomb to save a glass for a lovely chocolatey dessert!