Can it really be holiday season already? Time flies when you’re having fun, or at least when you stay really busy like many of us in the Washington metro area. It’s definitely been fun for me writing this column and sharing information about wine with WashingtonExec readers.
In that spirit, I’ve gone back into my files from Christmases past to share some past holiday wine favorites. These bottles have been strong performers for me, and I hope they can complement your table this season.
Last year we enjoyed a different kind of Italian wine over the holidays. It was a Prunotto Mompertone 2006, a Barbera/Syrah blend from the Piedmont region of Italy. We’d never had a Barbera blend before, and it was very enjoyable. The wine had a fresh, earthy nose and the trademark tart cherry fruit we expect from a Barbera. The Syrah added some body and richness not usually typical in a Barbera, and for us the package worked very nicely. The wine wasn’t light or heavy, and was a good match for our dinners.
We’ve also enjoyed the Cesari 2008 Mara Ripasso. It opens with a strong, alcoholic bouquet but drank very smoothly. It had more body and texture than a Valpolicella thanks to increased contact with the grape skins, with a tart pucker on the finish.
Readers of this column know I’m a fan of wines from the Rhone region of France. A consistent performer has been the Liracs from Alain Jaume, like the 2006 Alain Jaume Clos Sixte Lirac. This area is very close to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and delivers a rich, “Old World” style wine. The power of the wine varies from year to year but it’s consistently high quality.
Another good one is the Le Clos des Cazaux 2007 Vacqueyras. It delivers a lot of big, blackberry fruit and equally big tannins that balance each other nicely. The wine is fifty percent Grenache and fifty percent Syrah. There was a minerally and earthy note on the finish, along with some smokiness.
A nice holiday Chateauneuf du Pape would be the Paul Autard Chateauneuf du Pape, we’ve enjoyed both the 2006 and the 2007 (a fantastic year for Rhones).
If California is your preferred wine region, you might want to seek out Turnbull wines. These were a hit in 2010, we enjoyed both their Cabernet Sauvignon and the Old Bull blend.
Avenel Cellars Napa Red is a Cabernet led Bordeaux blend that Total Wine introduced me to a few years back. It’s a relatively light bodied, very flavorful wine that really pops on your palate. There’s a lot of cherry fruit, with tannins that give a bite without being overly tart.
Pinot Noir can be the perfect red wine for a holiday meal featuring fish or lighter fare. A good one to try could be from Lemelson vineyards, the 2010 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir. This wine is from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, with a traditional Pinot nose of greens and herbs. Very light colored and bodied but with very nice structure, with assertive strawberry fruit and balanced acidity. A very good Oregon Pinot that tastes way above its $30 price point.
So, what about something for white wine drinkers? I’m usually a red drinker but last year we enjoyed a different kind of white over our holiday break. It was the 2007 Bonterra Voignier and could be a nice change from the typical Chardonnay.
The wine has a very juicy, melon-y nose with some peach as well on the palate. It’s light bodied, with good acidity keeping the fruit in balance. There’s a rather sharp tartness on the finish. The wine has small amounts of three other grapes — Marsanne, Roussane and Muscat. A similar wine from France is the 2010 J.V. Fleury Cotes du Rhone.
For those scrambling to finish holiday preparations, I hope this list is helpful. Holiday time off can be a good opportunity to explore what your palate is for wine, to discover what you like. Wine is supposed to be fun after all, and no one knows what you like but you.
If you discover a new favorite, I’d like to hear about it. Have a very Merry New Year!
Read Parente’s previous column:2009 Petit Cateaux Bordeaux Delivers Fantastic Value on WashingtonExec.
Christopher Parente is managing director and partner of Strategic Communications Group, a social media and public relations consultancy based in Silver Spring, Maryland and Tysons Corner, Virginia. He also publishes Work, Wine and Wheels, a top 100K web site in the United States as measured by Alexa, an online measurement company. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter.