Wine for the Holidays

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Story by Dave Eckert

I simply adore the holidays. From Thanksgiving straight through New Year’s, the festivities never seem to end. Of course, as a food and beverage journalist, the culinary aspects of those festivities is of particular interest to me. I love the huge variety of delicious goodies that tempt, tease, and please our palates, and equally enjoy the task of matching the best wine or wines with those wonderful offerings. As we head into the heart of the holiday season, I’ve compiled a list of wines to suit any occasion, pocketbook, and culinary delight. Here’s hoping you have a safe, happy, and sumptuous holiday season! Happy hunting!


SPARKLING WINE

Nothing, in my opinion, suits the holidays more than sparkling wine. With their brilliant acidity, wonderful array of flavors and aromas, and tantalizing bubbles, they are simply the perfect wine for nearly any occasion and cuisine. Best of all, never has there been a broader selection of quality bubbly bottles from across the globe. Here are a few of my favorites.

Principessa, Colli Placentini (SRP $25): This Italian sparkler hailing from the Emilia Romagna region, is a Metodo Classico wine made from 100-percent chardonnay. Fuller-bodied than most Italian sparklers, the Principessa is nonetheless beautifully balanced with fresh and vibrant flavors and aromas, and a crisp, long finish. Start your meal with a glass and make sure you have some left for the main course as I believe this wine will shine!

Marco Oro Prosecco DOC Rose Brut (SRP $15): Another Italian sparkler, this Prosecco rose hits all the right notes for me with its fruit and floral-driven palate and its long, elegant finish. Another winning note is the price. At just $15 a bottle, there’s reason to buy multiple bottles of the Marco Oro for multiple occasions.  

Bread & Butter Prosecco (SRP $16): I’m not a fan of all the Bread and Butter wines, but this Prosecco, made in a small town near Venice at a 90-year-old family winery, is lovely. You will find citrus and floral aromas in the wine along with notes of ripe tree fruits like apple, pear, and peach. Get a couple bottles of this beauty as it is sure to be a real crowd pleaser.

Scharffenberger Brut Rose (SRP $29): Long one of my favorite domestic sparkling wine houses, Scharffenberger produces a fuller-bodied sparkler, which is also extremely well-balanced. This wine reflects the best of its Mendocino terroir with a firm structure and a forgiving finish. Bold, as are all Scharffenberger bubblies, this rose is also light on its toes, dancing across your palate like a prima ballerina. 

Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs (SRP $39): Biltmore Estate produces a wide range of wines, but this might be my favorite of the bunch. Biltmore’s Blanc de Blancs is made with 100-percent chardonnay grapes. There is a yeasty quality to the wine, which I quite enjoy. There’s also a creamy mouthfeel with flavors or ripe tree fruits, and a long, cleansing finish. Bright and balanced, this is a wine to savor with cheese or perhaps a holiday ham.


WHITE WINES

Acrobat Pinot Gris (SRP $15): Another long-time favorite, Acrobat uses its stellar Oregon terroir to craft its Pinot Gris in a perfect, accessible, fruit-forward, food-friendly style. Notes of lemon zest, pear, and apple flavors and aromas dominate the wine, which is beautifully-balanced with excellent, palate-cleansing acidity. I’d recommend buying this one by the case for its flexibility and its price!

Pip, the Greeter Gruner Veltliner (SRP $27): You don’t often find this lovely, crisp, refreshing, Austrian grape outside its native borders, but this Central Coast version deserves a closer look and more than a few sips. Earthy and crisp, the Greeter is the perfect aperitif wine with notes of lemon, lemon zest, and white pepper with a lovely, clean finish.

Maddalena Riesling (SRP $15): I’ll state up front that Riesling is not generally a favorite of mine. I think too many flabby, cloying versions passed over my lips in my earlier wine-drinking days for me to fully appreciate the flexibility and deliciousness a well-made Riesling possesses. This is one such Riesling. Made from 100% sustainable vineyards in Monterey County, Maddalena utilizes arrested fermentation, allowing it to maintain its natural sweetness. I’d call the wine off-dry, not sweet, whose flavors of pear and green apple are buttressed by lip-smacking acidity.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $16): I’ve been a fan of Villa Maria’s wines for 20-years or more. Whether white or red, Villa Maria wines offer true varietal character, solid flavors and aromas, and great value, All those elements are at work here in a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc exhibiting lemongrass, gooseberry, and grapefruit flavors and aromas along with a face-full of tropical fruit and ripe citrus. Be prepared for a flavor explosion in your mouth!

Teliani Valley Tsolikouri (SRP $15): From Georgia (the country, not the state) comes this lovely white made from a grape variety native to the western part of the country. Known for its refreshing acidity, I really enjoyed the wine’s vibrancy. This is a light-bodied quaffer with aromas and flavors of citrus, primarily lemon and grapefruit!

