Delicious wines add oomph to holiday festivities
Long hours at the table, sipping wine with friends, is one of the joys of the holidays
For this post, I’ll lay off the physical descriptions of the hills and valleys that produce grapes. Instead, the wines will speak to you. Over cheese and charcuterie, as you kick off the evening with friends or when you pull up your chair to your beautifully decorated table.
As those of you who’ve been following my blog know, I often write in detail about the food I cooked to serve with the wine. This post is a bit different: It’s a list of some of the wines I’ve tasted, but not written about, in the past year. Some food, some other information…I hope you enjoy it.
Marquette Reserve, 2014. This velvety wine from Shelburne Vineyard in Burlington, Vermont, is big and bold and would go well with a nice holiday roast. We had it with Italian cheese one nice fall afternoon: the Il Nocciolo made from a blend of cow, goat, and sheep milk, and the Piave Vecchio made with sheep’s milk.
It did not seem distinctive and could have been a nice red wine blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or another red. So why write about it? Sometimes, too distinctive a flavor is hard to take. It takes many glasses to start enjoying it. This was smooth, easy to drink, and exciting for coming from a place not known for its wine.
Most interesting, the Marquette grape was bred at the University of Minnesota to withstand months of freezing temperatures. This cross between vitis vinifera (most common wine grapes) and vitis riparia (native to Minnesota and parts of the northeast) is relatively new, having been introduced as a variety only in 2006.
Pinot Noir. It is hard to be in California and stay away from this grape. Over the course of one evening, we served the Estate Grown 2013 from Joseph Phelps’ Freestone Vineyard and Testarossa Winery‘s 2013 from the Fogstone Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Joseph Phelps is a light, cool climate wine that paired well with the appetizers, mostly cheeses. The Testarossa was the darling of the evening. We served it with roasted chicken with a rich Indian sauce with almonds and saffron, a side of okra, and brown lentils. Heavier and fruitier than the Joseph Phelps, it carried the meal to its happy conclusion.
Syrah. I tasted the 2011 vintage from Bonny Doon Vineyard at their tasting room in Davenport, Calif. This is a high acid, high tannin wine that would go well with lamb, beef, or a pasta with chanterelle-mushroom sauce. The winery is now selling its 2013 vintage, Le Pousseur, also from the Central Coast’s Bien Nacido vineyards in the Santa Maria appellation, like the 2011. I write even though I have not tasted the 2013 vintage, certain that it will be wonderful and only the most discerning palates will be able to tell the difference. Fun fact: This winery has popularized the screwcap in premium wines.
Château Anthonic 2014 Moulis-en-Médoc. Primarily Merlot, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. We found this Bordeaux to be a delightful pairing with winter soups and stews.
Gingko Estates. We tasted a few wines from this winery in the state of Washington. All were big bold reds characteristic of wines from the Wahluke slope that lies east of Seattle, on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. The 2014 Malbec was spicy with aromas of clove and black pepper and the flavor of berries. The tannins were strong, but not overpowering. The first sip of the 2013 Carménère woke me up with its spice, but mellowed out with a little air. It was smooth despite the tannins. I notice that I’ve written that each of these wines was spicy with at least moderate tannins; so was the fruity 2012 Petit Verdot. All will go well with holiday dishes or on their own.
VJB Cellars in Sonoma County makes Italian wines. Tasting was a revelation of grapes I’d never heard about. The Sagrantino, a rare, red grape originally from Umbria, is sourced from Mendocino County. Tannic, with strong fruit flavors. The Estate Negro Amaro, a grape originally from the Puglia region, is also fruit forward. The 2016 Estate Montepulciano, not to be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is a big and bold wine to be paired with hearty dishes during the holidays. A note to clarify: The Montepulciano is a red wine grape; the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is fermented primarily with Sangiovese grapes.