Some Holiday Entertaining Favorites

As with most people, for me, the holidays revolve around friends and family. Since most of my friends and family are also wine lovers, this also means that the holidays revolve around wine. I’ve come to realize, however, that there are so many different types of holiday celebrations, and therefore different wines to go with them!

Small Family Gatherings 
Bubbly – It seems my parents have finally warmed up to the idea of drinking Champagne/Sparkling wine on a regular basis. Which is fantastic, because it’s not just for celebrations, it’s the perfect wine to open up a meal or even drink during a meal. One we particularly love: Roederer Estate Brut NV. This is a fantastic, consistently good California sparkling wine for under $20. It has richness and complexity, freshness on the palate and just a great go-to bubbly for family dinners and get-togethers. It could of course be used for much larger gatherings, if you’re willing to splurge a bit on your guests! For true Champagne we love two great producers that are always reasonably priced Gosset – from their Brut to the Grand Reserve to their rose, this producer has excellent bubbles for some great price and Piper Heidsieck  – beautiful labels, beautiful bubbly inside. We enjoy both the brut and the Rose Sauvage (mmmm….).
White – an all time favorite, and one that I poured at my wedding, is the Eroica Riesling. A partnership between Washington State winery Chateau Ste-Michelle and German winemaking guru Dr. Loosen, the Eroica combines best of new world and old. Just slightly off-dry, this white is fresh, aromatic and delicate, with excellent acidity and fruit flavors. A perfect match for many holiday meals. Another fun meal wine is the Hugel Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer is a very aromatic grape, with hits of lychee nut and flowers all over. Unctuous, floral and spicy, Gewurztraminer is a classic match to foods with a touch of spice – Hugel is a classic producer.
Red – Pinot Noir is favorite for family meals for us – it pleases so many palates, carries the elegance we like at the dinner table and is a great match with food. Our favorites (for under $20!) are the Belle Glos Meiomi from California (made by the same family behind Caymus and Conundrum wines) and the Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir, a Chilean Pinot with excellent richness and spice. Another favorite is the Perrin Vinsobres, a Rhone blend that is spicy and rich yet light enough to pair with many a meal.

Holiday Fetes
Bubbly – A perfect way to get bubbly into every glass at a big party – go with Cava. Cava is the Spanish sparkling wine, made in the same method as Champagne, but sold for a fraction of the price. Though lacking the intensity and complexity of Champagne, Cava is a great way to go for large gatherings – crisp, refreshing, with lots of great fruit and balance, Cava usually runs about $9 – $13. Some great producers: Segura Viudas, Cristalino and Poema. Prosecco is another fun drink to have on hand for large gatherings. Nino Franco Rustico is one of our favorites…
White – There are some great white wines under $10 that are great for holiday parties. Some of our picks include La Vielle Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc and Indaba Chenin Blanc (from South Africa). Both are crisp and refreshing, easy drinking and great for just about any white wine lover. One step up at about $15 is the Pinot Gris from J Vineyards. Delicious and fresh, but with lots of ripe fruit, it’s always a crowd pleaser.
Red – one of my go-to party reds is the d’Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz. At around $10, you cannot beat this juicy, spicy red that goes with everything. A couple other party favorites (both under $15) are the Monte Antico Rosso, a great Tuscan blend from Italy and the Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel, a jammy and spice-filled bottle. Great for the season, great for parties.

Dessert wines – Whether it is a small gathering or a big party, some folks like a little something sweet to end the evening. Some great value sweets include the Grahams Six Grapes Port and the Pacific Rim Framboise. The Framboise is a favorite as it is a raspberry wine, made with fresh raspberries from Washington State. It’s delicious on its own, with a fruit-based dessert, or mixed with sparkling wine (yum!).

Don’t forget, if you’re with Foodies Night In, check out our holiday wine guide at www.wine.com/fni. And use code FNICHAT at check out to save 10% on your next order of 12 or more bottles.

Tell us your favorite Holiday Wine Tip and enter to win a Wine.com Gift Certificate

2 glassesOver the holiday season, Wine.com shares great deals everyday with our Deal of the Day. We also like to also include a helpful holiday wine tip to share with our Tip of the Day through our blog. This year, we need your help! We’re looking for some great holiday wine tips to share. Have a great way to cool down a bottle of wine fast? How about great ways to mark glassware when you have multiple guests? Tell us your best holiday wine tip and earn a chance to win a Wine.com gift certificate!

Here’s how it works:

– Tell us your favorite Holiday Wine Tip (see our tips from last year to make sure it has not been suggested before) by posting the tip in the comment section of this blog post or on our Facebook page.

