Category Archives: Holidays

Wines to have on hand for unexpected gifts and guests

When it comes to a quick gift, a bottle of wine is an easy – yet thoughtful and much appreciated– way to go. By the time Thanksgiving hits, I like to have a few bottles on hand for when and unexpected guest stops by (“Stay and have a glass of wine with us!”) or when you  need a quick gift (oh everyone is giving the school principal a gift as well!), you’ll want some wine to serve or give. .

Here are a few wines to have on hand:

Bubbly
Guests: Carletto Prosecco is floral and fruity and fresh, it’s super palate pleasing and great with appetizers or a cheese plate.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs  is slightly more upscale, it’s more rich and creamy in texture and craves something a bit salty. Excellent for a toast or with some heavy snacks.

Gifts:  La Marca Prosecco is such a pretty label… and it’s pretty. I hear people tell me how much they love this wine and it is absolutely consistently delicious.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee is more pricey, but for a true Champagne, it’s a steal. Not to mention a holiday-appropriate label.

Whites
Guests: A to Z Pinot Gris  is easy to pull out for guests as it’s delicious with food or without.
Gifts: For those who don’t like Chardonnay, the Silverado Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent wine to gift to a white-wine lover. And for those who enjoy richer Chardonnay, the Iron Horse Estate Chardonnay  is a beautifully balanced wine and a go-to for gifts.

Reds
Guests: Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Noir  is one of my favorites from Oregon. It is a delicious and affordable Pinot to impress guests, whether you pair it with dinner or sip on its own.
Gifts: Cabernet is a go-to and the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon is one I’d readily gift to any red-wine lover.

And a wine you could use for gifts or guests? The Catena Malbec. It wins every time.

Preparing Wine for Big Holiday Gatherings

Following up from our post from Omaha Steaks blog post share, we wanted to share some of our own wine tips for your holiday gatherings!

2 glasses- Have enough wine! The cardinal rule is never run out of wine, so always get a bit more than you expect to use. Make sure you get something you enjoy so that you can continue to drink the leftover bottles well after the party – my parents are still drinking the awesome sparkling wine we served at my sister’s wedding last year because we over-bought. But unlike ordering too many appetizers, the wine never goes bad, and you won’t hear them complain!
– Pre-chill. Make sure those bubbles and whites are well chilled before the event. Though ice buckets can be useful and fast, they can also be messy. If everything is well chilled, the bottles can be out a bit in room temperature and not get too warm, without you having to soak them.
– Pre-open. Here’s where I love screw cap wines - they are perfect for parties. For cork closures, make sure you open a few (especially for large gatherings) so you don’t have to take time away from checking on any food cooking.
– Make sure you have enough glassware, and make sure it’s clean! pre-count, make sure you have enough, and for large gatherings, have some wine charms to get you through the evening.
– Finally, don’t indulge too much. Hosts should be relaxed, but not too much so!

How to Prepare for Large Holiday Gatherings, from our friends at Omaha Steaks

We’re using the wisdom of our partners at Omaha Steaks to share some excellent holiday tips! The post you’ll read below is from the very useful Omaha Steaks blog, steakbytes.com, where Chef Karl shares his culinary wisdom. We hope you find it useful for your holiday gatherings.

From Karl’s Kitchen on SteakBytes.com: 

A question that I am often asked at this time of the year is how to prepare a holiday meal for a large gathering of people? Back in my hotel and restaurant days I often would do 400+ person dinners on Thanksgiving Day, but that was in a professional kitchen with a full crew. At a home it is a little different but the same basic principles apply.  At this point I should mention that at Omaha Steaks we have everything you need for your holiday gathering including the roastsside dishessaucesdesserts andappetizers. Most of which are just heat and serve which really cuts down on the amount of work, complication and most importantly allows you to spend more time with your guests. That being said if you prefer to do everything the hard way, then here are my tips.

Plan Ahead
The most important thing is to be organized and plan ahead. You want to do most of the work long before your guests arrive. Several weeks before the event figure out the guest list and menu. Make sure you have enough plates, silverware, glasses and serving dishes for the event. Figure out the menu. Gather all your recipes of the dishes you want to prepare into one place. Even if you do not use recipes, write down an outline of the ingredients for each dish. Order your roasts from Omaha Steaks. Make sure you have the kitchen equipment you need to pull of the event. Now would also be a good time to borrow or buy roasters to hold hot food on the day of the event.

