It’s 12-12-12, the last time the month, day and year will perfectly align until the next century. Since most of us won’t be around then, for those who find luck in numbers, it’s a big day. We like it because we can do fun things like offer 12% off 12 bottles and other 12 combinations.So I’m pulling out my top 12 bottles for the holidays here. For MY 12 bottles, I’d choose these, each with a purpose for this holiday season.The white splurge: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2009 – this Margaret River wine is like Australia’s Montrachet (I know, don’t you hate it when people compare wine to Burgundy?). Hands down one of my favorite Chardonnay and perfect for a holiday splurge.The red splurge: Antinori Tignanello 2009 – okay, so if you drink this now, you’d have to decant it for a long time… but everyone should try a “Tig” and the ’09 was a beautiful vintage.The bubble splurge:Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee – I could drink Krug everyday and twice on Sundays and claim a very happy life. A rich and full-bodied bubbly, this is the wine to buy should you be able to drop the dough on bubbles The perfect dinner white: Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Gris 2011 – It holds up to savory and spice as well as rich and creamy. With a perfect balance of racy acidity, floral notes and sweet fruit, this wine is a great match for the dinner table.The perfect dinner red: Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir 2010 – Thank goodness it’s easier to find a Pinot Noir under $20 these days. Artesa consistently delivers, with rich fruit and bright acid, a palate-pleaser and food-friendly of course.The perfect party bubbly: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava – I could try to be creative, but won’t bother -this bubbly is a go-to for parties. It’s great year after year, always a top-seller and always a great value. Can’t beat it.The perfect party white: La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc 2011 – my parents buy this by the case as it’s a perfect everyday or party sipper. It has no fake oak or sweet aftertaste, just clean, crisp and easy-drinking.The perfect party red: d’Arenberg Stump Jump Red 2010 – easy going and easy drinking. That’s what you want in a party wine, and the Stump Jump is perfect for that. It’s an all-season wine (great for summer, winter and all if it in-between).Date night wine: Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 – it’s a sexy bottle, a seductive wine and needs nothing to pair with it but a little romance.Hostess gift wine: Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut – bubbles are perfect for the hostess-with-the-mostest, and Schramsberg Mirabelle is a delicious wine that is perfect to serve at a party or with a meal.Wine for toasting: Canard-Duchene Authentic Brut Rose – I had to make up a subject to get this bottle of bubbles in – one of my favorites, especially for the price. It’s lovely in the glass, great bubbles and flavors from start to finish.The wine that goes with everything: Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling 2011 – obviously it has to be a Riesling… and this particular bottle, which marries fruit, acidity and sweet in delicious harmony, can go on any table and in any glass and be well-suited there.Pick out your 12 for 12-12-12. It’s a day to celebrate and wine is certainly the way to go.
Having a holiday party doesn’t mean you have to skimp on wine quality. It doesn’t mean you have to break the bank, either. Here are some of our favorites when it comes to great value crowd-pleasers – perfect for some party fun.Bubbly Nothing says celebrate like some sparkling wine. And to keep those glasses flowing, you’ll want something that is delicious and affordable. Not to worry –not all sparkling wine has to be high-end Champagne (though that is worth a splurge, too!). Some of our favorites that are under $20:
Cristalino ($8) – a classic value Cava at about $8, this is a perennial favorite, often scoring in the 90s from critics’ ratings. They do an excellent brut and rose.
Segura Viudus Aria Brut ($12) – Another great Cava producer with a very lovely bottle. Dry and crisp!
Zardetto Prosecco Brut ($14)– Prosecco is another value sparkling wine. It often has more upfront fruit than Cava due to the grape and method in which it is made. Prosecco is delicious on its own, but also makes a great mixer for sparkling wine drinks.
Favorites around the $20 mark include: Roederer Estate Brut, Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut & Rose, any of the Gruet wines from New Mexico (they are really delicious!) and Schramsberg MIrabelle Brut. All of these are perfect for parties or even smaller gatherings. Whites Yalumba Y Series Viognier – $11 – I have yet to find a wine from Yalumba that I don’t like, but this Viognier is a perfect holiday wine – Viognier has that rich, unctuous texture, with excellent fruit and acidity that make it a delicious cold-weather wine (granted, it’s great in summer, too).
Hess Select Chardonnay – $11 – There are always Chardonnay lovers at a party, so if you’re looking for a great quality, good value bottle, this is it. Nothing too complex, but not over-oaked or too heavy – great all-around.
Indaba Chenin Blanc – $9/$10 – Looking for something light, crisp and easy-drinking? Look no further. The Indaba Chenin Blanc from South Africa is an excellent everyday/holiday party white. Reds d’Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz – $10 – I think I recommend this every year… because every year it is consistently good. Great fruit and spice, a perfect party wine, summer or winter. Can’t go wrong with this one.
Alamos Malbec – $10 – Everyone loves Malbec – this one has lots of fruit and spice, great for parties.
Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva($15) and Escarpment Over-the-Edge Pinot Noir ($14/$15) – Though it is definitely getting easier to find a good PInot Noir under $15, this price range for this grape is still difficult. Two great regions to look for quality and value in Pinot Noir? Chile and New Zealand. Our two picks are the Veramonte Reserva and the Escarpment Over-the-Edge. Both have bright, rich fruit and a savory texture that gives the wines some body and lasting power. Perfect for parties or everyday dinners. Dessert Holidays are often the only time we splurge on dessert wines. For parties, they are fun to have on hand as well. Dow’s Fine Tawny ($14) – Tawny Ports are excellent pairings with chocolate or other sweets, but they also are great as a little something sweet on their own. With caramel and nutty characteristics, they are perfect for sipping by the fire. Another benefit of Tawny Port, they can last in the bottle once opened for weeks.
Australian Stickies ($15 – $20) – Australians call their dessert wines, made from Muscat or Muscadelle, “stickies,” due to the fact that they are actually sticky (get some on your hands, you’ll know what I mean). They are delicious wines for a little something sweet after a party, or even poured over ice cream! Favorite producers are Yalumba, Chambers and Campbells.
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.
‘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. Most (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!