Saturday, November 27, 2010

Special Wines and Gift Ideas

Now that it's holiday season, a time for gathering with friends and family and occasions for gift giving, there's no better time than now to consider purchasing a special wine. If you want to WOW! the crowd at a party or dinner, impress your boss, or want to give something unique and thoughtful to that special person consider giving a special wine.

What is a special wine? A truly special wine is a wine of superb quality that has a totally unique flavor profile, it not only expresses the characteristics of the grape from which it was made but also has an extra, sometimes indefinable element that distinguishes it from other wines. Typically this element is a sense of place, not just showcasing the region it's from but also the specific vineyard in which the grapes were grown. That's why most fine wines in the world carry the name of the place on the label.

Consider this list of wines that meet the criteria:

Heitz Cabernet Trailside Vineyard Napa Valley 1999
Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2002
Calera Pinot Noir Ryan Vnyd 2006
Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008
Produttori Del Barbaresco Pora 2005
Cordero Di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto 2008
Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2005
La Torre Brunello Di Montalcino 2001
Roddolo Bricco Appiani 2003
Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny 2005
Chezeaux Clos De Vougeot 2004
A.F. Gros Richebourg 2001
Solar De Randez Rioja Reserva 1996
Gaston Chiquet Special Club Brut 2000

I hope that you are able to try one of these wines, they are all super and very expressive of place. Everyone who loves wine should have the experience of drinking a wine like this at some point. Are they expensive? You bet, if you want to dance you have to pay the fiddler. Happy Holidays!


Friday, November 5, 2010


Some of the most challenging wine questions we get every year have to do with Thanksgiving, here are some strategies that can make your holiday meal more successful.

1. Drink American. Many folks think that this classic American holiday deserves a homegrown wine and that's a great idea! Excellent choices are Pinot Noir, Gamay, Oregon Pinot Gris, or something unique like the Heitz Grignolino. One tip to mention, although Zinfandel is considered the quintessential American grape, I find that heavily extracted and alcoholic Zins are not the best match for the gobbler on Turkey Day so I usually go in another direction.

2. Match your side dishes. Thanksgiving is a big meal with lots of different flavors and rather than matching the bird, one way to play it is to pick wines that match your various side dishes. If you are doing sausage/cornbread or giblet stuffing you may want a medium bodied red, if it's oyster stuffing you might want to think about a rich white wine.

3. Cranberry sauce? Tart and refreshing, the acidity in cranberry sauce is a palate cleansing foil to all the different foods on the table and wine can play the same role. Try flexible and food friendly reds with good acidity like Gamay (Beaujolais), Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc in the Loire style, and Merlot/Cab Franc blends like Petit Chateau Bordeaux.

4. White wine, really? Emphatically yes! Poultry and a full-bodied white is a classic match so it's an excellent opportunity to have something like a big Pinot Gris or a white Rhone varietal on the table.

5. Don't worry, serve several wines. Thanksgiving is a big meal and if you have several guests it's enjoyable to have some different wines on the table. Experiment, relax, and have fun!

6. Don't forget the dessert wine. Pumpkin pie, earthy and sweet with baking spices, is awesome with a little glass of unctuous dessert wine, vin doux natural, or sweet sherry.

7. A sample domestic wine menu for Thanksgiving. Mine would look something like this:

Appetizer: Gruet Brut or Rose Sparkling wine.
First Course (at my house it's pumpkin soup): Heitz Grignolino
Main Course (Turkey and sides): Lineshack Roussanne, Coleman Pinot Gris, A domestic Pinot Noir like Ravines, Brooks, Clos Julien, Bergstrom, Taft Street.
Dessert wine (not domestic): Schloss Muhlenhof Siegerrebe Beerenauslese, Domaine Rectorie Banyuls, Gran Barquero Sherry

Happy Thanksgiving!