Make a shopping list
Once you have your menu done and recipes in hand it is time to make your shopping list. Make it as detailed as possible even if you know you already have the ingredient on hand. This should be done several weeks before the event and then as you do your regular grocery shopping you can start chipping away at the list little by little. Don’t forget things like beverages, extra ice and other items you will need for the event.

Thaw your larger roasts and turkeys
This seems to be the most common mistake most people make is waiting until the last minute to thaw your large roasts. If you have a good cold fridge it can take up to a week for a large 15lb turkey to fully thaw. I recommend allowing a day for every 2 pounds of roast. This will be overkill in most cases but having it thawed a day or two early will not affect your meal in the least.

Make a prep list
This is the key to a smooth event. I recommend making three separate lists. One for things you can do several days in advance, one for the day before the event (this should be your largest list) and one for the day of the event.

Do as much of your prep the day before the event as possible
I always try to do as much as possible the day before the event. For really large Thanksgiving gatherings I will go so far as to cook the turkeys, slice them and put all of the meat into reheating pans the day before. This allows me to make my gravy and stuffing the day before. This frees up lots of time on Thanksgiving Day for me to visit with guests or handle any last minute items that pop up. One thing to keep in mind when cooking food the day before is to cool it quickly and completely to prevent any bacterial growth. It is also important to reheat pre-cooked food quickly. That being said, be sure topractice good sanitation at all times. Don’t let kids or family members help without first washing their hands. Make sure all containers and equipment are clean and sanitary. The last thing you want around the holidays is a case of food poisoning.

Make a fire list for day of the event
Most professional chefs make a list they call the fire list. This is basically a timeline for the day of the event that tells you when to start things and when to finish things. This is particularly important if you only have one oven. You want to plan what time things go into the oven and what time they come out.  The times should be in chronological order so on the day of the event you just go down the list and never forget anything. Things like large roasts can come out of the oven up to an hour before you are going to serve them. This allows your roast time to rest and frees up the oven for side dishes. If you have one recipe that needs to be cooked at 400 degrees and another that needs 350 just compromise at 375 and adjust the cooking times appropriately. There are many tricks to keeping hot food hot but the best is to use electric roasters and crock pots. This frees up your oven and stove which allows you to make several recipes well ahead time.

There you have it. I find that if I craft a detailed plan in advance it takes away a lot of the stress of cooking for large gatherings and allows me to do a better job and enjoy spending time my friends and family.

Cheers!

Gift Ideas: Decanters and Aerators

The purpose of decanters is to bring air to a wine, to allow it to “breathe.” A little air can be a great thing for wines, especially the big, young wines that need to open up. This action helps a wine open up, allows the molecules to start dancing, the aromas to explode, the flavors to brighten… The classic way to bring this about is using a decanter, which allows air to more surface area of the wine. But there are also some devices on the market that speed up that aeration process, particularly if you have not had enough time to decant a wine, or if you want to just have a glass of wine aerated. These devices are fantastic gifts and great to have in the cellar.

Watch this video to see what options you have to give your wine a little air!

Napa Valley Cabernet Wine Tasting Trio ($169.99)

The Wine.com Wine Lover’s Gift Guide

Obviously Wine.com is gift-giving central for wine lovers, but specific gifts appeal more to specific types of wine lovers… so instead of sorting through our entire gift selection, we’ve broken it down to a few different “groups.”

Napa Valley Cabernet Wine Tasting Trio ($169.99)
Napa Valley Cabernet Wine Tasting Trio ($169.99)

For Him (otherwise known as: For the Esquire Man): Think James Bond Bollinger, eccentric wine openers and golfers who make wine.

For Her (otherwise known as: For the Glamorous Gals): Mom, sister, hostess, etc… Think lovely bubbly gift sets, hostess trinkets and luscious vino.

For the Rock Star: For those who like to jam… wines with Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd Labels, as well as Elvis decorated bottles.

For the Art Lover: Anyone who buys for a label will appreciate wines that look pretty AND taste good.

 

(Penfolds) RED Wine Trio ($39.99)
(Penfolds) RED Wine Trio ($39.99)

For the Foodie: Going gourmet for that person who loves to use wine when they are cooking… and sometimes even put it in the food!

For Giving Back: Whether to community or environment – think organic wine & wines that give proceeds to a charity.

 

No matter the personality or preferences of the wine lover on your list, we think you can find the perfect gift. If not, we’re sure, like us, you’ll find something perfect for you! :)