– We’ll choose the best five, original tips and feature them on our blog the week of December 13th. In addition, each winner will receive a $25 gift certificate from Wine.com.

– If we choose a tip suggested by more than one person, the person that entered the tip first, based on time stamps from the blog and Facebook page, will be considered.

– We will contact the winner via e-mail or by message on facebook, so make sure if you enter a comment you include a valid e-mail address so that we may contact you.

– Contest ends midnight Pacific Time on Tuesday, November 23rd, and winners will be announced on the blog on Wednesday, November 24th.

Cheers!

The season for Beaujolais

‘Tis the season for Beaujolais! Not just the recognized Beaujolais Nouveau that appears on store shelves the third week of November and is gone from said shelves (or should be) three months later. Though this fresh and fruity version of Beaujolais  has its place in the wine world, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it does not represent the majority of Beaujolais.

The region of Beaujolais is situated in the southern part of the Burgundy appellation in France. Surprising, since Beaujolais differs from Burgundy in many ways, including soil type, climate and grape variety.

The primary grape of Beaujolais is Gamay Noir, a very light-skinned grape that produces wines of light body, fresh fruit, great acidity and low tannins. The grape grows on granite and schist soils of the area and the climate is classified as semi-continental – more similar to their southern neighbor, the Rhone Valley, than the rest of Burgundy to the north.

beaujolaisMost (over half) the wine of Beaujolais is sold under the basic Beaujolais appellation. This style of wine is quaffable, juicy stuff with low alcohol and pretty much zero tannin. The next level of wine is Beaujolais-Villages, made with grapes from higher quality vineyards. Finally, you have the Beaujolais Crus, the 10 regions of the area that make the top-notch Beaujolais. There is white wine made here, though the percentage is small and it can be hard to find, but worth a try if you do.

Beaujolais Cru is why I love Beaujolais. Wine from these 10 communes contain that juicy fruit I love about Gamay, but with some extra depth – the palate has great acidity and low tannins typical of Beaujolais, but with a slight richness that distinguish Beaujolais Crus from other Beaujolais. Best part, these wines come in under the $20 mark (most of the time). The 10 crus are: Morgon, St-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Mounlin-A-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly and Regnie.

So give Beaujolais Crus a try – it’s known as a classic for the Thanksgiving table, and I have tasted it recently with a spicy pasta dish that was a fantastic match. It’s also great with a burger or pizza. However, we did discover that it tastes metallic when paired with carrot cake, so do avoid that pairing!

The Pregnant Palate Drinks Chile

Last Wednesday night I participated in an online tasting hosted by Wines of Chile. The virtual tasting featured 8 wines, all red blends, and over a time period of two hours, with the help of streaming video and Master Sommelier, Fred Dexheimer, approximately 50 wine bloggers tasted these wines while interacting with the 8 winemakers. The red blend theme was a great choice to showcase the diversity and potential of Chile. Each wine was distinctly different, and the blends were each unique. Yet each wine also tasted distinctly Chilean. That is what I took away from this tasting. So often I taste wines that seem one-dimensional or factory-made. Though I may not love every wine we tasted over the evening, I appreciate the fact that each wine tasted authentic to its sense of place, respecting the grape and the terroir from which it came. Though I was unable to taste with the recommended food pairings (stuck in an office, no kitchen), there were some definite wines that I think were meant for the dining table, and though there was no group tasting with me, I had a few colleagues taste through the wines beforehand for some added feedback to share.

Though hard to pick a favorite, I especially enjoyed the Estampa Gold Assebmlage and the Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol. And of course, the Maquis Lien was an excellent value. And…a fair warning on my pregnant palate: everything seems to taste more acidic and bitter, meaning these two aspects in wine can be a bit overpowering, particularly with reds, so take that into consideration while reading these reviews! 

Wine 1: Valdivieso Eclat 2005 Maule Valley (56% Carignan, 24% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah) $27
To be honest, I am rarely a fan of straight Carignan, and blends are a mixed bag for me. But this one was quite pleasing. It definitely struck me as more old-world in style. One colleague noted leather and black cherry notes. I found great red berry fruit and a touch of tobacco (also noted by another taster). The consensus here – light in body, full in flavor, great acidity and a grip in the palate. This was one of the wines I found would be a great match for food.

Wine 2: DeMartino Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines "Las Cruces" 2006 (66% Malbec, 34% Carmenere) $45
This is what I call a 'Chile meets Argentina' blend, and it is from the Cachapoal Valley, which lies in the northern area of the Rapel Valley, just north of Colchagua. Herbs and chocolate were the descriptions I got from my colleagues. One found it a bit sour. I noted a blend spice, berry and herbalness, plus a touch of licorice. Though it was a touch acidic for me, I noticed that it opened up in the glass with some time. The tannins leaned towards green (perhaps the sour note the other taster perceived) but were definitely more noticeable when first poured. As the fruit emerged in the glass, the tannins seemed better integrated.

