Hard to believe it’s Thanksgiving again. The change in the seasons, holiday get togethers with family and friends, playoff baseball and football games give us many opportunities to share some of our favorite foods and wines. The variety of foods that can be found on holiday dinner tables are numerous. The taste sensations can range from, sweet to sour, savory to umami and salty. Trying to find one wine that pairs well with your families honey glazed ham or smoked turkey, your sisters cornbread stuffing, Uncle Jim’s stuffed mushrooms and Grandma’s pumpkin pie would be a fools errand. The key to making a good impression with respect to wine choices is diversity. You’ll have a better chance of success by offering several bottles with a wide range of flavor profiles. Just open up a few of your favorites and some of our suggested bottles, place them all on the table and let your guests pick which wines they want.
Our first suggestion a 2012 Moscato D’ Asti “Bricco Quaglia by La Spinetta is an excellent way to welcome your guest to your home. This Moscato is the real deal and not some quickly rushed to the market mass produced bottom shelf pretender. La Spinetta is most famous for their Barolo and Barbaresco but those wines are way too serious for most holiday gatherings. 100% Moscato at 5.5% ABV the “Bricco Quaglia” has an intoxicating aroma of green apples, apricot and white peaches. On the palate it’s slightly sweet with a good balance of acidity and a delicate sparkle. Priced between $18 - $22 you’ll want to stock several bottles in the fridge because we guarantee this wine will be a runaway favorite.
The 2012 Conundrum is a proprietary blend of California white wine. This wine is from the house of Wagner Family Wines, makers of the iconic brand Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. A bottle of their Cabernet will set you back $130, but for about $20 to $24 you can buy into all of their excellent winemaking expertise and bring a bottle to the table that everyone will offer a comment on. The website www.wagnerfamilywine.com tells us the wine is made up of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli and Viognier, although they don’t tell you the percentage of each varietal. The Wagners have farmed in Napa Valley since 1906 and they source the grapes for this wine from Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties. If we had to use one word to describe this wine it would be “exotic”. The Conundrum name is appropriate as it is a truly unique wine. Honey baked apples, musk melon, peaches and vanilla spice on the nose followed by more of the same on the palate. The wine has a thick and rich mouth feel with good acidity for balance. Try not to open this one up before dinner is served because it just might disappear before the turkey is carved.
The 2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Gewurztraminer from Ferrington Vineyards Anderson Valley is a 100% vegan wine. Not everyone is a carnivore: now you’ve got all the bases covered. You’d be surprised how many wines can’t meet the vegan designation. Philo Ridge is 5.5 miles up an all weather dirt/ rock road, two miles off the electrical grid and it’s 100% solar powered. If you find yourself in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley you don’t need a four wheel drive vehicle to taste their wines though, they have a tasting room right on highway 128 in Boonville. At 0.049 g/l of residual sugar (that’s dry) and 14.1 % ABV this Gewurztraminer will amaze your guest with its strong floral aromatics and its rich full bodied texture. It’s packed with flavors of stone fruits, lemon, lychee and spice. The pescatorians in your group would enjoy this Gewurztraminer with seared scallops or broiled salmon. Philo Ridge’s Gewurztraminer will most likely be the most polarizing wine at the table. Watching your friends and family debate over the best pairing combinations and the merits and shortcoming of the wines will be a lot more fun than bringing religion or politics to the table. Fred Buonanno aka Tractor Butt owns the winery with his wife Heather and they only produced 195 cases of this wine so it will require more diligence to track down, but it’s well worth the hunt. $15 to $19
If you’ve listened to some of our pod casts you know that Bill’s wife is a huge Pinot Noir fan. Obviously Bill gets to try lots of Pinot Noir and this is one of his favorites. Pinot Noir is right at home on your holiday dinner table because its naturally high acidity matches well with most holiday fare. We discovered this wine several years ago. The first vintage we tried was 2009 and I believe that may have been the inaugural vintage for the Cazar label. The 2012 Cazar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a declassified/ second label for Chasseur. Bill Hunter is the winemaking savante and owner of Chasseur wines. A declassified wine is a wine that does not meet the prescribed standards of the first or top wines of a producer. For example in Bordeaux France, Chateau Latour’s second label is Les Forts de Latour. A current vintage of Château Latour will cost you about $1600 and the Les Forts de Latour cost about $250. Is the Latour six times better than the Les Forts de Latour? Not hardly, but at these elevated price levels, scarcity, marketing and prestige enter into the equation. Chasseur is best known for their Pinot Noirs from the “true” Sonoma Coast areas around Freestone, Occidental and Sebastopol, but they also make some wonderful Chardonnays. Chasseur Pinots retail around $60 a bottle and the Cazar Pinot Noir retails at $20 to $23. The 2012 Cazar Pinot represents a chance for you to show a little insider knowledge and offer your guest a fantastic bottle of wine at the same time. Displaying a beautiful medium ruby hue Cazar’s Pinot on the nose exhibits a red fruit profile of pomegranate, cranberry, cherry and earth notes. On the palate you’ll notice raspberry, black cherry, spice, cola and that hallmark of structure and silky texture that you find in all of Bill Hunter’s wines. From the blockbuster 2012 vintage in California, a farmers delight, don’t miss out on this one.
The 2012 Meiomi Pinot Noir pronounced “may-oh-mee” is another wine from the Wagner family. This is a tri- appellation Pinot Noir with grapes sourced from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties. It’s deep garnet color is complimented with a very forward rich and ripe fruit nose. In the mouth, candied cherries, black cherry cola, vanilla and lots of oak, Not a shy Pinot Noir: this one’s more of a hammer and a crowd pleaser amongst those that like big fruit forward Pinots. At $18 to $22 a bottle it is a great value.
La Bastide Saint Dominique’s 2010 Cotes Du Rhone Villages is composed of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mouvedre and 15% Carignan. The estate was founded in 1976 and the winemaker Eric Bonnet is in the process of converting their vineyard holdings to organic farming. This wine features a red fruit aroma of cherries, plum and kirsch. On the palate those flavors are accompanied by some pepper, sage, licorice and earth notes. At 14.5% ABV this is a full bodied wine with just the right amount of fruit, rusticity and tannin to compliment a variety of fall season dishes.
Our last recommendation is the Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve. This is a late harvest wine whose fermentation is arrested by fortification with neutral grape spirits. The Aussies affectionately call these types of wines stickies. You’ll want to hold this wine in reserve and not put it on the table with the other wines. After the table has been cleared most of your guest are by now in sensory overload and are trying to digest all the different types and amounts of food and beverages. Once the cakes, pies and other desserts make their way to the table that’s when you break out the Yalumba Muscat. Remember it’s a fortified wine and it clocks in at 18% ABV, so a little goes a long way. This is a wine for sipping and savoring. In the glass it features a deep amber color that runs clear at the edge. The nose shows over-ripe raisins, burnt sugar, caramel, dark molasses, with a hint of Vick’s Formula 44. It’s very sweet but has great acids that hold the balance beautifully. The finish last forever and it’s lip smacking good. It’s packaged in half bottles and cost $17 to $20. Make sure the cooks and the dish washing crew get a glass before the rest of your guest. It’s a nice gesture and a great way to say thanks for all their hard work.
We hope you find our seven wine suggestions for the upcoming holiday season helpful. Listen to our pod cast to get more insight and learn about a few more wines we recommend. Cheers!