KRIS Wines Pinot Grigio (SRP $11.99): A terrific wine, the KRIS Pinot Grigio is exactly what I want in an Italian Pinot Grigio-tons of flavor wrapped in beautiful acidity at a more than affordable price. This is a family-run winery, currently in its seventh generation, that sources fruit from a small handful of growers in the northern regions of Alto Adige, Friuli, and The Veneto who have been connected to the family for generations.


RED WINES

Highlands 41 Pinot Noir (SRP $15): Named after the historic Highway 41, this wine is the embodiment of energy and freedom. Experience scents of red fruit and spice on the nose followed by a smooth palate of black cherry. This wine is perfect for your next adventure.

Sea Sun Pinot Noir (SRP $20): Sea Sun Pinot Noir is produced by Charlie Wagner from wine grapes sourced from California’s cool-climate coastal vineyards. The Wagners come from a long line of Napa Valley wine grape growers and winemakers dating back to the 1850s. They’re also the family who produce the coveted Caymus wines. Look for ripe cherry, plum, red berry compote, vanilla, flinty and toasty oak spice flavours vibrant on the palate. Tannins are fine-grained, giving a silky mouth-feel. Drink or hold. Pinot Noir food pairings: grilled bavette steak, wild mushroom bisque, roast duck, veal Porterhouse.

Hahn SLH Pinot Noir (SRP $30): Carefully curated from Hahn’s four prized Santa Lucia Highlands estate vineyards located on California’s Central Coast, this elegant, divine example of ‘SLH’ Pinot Noir will take your palate on a journey to the small, but mighty Santa Lucia Highlands.

Grand Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir (SRP $45): Sourced from our two estate vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton sub-AVA, our 2019 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir has lively acidity, youthful tannins, and a long, dark fruit-driven finish.

En Route “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir (SRP $60): From Far Niente, This is it: The culmination of our decades-long love affair with Pinot Noir. When our search for the perfect climate and sites to cultivate the ultimate Pinot Noir brought us to the Russian River Valley in 2007, “Les Pommiers” was our proud result. From the very first vintage, “Les Pommiers” combined expert craftsmanship with the pure, vibrant fruit of our finest Pinot Noir vineyards. It was and is a celebration of the very best in Russian River Valley winemaking. At once elegant and intense, “Les Pommiers” is the consummate blend of fruit from our vineyards located primarily in the Green Valley and upper Middle Reach areas of the Russian River Valley AVA. The result is a stylish, intricately layered Pinot Noir that brings lush flavors, silky textures and unparalleled quality to your table. EnRoute “Les Pommiers” leads with luscious aromas of red cherry, raspberry, and star jasmine, with a refreshing minerality. The wine plays on the palate in a silky-smooth manner with flavors that complement its aromatics, calling to mind bright red fruit, rose petal and a touch of forest floor. The experience culminates in a bright, mouth-watering finish, inviting another sip.

Cantine Riondo Valpolicella DOC Superiore “Casalforte” (SRP $15.99): Exudes aromas of cherries, plums, and red berries, and provides complex flavours of dark fruit, with hints of sweet spices and mediterranean shrub. Riondo winery has embraced sustainable practices choosing eco-friendly materials, reducing the weight of its bottles, using solar panels  and reducing packaging waste.

Zenato Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore (SRP $27): Made from vineyards in Valpolicella, this wine has an impressive lingering finish with rich flavor. The blend is 85% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, and 5% Corvinone. On the nose, it delivers delicate hints of almond and violet. On the palate, it’s dry and smooth with good structure and wonderfully robust notes of cherry and prune.

Querciabella Chianti Classico (SRP $32): The 2018 Chianti Classico is classy, polished and exceptionally beautiful. Like so many wines in 2018, the Chianti Classico is aromatic and gracious in feel, more finesse than power. Silky tannins wrap around a core of bright Sangiovese fruit.

Crocus L’Atelier (SRP $ 21): This 100% unoaked Malbec allows for a full expression of the authenticity and identity of Cahors Malbec. Dark garnet color. Fresh aromas of violet, cherry blossom and wild flowers seamlessly blend with red and black fruit such as Burlat cherry and blackcurrant jam, finishing with a hint of spice. The palate is smooth, giving black cherry, fresh raspberry and ripe blueberry flavors, finishing with firm tannins and bright acidity.

The Hunt Red Blend (SRP $45): This wine was made with 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 26% Cabernet Franc from Sonoma County making the perfect blend for a complex meal. It’s great to pair with roast turkey which was George Vanderbilt’s favorite – you can replicate the recipe here.  

Maddalena Merlot – Paso Robles (SRP $17): Maddalena Merlot offers aromas of ripe fruit and oak spice with hints of vanilla and anise. Fruit flavors greet the palate and soft tannins frame the fresh texture that coats the mouth. A fantastic wine that punches well above its price point. 

San Simeon Syrah – Paso Robles (SRP $23): For those desiring a deeper and rounder flavor to slowly sip during this shoulder season, San Simeon Syrah provides strong boysenberry, plum and pomegranate with a lovely finish of vanilla and oak spice.

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