Food & Wine at Holiday Time

December is upon us and the time for season celebrations abounds. With friends, family, and co-workers, it’s time to set the table. It’s time to enjoy one another and toast to the season! Wine is a welcome addition to the holiday table.

As a starter, sparkling wines set a festive spirit and brighten any event. There are several types of sparkling wines, and their bubbles will set the stage for a festive mood. They can be modest in price or expensive. One of my favorites is Prosecco, ranging in price from $10 to $25. I have a preference for Ruffino. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine and can be quite lovely and modest in price. There are several California producers of sparkling wine such as Roederer Estate and Mumm. Of course, there is always Champagne. This is the proper name for sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France. One of my favorites is Veuve Clicquot Brut. And, of course, one could always splurge on a bottle of Dom Perignon.

A better question might be, what about the meal itself? What should be served that best pairs with the main course? Let’s look at a few options.

Riesling is a wonderful partner for rich, gamey birds such as duck or goose. It’s a counter balance to rich, salty meats and meat treatments like ham, sausage or charcuterie. The wine tastes like fruits – peaches and apricots – and has great acidity. Rieslings run from dry to very sweet, so make sure you find one with the appropriate level of residual sugar. One of my favorites is Kabinett from Mosel Germany. Kabinett refers to the amount of residual sugar in the wine that makes it slightly sweet and delightfully easy to drink.

Gewurztraminer is a classic dry white wine that works well with rich dishes and rich fowl such as goose, duck, and turkey. A perfect match whether the prep is classic holiday or more like curried duck with lemon, honey and ginger. The nose on this wine is big – roses, lychees, gingerbread, orange marmalade, fruit-cocktail syrup. Even with the sweetness of aroma, the wine is dry and naturally low in acid.

Viognier works as well to highlight the main course. It offers up stone and tree fruit flavors and can be enjoyed young. It partners well with holiday foods – especially goose, turkey and honey glazed ham. The wine is usually full-bodied with apricot, honeysuckle and gingerbread aromas and flavors.

If you haven’t tried these wines before, please do. Get some help in making sure you get a good example of the varietal. The joy of wine is in the exploration.

Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Wine of the Year for 2017!

This year’s wine of the year from Wine Spectator is Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Three Palms Vineyard!  Congratulations to the fine winery and winemaker!

Each year Wine Spectator chooses the top 100 wines from the thousands of wines they taste.  This year alone, the writers of the magazine and staff tasted through over 5000 wines as they endeavored to provide reviews and synopses of the wines for their monthly publication.

The magazine has three overarching criteria in the process for wines selected to the list.  One is production size.  The wine should be available and in sufficient quantities to provide availability to consumers.  The second is price point.  The wines are well priced and provide value for the consumer.  These two are very reasonable approaches.  The third factor is their “WOW” factor.  How does the wine impress — does it provide a memorable experience and impact for the drinker.  This third criterion surely allows for great interpretation, yet great wine really does impress and create an impact.  Most of you will remember that wine that really wowed you.  And so it is that Wine Spectator annually provides their list of the top wines from the year.

Before you say, “Merlot?,” let me say that this expression of the varietal is particularly noteworthy.  I was first introduced to the wine in the early 2000s. At that point in time, Merlot was not one of my preferences, yet this wine was a stunner.  So much so, I introduced it to many friends who were impressed.

The 2014 Three Palms Merlot is comprised of 86 percent Merlot, 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 4 percent Malbec and 2 percent Petit Verdot. All the fruit for the wine comes from the 73-acre Three Palms vineyard, 50 acres of which are planted to Merlot.  The Three Palms Vineyard is so named for the three palm trees that stand out and preside over the vineyard. Renee Ary is the winemaker of this fine wine.  It is her first vintage as the head winemaker, and she should be very proud of the accomplishment.

By now, the entire Top 100 wines have been revealed and are available for you to peruse. Visit Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines to check it out.


Wine Country Fires

It’s been a while since my last blog. A lot has happened since the first of October. It was not anything I anticipated. Moving to wine country was the dream and never did I ever envision what ignited on the night of October 8th. It was supposed to be four days of family and visits throughout the valley to enjoy fine food and wine. As you are very much aware, that could not happen with the wildfires that broke out. The Diablo winds ripped through the valley and left real tragedy in its path. With speeds of up to 70 miles an hour, the winds pushed the fire and sent many scrambling for safety. 43 people lost their lives, and thousands lost their homes. We were fortunate – evacuated, yet returned home to only ash clean-up.

Thanks to first responders and firefighters, much remains the same in the valley. The valley is open for visitors and ready to make everyone who comes feel welcome. The countryside is still beautiful, and one would not necessarily even see the path the fires took during a visit to the wine country.

One of the most amazing things, though, is the real resilience of wine country. There is a strong sense of community and a commitment to help each other through. It is not like anything I have been present to living in the suburbs and the city. People quickly band together to help each other out and move forward. Charity is very palpable in the valley, and it is a real gift in this day and age.

There is much work to be done and you can help out in many ways:

  • Come visit and enjoy the hospitality of Napa and Sonoma.
  • Buy Napa and Sonoma wines where you live or order from your favorite winery.
  • Donate to charities. CaliforniaVolunteers, in the Office of the Governor, has created a list of organizations accepting charitable contributions to assist those affected by the October wildfires.

Wine country is open and welcoming visitors. The fall colors are on display – beautiful shades of red and rust and green. The rains have already soaked the ground and Mother Nature is alive with color. This is an opportunity to have a great time and make a difference for a community.

Come and Enjoy!