Volume 6, Number 11
Wines for Holiday Feasts
November tells us that The Holidays are upon us. That means we’re going to be planning special meals for many occasions. Whether it’s a quiet Christmas Eve dinner for two or a groaning board family Thanksgiving feast, nothing makes a meal more special than a great bottle of wine. This month we’ve selected Featured wines that pair particularly well with a wide variety of foods. So raise a glass, give thanks…and save us a drumstick.
Pascal-Renaud Mâcon-Villages 2006 (Burgundy, France) - Reg. 15.00/ Feature Price 12.00
I’ve always thought white Burgundies are some of the classiest dinner wines on the planet. So we start with this Chardonnay from that stellar region. Mâcon is a large area located in the Southern part of Burgundy, next to Pouilly-Fuissé. Mâcon-Villages wines are sourced from the grapes of 43 villages scattered throughout the Mâconnais. The wines are made in stainless steel at low temperature, and the bottling is done the year following the harvest. The 2006 vintage in Burgundy favored white wines over red, and this one is ready to enjoy right now for its crisp, medium body and clean, lean acidity. These characteristics make it an excellent aperitif, with cheese or something with a little zip. Or serve it with your feast if you enjoy a fine table wine that pairs well with a wide range of foods.
Valckenberg Madonna Auslese 2005 (Rheinhessen, Germany) - Reg. $16.00/ Feature Price $12.80
Because of its unassuming airs, low alcohol content and many styles, Riesling is one of the best feasting wines there is. Many of us grew up on a sweet, mass-produced Riesling known as “Liebfraumilch.” Admit it; you liked the tall blue bottle (called a “flute”) of Blue Nun. Well, the original Liebfraumilch (“milk of Our Lady”) came from the church cloister vineyards of Peter Josef Valckenberg. Valckenberg founded his winery in the city of Worms on the banks of the Rhine in 1786, and his wine was a huge hit all over Europe. Around the year 1900 in London, Valckenberg’s Original Liebfraumilch sold for the same prices as Chateaux Margaux! This 2005 Madonna Auslese from the same producer, honors that tradition of well-made, sweet white wines that are now popular around the world. The 10% alcohol level leaves a bit of residual sugar, making this a sweet style Riesling to go with spicy foods…or just because you like it that way. It’s way better than Zeller Schwartze Katz!
Domaine de Granajolo Vermentinu 2006 (Corsica, France) – Reg. $17.25/ Feature Price $13.80
André Boucher reclaimed the 25 hectares (62 acres) of his Domaine de Granajolo from the wild Corsican maquis, the famous local bushland, in 1978. The vineyard he planted is located at the south end of the island and is cultivated according to the rules set by the International organic agricultural Fédération Nature et Decouverte. As a result, no fertilizers, no weed killers, and no insecticides are used.
The vines, planted on hills, grow in an extremely dry micro-climate purified by sea winds and are from traditional varieties, like this Vermentinu. Vermentinu is a grape that has been cultivated for thousands of years and probably originated in Greece and Turkey. This wine is marked by an intense bouquet of tropical fruits and finishes with a persistent aftertaste of almonds and apple. We are very pleased to introduce you to this stunning new wine from Bourgeois Family Selections. It’s a beautiful addition to your feasting table.
Kellerei Kaltern Gewürztraminer 2005 (Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy) – Reg. $19.50/ Feature Price $15.60
The Gewürztraminer (guh-VERTS-trah-mee-ner) grape has been planted for thousands of years and is said to have originated in the village of Tramin high on the Italian-Austrian border. Which is exactly where this wine is from. The “gewürtz” part of the name is the German word for “spiced.” The wines are highly fragrant of flowers and such spices as cloves and nutmeg. This is an unusual style of wine (and a difficult name to pronounce), but if you like it, you’ll be amazed at how well it goes with roast fowl (turkey, anyone?) , smoked salmon, oysters, paté…and the whole gamut of holiday feasts.
Cuvee Number Eight (Marlborough, New Zealand) – Reg. $29.85/ Feature Price $23.88
Many of you have had the #1 Cuvee from this producer, a lovely all-Chardonnay sparkler that has become our go-to wine for celebrations. Now we’ve got this new Cuvee (“blend”) that is 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, making it an even better feast partner than the #1. The predominance of Pinot Noir gives the wine a lovely salmon color that will look great on your holiday table. Finished off with a festive label in red and gold, this will also make a very nice holiday gift.
Schumann-Nägler Cuvée Reingau Riesling 2005 (Rheingau, Germany) – Reg. $21.95/ Feature Price $17.56
We were surprised to find this one – a dry sparkling Riesling. The whole crew agreed that this was a great food wine. It doesn’t have the fussiness (or the price) that some Champagnes have. It’s 12.5% alcohol, which is a good level for a dinner wine that you’ll want to drink several glasses of (to wash down your turkey). Serve it in regular wine glasses instead of flutes, at a temperature of about 50° (take it out of the refrigerator a half hour before serving).
Gnarly Head Cab 2005 (California) – Reg. $11.25/ Feature Price $9.00
When we first introduced the Gnarly Head Old Vines Zinfandel, it quickly won a large following. Now we’ve got a Cab from the same producers and, like its sibling, this one has depth and body that belies its relatively low price. Pair this one with a big stew or pot roast and watch the smile on the face of your “I only drink California Cab” brother-in-law.
Taltarni Three Monks Cabernet Merlot 2004 (Victoria, Australia) – Reg. $16.50/ Feature Price $13.20
Sometimes the big Aussie Shiraz’ are just too in your face to pair with anything less than a fruit-stuffed pork tenderloin. When they blend Cabernet and Merlot, though, the result is comfortable with whatever you’ve got on your table. The shadows of the three monks recount the story of Taltarni’s three winemakers lurking in the darkness of the Taltarni catacombs diligently crafting this wine. Three Monks Cabernet Merlot 2004 combines fruit sourced from cool climate regions of Victoria’s Pyrenees and Strathbogie Ranges. The Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) gives the wine a firm backbone with soft dusty tannins on the finish. The Merlot (30%) adds a delicious plumy note. We are very thankful to the winemakers for their monkish endeavors.
Chateau de Colombiere Vinum Negrette 2005 (Fronton, Southwest France) – Reg. $17.85/ Feature Price $14.28
This is not only a new wine for us (another one from Phillipe Bourgeois); it’s also a new wine region. Fronton is in the Southwest of France, near the city of Toulouse, on the hillsides of the river Tarn. The region specializes in wines of a unique grape, Negrette. Negrette is a close relative of the Mavro grape that is indigenous to the island of Cyprus and was brought to the southwest of France by Knights Hospitaller in the 12 Century, after the Second Crusade. The wine has a flavor I’ve never run into before. It’s a dark purple in color, with a dry acidity on the finish. Very much like a Pinot Noir, but with a black currant note rather than the red fruits we often like in Pinot Noir. This will be a great food wine and will be very adaptable. And I admit I like the doves on the label. May you have a peaceful holiday feast.
Chateau de Raousset Chiroubles 2003 (Beaujolais, France) – Reg. $20.00/ Feature Price $16.00
No holiday feasting selection would be complete without a Beaujolais, the classic pairing with ham and turkey. This is not the lightweight “Beaujolais Nouveau” that in America is mostly a marketing gimmick. The Chateau de Raousset, which started making wine in 1850, is one notch above all the commercial brands. Like all top quality Beaujolais, the Gamay grapes spend 10 days in carbonic maceration (in which whole grapes are fermented without crushing) to give pigmentation to the wine. The wine of Chateau de Raousset then spends 8 months in big barrels before being bottled. This is where it eliminates its original acidity while keeping an ethereal fruitiness and aromas of violets. The summer of 2003 was very hot in France, so the vineyard yield was only half of what’s usual, leaving the surviving grapes with a surprising amount of flavor and power. That means the 2003 vintage Beaujolais is rich and full-bodied and much sought after.
Sierra Cantabria Cuvee Especial 2003 (Rioja, Spain) – Reg. $26.50/ Feature Price $21.20
Knowing my soft spot for Spanish wines, it won’t surprise you that we’ve included a big red from Rioja. I’ve often told people Yvonne’s and my favorite food red is the Rioja Crianza from Sierra Cantabria. Now I’ll have to add this “Cuvee Especial” (“Special Blend”) to my favorites list. The “blend” is from various vineyards, not different grapes. The wine is all Tempranillo, but it’s made in a very full-bodied International style that will appeal to drinkers of California wines. There’s nothing delicate about this one, so it can stand up to everything a Thanksgiving feast can throw at it without losing its Iberian cool.
Try it…you’ll like it.