Wine 3: Estampa Gold Assemblage Carmenere 2008 (57% Carmenere, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot) $22
Not only did I like saying this wine, I was impressed by the taste, too. I'm a general fan of Carmenere – I like it's softness and it's blend of ripe fruit and smoky, meaty flavors. In this wine the Carmenere shows through, with soft ripe fruit undertones, a meaty character and some great acid. The other Cabernet grapes give this a bit of tightness, suggesting it may be too young right now. Though the tannins are soft, this wine would benefit with decanting or even a few years of bottle age. If you're a fan of Carmenere, this is a wine to try… unfortunately I could not find who imports this wine or if it is available in the US yet!

Wine 4: Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere 2008 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere) $15
It is a blend true to itself as I get many more Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics than Carmenere. Eucalyptus comes through, red and black fruits and, as many other tasters noted, a touch of barnyard (but not in a Bret way, more of a greenish Cabernet undertone way). Tannins are a bit green, but the wine is straightforward in a way that is pleasing. Good value for a good wine. Montes is a classic winery that typically focuses on single varietal wines, but I enjoyed the blend.

Wine 5: Maquis Lien 2006 (42% Syrah, 30% Carmenere, 12% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec) $19
I've loved Maquis Lien since I first tried it when I visited Chile in 2006. Coincidentally, I was there when the grapes for this wine were being picked! Maquis is a family estate that makes just one one wine with a very cool label. This vintage is not as "jammy" as the 2001 I tried back in 2006. It is much more floral, with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy and dry, with gripping tannins. It is quite delicious, but a wine I would love to pair with some grilled meat and other foods. Stay tuned because we will have a deal on this wine this week!

Wine 6: Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol 2008 (31% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Carmenere) $23
Also impressed with this wine. Dense black fruit and a spicy long finish sums up the profile, but also in the nose mint jumped out at me. Another colleague noted menthol, but mint was stronger for me. Definitely herbal though, backed by ripe fruit. The palate had good acidity, firm, but tangy tannins and a really lovely finish.

Wine 7: Emiliana Coyam 2007 (38% Syrah, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Mourvedre) $29
This wine is a favorite of one of our IT guys. I'd not had it yet, but was immediately taken in with the nose, which offered chocolate and licorice notes, dark fruits and a touch of spice. Also a hint of oak here. The palate was smooth and ripe, with all components well integrated. Good, complex flavors here that I definitely enjoyed.

Wine 8: Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Selection Private Reserve 2007 (61% Syrah, 26% Merlot, 13% Pinot Noir) $50
First, I'll express my disappointment with the weight of the bottle. It had to be at least twice as heavy as all the other bottles. What is it about a higher price tag that makes wineries decide to use heavier bottles? There is no need and it's not environmentally friendly. I find this practice prevalent in South America and I wish people made more of a stink about it.
Onto the wine – this was something a little different with Pinot Noir in the mix. This wine is from Casablanca Valley, which has a cooler climate ideal for Pinot Noir. Sadly, my palate was shot by the time I got to this wine, so I had to just enjoy the nose and use my co-worker's thoughts on the palate. The aromas were full of black cherry and chocolate, with a touch of herbs and licorice. The palate was "smooth" as I was told, easily coating the mouth and very balanced. Round and rich, this wine had layers of fruit and spice, and a nice finish to boot.

Finally, a few tidbits on Chile:
– Chile has a unique climate, perfect for grape-growing. With the Andes to the east, the Pacific to the west, dessert up north and ice fields in the south, the country is isolated. Probably why it remains phylloxera free and has little problems with vine disease at all.
– Chile's wine industry has really come into its own the past 10 years. Lots of investment, both locally and from outsiders, has brought the wine trade to new levels. Great values and solid collectibles are produced, bringing Chile to the forefront of the international wine world.
Carmenere is the country's signature grape, but has only become so in the past 15 years. In the mid-1990s, DNA testing in the vineyards showed that many vines though to be Merlot were, in fact, Carmenere. Though similar to Merlot, Carmenere is very distinct, with rich and ripe fruits, soft tannins and a smoky, meaty characteristic that is prevalent in the aromatics. The warm climate of Maipo and the Rapel Valleys are ideal for this grape.
Sauvignon Blanc has become a trademark for Chile, with great values coming from the Casablanca Valley. Known for their crisp acidity, citrus and vegetal like aromas and flavors, it's a perfect wine for warm weather or when munching on shellfish.

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