Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wine for the holidays

Even though it's late October, thoughts around casa Corkdork are turning to the holidays; partly because November also happens to be my father's birthday, partly because it's the time when we start considering "hey, what should we have with Thanksgiving dinner?"  There'll have to be at least 7 bottles purchased for gifting/celebrating this year -- two for Thanksgiving dinner, two for Christmas Eve, one for Dad's birthday, and two more for Christmas presents.  Oh, and something to ring in the new year with.

There's food to pair with, people's flavor preferences (and dislikes!) to work around, and gift-presentation thoughts to consider!  What is a wine afficianado to do?!

The current thinking is running something like this:
  • For Thanksgiving, we traditionally have two bottles; a sparkling wine and a red with dinner.  For the bubbly, I have to say I love Cava, both for it's affordability (hey, they're all under $25 at my local wine store, and most are under $10, including my two favorites, Conde de Caralt and Rondel), and it's zesty flavor -- the perfect thing to start a meal with.
  • For dinner, we traditionally have a Pinot Noir, and this year will probably be no different -- Pinot is versatile enough to work with the variety of foods on the table, and it's cranberry notes are a natural choice.  In the past, we've had Oregon and Russian River Pinot, but this year I think we may go for Burgundy, with the Chateau Chamirey Mercury Rouge 2005 (under $40) -- I got to try it twice this past weekend, once newly-opened and once with some air, and it's evolution was wonderful.  Newly-opened, it's fresh and fruity, but with some air, complexity is added, with earthiness and minerality underpinning the ripe fruit.
  • My father loves reds and steak, so the natural thought there is a wine to go with steak.  He especially loves California Cabernet and Chateau Neuf du Pape, and those fit quite well in that milleu.  Since his birthday is in November, he'll get two bottles this season; probably one of each.  The current thinking is something from Martin Ray for the California Cab -- Dad's a big fan of their Stag's Leap and Diamond Mountain District cabs -- and a 2006 Chateau Neuf du Pape ('05 was a better year in the Southern Rhone, perfect for laying down for a couple years, but '06 is ready to drink young, and Dad doesn't hold onto wine long).  Another possibility would be a bottle from Von Strasser -- I know Dad's not had anything from them before, but they're excellent.  In all three cases, the presentation is part of the key -- the bottle looks good, as well as having good juice inside it.
  • Not unlike with Thanksgiving, we start Christmas eve with bubbles, but generally Champagne.  Here, I'll look for a grower-maker wine -- it'll be a treat, pretty much regardless of what I pick.  Currently, I'm leaning towards a vintage 2000  Pertois-Moriset -- not as great of a year as 1996, but still quite good, and very tasty.
  • Christmas Eve dinner traditionally consists of a roast of beef with lots of garlic and herbs.  I've got my eye on a very small-production Barolo (200 cases made, from a single vineyard), which will get a full decanting treatment, as we'll be drinking it young -- Barolo is notoriously long-lived.
  • My fiancee loves Italian wines, and while a Barolo would make a great gift, she doesn't hold onto wine for more than a year, so a mature Brunello makes sense; there's lots of 2000's still out there, and even some '99's.  In fairness, since I'll likely be consuming the wine with her, it makes sense to pick out something I like too, and I love Brunello.
  • Finally, to ring in the new year, something sweet (hopefully a harbinger of the year to come).  Demi-sec Champagne comes to mind -- it's much better for drinking on it's own than a brut -- and one of my favorite grower-makers has just the answer...  Franck Bonville's nonvintage Demi-sec (which they don't mention on their website -- hopefully it's not out of production!).
So, what can we learn from this list?  Well, for one, that I tend to spend about $40 on a bottle of wine for a gift (more or less, but everything averages out around $40 here).  Additionally, the perfect gift for one person may not be perfect for another -- while my fiancee might enjoy the Von Strasser or Martin Ray, she'll love a Brunello, and my father might like a Brunello, but he loves California Cab.  Additionally, it's not necessary to go to one of the major, spendy bottles for a gift (that's, of course, if you can find them -- there's not a lot of cult Brunello for sale in my area); a good gift of good wine, even if it's not from a "name brand" winery, will be appreciated -- and, may, in fact, be better (as the "name brand" wine charges a surcharge for the name!  To wit, I think the Von Strasser Sori Bricco cabernet is the equal of Diamond Creek's Red Rock Terrace, and it's half the price).  Finally, traditions are hard to break; we've had Champagne for probably 20 years for Christmas, and that's probably not going to change any time soon.  So go with it!

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