Wines for Holiday Feasts - Round One

Holiday Wine

It's that time of year again. As I write this, the temperature is near 80 degrees with a warm breeze. Tonight, the cold front hits, bringing rain and a drop in temperatures. It's time to think about holiday feasts. In this first round of feasting wines, we bring back new vintages of old favorites, as well as a couple of newbies. Sharpen your pencil and your taste buds and start making notes on what you'll serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hannukah or New Years...or what you'll take to somebody else's house as a guest. Life is too short to drink bad wine.
Two Whites and a Bold Rosé
Ken Forrester Petit Chenin (Stellenbosch, South Africa) Regular Price $13.50/ Feature Price $11.48
We last tasted this one a year ago, when I was writing about fall struggling with supremacy for winter. Though the price has gone up a little, taking it out of the “$12 and Under” section, it’s still a real treat for this shoulder season when we want our white wines to have a little more substance and body than the racy thirst-quenchers of summer.
Though it originated in France’s Loire Valley, the Chenin Blanc grape has become a staple of Stellenbosch, where it is often called by its South African name “Steen.” The South African version keeps the luscious tropical fruit flavors and soft mouthfeel typical of Chenin Blanc, while adding a long, palate cleansing finish that would make this an excellent wine for holiday feasts. You could pair it with everything from sweet potatoes to roast fowl.
Barnard Griffin Fumé Blanc (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular Price $15.85/ Feature Price $13.48
Barnard Griffin Winery is situated in south-central Washington at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake rivers, in the heart of Washington State's wine country. Husband and wife team Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard began making wine in 1983 and they’ve been winning awards ever since.
This is a new one for us. We’ve carried the Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese for several years and it has become a customer favorite, so when I saw that their Fumé Blanc got 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast, I asked our distributor for a taste. Wow! This is Sauvignon Blanc in the “Fumé” style made popular in California. In addition to great fruit (pumped up by the addition of a little Semillon), it also has some “oak and smoke” that mark that style. That combination of fruit, oak and smoke make this wine a very versatile food companion and a wonderful guest at your holiday table.
From the Wine Enthusiast review: "This could be called the signature white for Barnard Griffin, for it always delivers astonishing flavor for the modest price. A small percentage of Sémillon is in the blend, but the sappy, spicy, penetrating herbaceousness of Sauvignon Blanc is showcased, not disguised. Done in a Sancerre-like style, under 13% alcohol, this is a gorgeous food wine, but you may just want to sip on it all by itself." 91 Points
Barnard Griffin Rosé Sangiovese (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular Price $17.75/ Feature Price $15.09
This is a rosé even a "serious" wine drinker could love. It’s made from 100% Sangiovese, the great food pairing grape of Tuscany, but it’s made in a full-bodied rosé style by leaving the fermenting wine on the dark colored skins of the grapes for only a short time. This picks up just enough flavor and color to yield a wine that’s just about perfect for this in-between season. It doesn’t want to be chilled like a lighter Provence bistro rosé. Just leave it out on the porch while you’re preparing the meal. It will be very tasty...and very pretty in the glasses.
On to the Reds
Atalaya Laya (Almansa, Spain) $12.50 everyday low price
Almansa, SpainAlmansa, SpainIt’s no secret that we love Spanish wines, but when we were brought a sample of this one from the area just west of our favorite part of Spain, we LOVED it. It’s a light- bodied red blend of 70% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and 30% Monastrell (Mourvedre). And it’s really red in color, a characteristic of the Garnacha Tintorera grape. But the thing that struck us most was a finishing taste like the smell of wet gravel. Maybe that doesn’t sound good to you, but Chef Yvonne commented, “It has that dusty, rocky smell of walking down the cobbled alleyways of an old Spanish village.” The second things she said was: “Pickled shrimp!” Oh, yes. I had to agree. This wine would go great with seafood. So she’s doing that pairing at our tasting Friday night. Take a stroll down the dusty Spanish lane...and stock up for the holidays.
Château de Saint Cosme Les Deux Albion 2009 (Côtes du Rhône, France) Regular Price $25.60/ Feature Price $21.76
Wines from the Côtes du Rhône (the “coasts” of the Rhone River in Southeastern France) are some of my favorite holiday feasting wines. They are always some blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre and Clairette co-fermented all together (instead of each grape being vinified separately and blended later) to bring an integrated blend of flavors that can pair with anything you’ve got on the groaning board. To me a good CDR has some mouth-watering acidity balanced by rich, plummy fruit. Every year I taste several examples of wines from this region and for the past several years I keep coming back to this one. It’s certainly not cheap...but it’s truly fine.
Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico 2008 (The Heart of Tuscany, Italy) Regular Pice $25.60/ Feature Price $21.76
In the past few weeks, we’ve tasted a number of the Sangiovese-based wines of Italy. They’ve been very well received (and sold out), but I’ve had requests for the Sangiovese wine everyone knows best, the one with the “Gallo Nero” (Black Rooster) on the label that signifies it’s the real thing. We’ve had several vintages of this Lamole de Lamole, and I keep coming back to it. The 2008 is rich and oaky and smoky and delicious. A great wine to go with a great meal (or give to a true friend).