Hol­i­day Wine Guide

White, red, rosé, sparkling— they all go well with the sea­son

Times of the Islands - - News -

The hol­i­days are the most fes­tive time of the year— never is there a time where so much em­pha­sis is col­lec­tively put on food, drink and par­ties. Lurk­ing be­hind the joy of the sea­son, how­ever, is often stress—the pres­sure to host a flaw­less gath­er­ing, choose the right gift, make ev­ery­one happy, etc. Wine should never be stress­ful, whether se­lect­ing a gift or de­cid­ing what to serve.

The big­gest rule to re­mem­ber is … there are no rules. Wine is like art; it is sub­jec­tive, and even if it’s not a show­stop­per of a bot­tle, you can almost al­ways find some­thing about it to ap­pre­ci­ate—even if it’s just the la­bel.

You can have that flaw­less ta­ble, with the most per­fect red wine for the veal shank you’ve nur­tured for hours, and there will in­evitably be some­one who drinks only white or, even worse (sorry if it’s your fave), white zin­fan­del. At some point you have to sur­ren­der and sim­ply of­fer the best you can. Here are some sug­ges­tions to help, at least in the wine cat­e­gory. Rosé is not just for sum­mer sip­ping. It’s a wine that doesn’t quite know if it wants to ex­press it­self as a red or white. The best are dry, fruity and acidic—all the char­ac­ter­is­tics that go well with food such as a Thanks­giv­ing turkey or ham.

I once heard Do­maine de Nizas 2016 de­scribed as a meat and pota­toes rosé. It makes sense, con­sid­er­ing its blend of syrah, Gre­nache, mourve­dre and rolle, oth­er­wise known as ver­mentino. This wine is soft in color with the aroma of vi­o­lets; think of straw­ber­ries and red fruit on the palate. With a good amount of spice and a long fin­ish, it’s a win­ner.

Chardon­nay is an­other fab­u­lous food wine, but wine­mak­ing styles take it all over the board. You’ll find chardon­nays that are light and acidic to so but­tery and oaky that you could ac­tu­ally serve them with steak.

Land­mark Vine­yards has just re­leased its 25th an­niver­sary

edi­tion of Over­look Chardon­nay ($25.) The French oak it is aged in pro­duces a rich, toasty qual­ity; the fruit is pre­dom­i­nantly cit­rus with some herbal notes.

In con­trast, the 2016 Teresa’s Un­oaked Chardon­nay ($20) from Bal­letto spends time in a steel tank. Talk about tart and acidic. A trop­i­cal-tast­ing wine, it can cut through the fat and is quite re­fresh­ing.

Whether served with fish, fowl or pork, pinot noir cov­ers a lot of bases with its red fruit, spice and funk, as in mush­rooms and damp earth. To many wine lovers, Bur­gundy (France) is the premier choice for pinots, with Wil­lamette Val­ley (Ore­gon) and Sonoma (Cal­i­for­nia) nip­ping at its heels. The pinots from Cal­i­for­nia tend to have more fruit. This is one type of wine in which you almost al­ways get what you pay for; don’t go the cheap route.

Serv­ing hearty meats? Pour a big red to match. Red blends are al­ways a good gam­ble; they tend to have more char­ac­ter than sin­gle va­ri­etals and can re­ally show­case a wine­maker’s cre­ativ­ity.

Pahlmeyer is a name that car­ries a lot of weight in the wine world and for good rea­son. Its 2014 Pro­pri­etary Red Napa Val­ley ($175) is 87 per­cent caber­net with some mer­lot, mal­bec, cab franc and petit ver­dot added for magic. Se­duc­tively deep in color with a gar­net rim, the wine gets bet­ter ev­ery pass­ing minute in the glass: dark cho­co­late, dark ripe fruits, espresso. It’s one to sa­vor.

If you’re keep­ing it light with fish and v eg­gies, try a viog­nier; it’s also a nice aper­i­tif. Serve Le Paradou 2015 (un­der $15), which, when trans­lated, means par­adise—and this one is pretty close to that on the palate: fruity, spicy and fresh.

Last but not least, there’s Cham­pagne. Don’t save it for New Year’s Eve; drink it all sea­son long. A quick re­minder: Cham­pagne comes from the Cham­pagne re­gion of France and sets the stan­dard when it comes to any­thing that sparkles. Many have enough struc­ture to stand up to a main course.

Cava is sparkling wine from Spain made in the same style as Cham­pagne. Pros­ecco comes from Italy and tends to be lighter. Both are af­ford­able al­ter­na­tives to their French neigh­bor.

Don’t fret that the bot­tle you gift won’t be up to the stan­dard of a boss or oenophile. The gift of wine is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated. Go to a lo­cal wine re­tailer and ask for some­thing that is un­usual or small pro­duc­tion.

If you’re an on­line shop­per, it’s easy to get direct ship­ment from winer­ies state­side and a good way to se­cure those harder-to-find bot­tles. For wine from other coun­tries and for gen­eral pur­poses, wine.com is a quick and re­li­able so­lu­tion.

Be ad­ven­tur­ous, try some­thing new and en­joy bond­ing over a bot­tle with friends and fam­ily this hol­i­day sea­son.

Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food, fine wine and fun times. She’s also a well-known media per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

Last but not least, there’s Cham­pagne. Don’t save it for New Year’s Eve; drink it all sea­son long.

Many Sonoma vine­yards such as Williams Se­lyem, shown here, pro­duce a com­pet­i­tive pinot noir, a fine choice for your hol­i­day ta­ble.

Hol­i­day meals are al­ways bet­ter with wine—whether a cit­rusy chardon­nay from Land­mark or Pahlmeyer's Pro­pri­etary Red.

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