You finally wrapped your last present, put the finishing touches on your decorations, baked one more batch of grandma’s famous cookies and even selected your holiday dinner – but what about the wine?
The hectic nature of the holiday season is stressful enough without worrying about the right wine to serve or worse yet, the right wine to bring to someone’s home as a gift. Follow these simple tips in making your wine selection and then kick back, say cheers and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- The sky is the limit. – When selecting a wine for the perfect holiday occasion, understand that short of box wine there is nothing off limits. Wine comes in many varietals and price ranges, but expensive doesn’t always mean good and taking a chance on a smaller brand you’ve never heard of doesn’t mean bad.
- Wine should be fun. When you find yourself staring at the shelf full of wine bewildered by all of those cool, edgy and colorful wine labels (designed by some hip ad agency no doubt) or shelf talkers screaming at you with giant wine scores from the so-called experts, remember to take a deep breath and relax. Wine is supposed to be fun and about sharing something with your family or friends over delicious food and warm conversations.
- It’s all about variety. Don’t be overly concerned about wine pairing or one particular varietal over another. If you’re like most Americans, the holidays are about variety, everything from carved red meats, creamy cheeses, savory dishes and sweet desserts. Like that wonderful baseball movie line, “If you build it, they will come,” or in this case, “if you serve it, they will drink it!”
But since this is a wine blog about the best wines to enjoy for the holidays, here are a few of my personal favorites that you might want to add to your cellar. Keep in mind all of these wines are deliberately $50 or less considering all of the choices in this price range.
2013 Simi Alexander Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) $26
2012 Hall (Napa Valley) Cabernet $46 – pictured
2012 Jordan (Alexander Valley Sonoma) Cabernet $49
2012 Groth Vineyards (Oakville Napa Valley) Cabernet $50
Quite truthfully, what could be better? If you know me you probably know I’m a California purist at heart and for this publication will only recommend wines from the Golden State with a focus in Sonoma Valley or neighboring Napa Valley. These wines pair perfectly with a medium-rare Christmas tenderloin, carved roast or dark chocolate truffle after dinner.
Gloria Ferrer (Sonoma), Brut $18
Domaine Carneros (Carneros), Blanc De Noir Sparking $38
Veuve Clicquot (France), Yellow Label Brut $45 – pictured
In all my years enjoying wine, I’m pretty sure there is one thing that goes with everything and that’s a fine bubbly. Nothing says elegant more than a bottle of Champagne or Sparkling and your guests or special someone will thank you for it later.
St. Francis (Sonoma County) Old Vines Zinfandel $20 – pictured
2014 Selby (Sonoma County) Bobcat Zinfandel $42
2014 Gamba (Russian River Valley) Zinfandel $50
Maybe a varietal you haven’t tried or liked, but the secret is finding the right food to enjoy with this wonderful red with for the holidays. Typically lighter in color than a Cab or Merlot this moderate tannin and high acidity wine is higher in alcohol and perfect with lamb, pork, especially barbecue or a big hearty meal like your Mom can only make.
2014 Decoy (Sonoma Valley) Pinot Noir- $22
2014 Sonoma-Cutrer (Sonoma Coast) Pinot Noir $33
2014 Landmark Vineyards (Sonoma Coast) Grand Detour Pinot Noir $35
2014 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards (Sonoma Coast) Pinot Noir $44 – pictured
2014 Ramey (Russian River Valley) Pinot Noir $49
Forget about the 2004 cult film, “Sideways,” this varietal was made famous by the French and in Sonoma County some of the very best in the world! If the label says “Russian River” or “Sonoma Coast” then it’s like tossing darts.
2015 Walt (Sonoma Coast) Chardonnay $40
2015 Adelshelm (Willamette Valley Oregon) Pinot Gris $18
2014 Hall (Napa Valley) Sauvignon Blanc $22
2014 Cakebread (Napa Valley) Chardonnay $44
2015 Darioush Signature Viognier $45
2014 Kiernan Robinson Wines (Stagecoach Vineyard Napa Valley) Viognier $45 – pictured
Don’t just grab the first bottle of Chardonnay you see! Many California Chardonnays are pretty typical, and you either love them or you don’t. You know the kind, big, buttery and oaky with hints of vanilla and butterscotch. Unless you are serving some lobster tails New Year’s Eve, try some of my favorite white varietals, including Chardonnay.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!