Anyone that’s a fan of the winery has seen their poster…”Times fun when you’re having flies”. This article starts my second year of contributing articles to Explore (Thank you Ben for this ongoing opportunity).
It’s sorta hard to accept the fact that it’s been a whole year later, but here we are with cool weather and the Holidays right around the corner…we’ve even had some rain. And once again I hope to make the Holidays a little easier, at least in terms of wines for the Holiday dinners.
So this is the time of the year to head to your favorite wine guy (or gal) with your list of wines for your family gatherings. The rules haven’t really changed that much since last year’s article…maybe a new vintage or label or two for you to consider.
Purchase the wines you like…you know the crowd coming, and which wines they like.
Ask for your discount…most times dependent on the number of bottles. October, November, and December generally have the best prices of the year…stock-up if you can. There is no downside to having too much of your favorite wines.
If you are looking for a special wine or especially a large format (1.5 liter or larger) for still and sparkling wines, please make sure to give your favorite retailer enough time to order these for you. Nothing makes a dramatic impact on a dinner table than a big bottle. 1.5 liter (Magnum) is the equivalent of two regular sized 750ml bottles. A special touch that makes the bottle and dinner more memorable is using one of the special pens (try Moon Mippy in Boerne) that can write on glass to have everyone attending sign the bottle with.
Coming off Texas Wine Month in October, there are more and better Texas wines to grace your table this year. The bulk of the wineries are located just outside of Fredericksburg, between Stonewall and Johnson City (remember to use the FM 1376 shortcut from Boerne) Two of the newest to grace the Texas 290 wine trail are Hawks Shadow and Lewis Cellars. I had the opportunity to taste some of their newest releases, and was very impressed. Not the easiest to find as they are both so new, but very much worth the effort…here are numbers and web-sites…
The basic outline I use is pretty much the same…pick your favorite recipes, outline your meal from apps (not applications but appetizers) to dessert and then start pairing your wines. I still believe starting with champagne/sparkling wine is a great way to make before the meal a very social time…it adds that certain sparkle to the meal as guests arrive, and it’s also an excellent palate cleanser! Entrée pairing follows the #1 rule in wine, which is basically that there are no rules when it comes to wine and food pairing. The basic premise for red and white offers a great starting point, but step out of your comfort zone…try some of the newer “discovery” varietals and regions. I read an article that added an interesting twist to the progression quandary…they suggested “Humble to the Best”. This holiday season, I plan to use this for my selections…spoiler alert to our dinner guests…we’ll probably have only one great bottle to share at the end, but plenty of good wine before! Lastly, let’s look at the dessert course. The dessert wine is a greta way to get those special people that make these meals (spouse, mom, partner, etc.) out of the kitchen and back to the table. Just remember the sugar content on these late harvest still or sparking dessert wines is pretty high, and adjust your serving size accordingly. Definitely something to sip slowly, and savor.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and of course the big birds generally gets top billing whether it’s baked or fried. Ham is also a perennial favorite, but let’s keep other options open from the pork, beef and lamb food groups. One trend that I thought was interesting was an Italian-style Turkey. Same baked or fried, but with interesting sides…think risotto instead of mashed potatoes, vegetable sautéed with olive oil…you get the idea. Have fun and be creative, especially the dessert course. Look at some of the Tex-Ital wines from Grape Creek for some great pairing options (www.grapecreek.com) Chardonnay is the traditional favorite for the feast, but there are also some very nice Sauvignon Blancs (sometimes labeled as Fume Blanc…same grape), Gewürztraminers, and drier Rieslings that will work very well. Pinot Noir is a great alternative for turkey for the red wine group. One last red suggestion for an interesting red and that is the Nouveau Beaujolais. This will be the first grapes harvested for the new vintage, and is traditionally released the third Thursday of November worldwide. Now there are some wine lovers who dismiss this wine as just fermented grape juice (isn’t that what Ch. Petrus essentially is too….fermented grapejuice), but I think it offers a beautifully light, fruit forward wine that pairs beautifully with turkey or pork. This is the wine for those people who have never had a red wine, or think reds are too bitter (acidic). It is a great introductory red wine for the novice. The actual availability of the Nouveau is pretty short time period, but the good news is it’s year round availability under the Beaujolais or Beaujolais Village designation. There are several great shippers (negociant), but I’ve always had great success with George Duboeuf (thanks Brian for the reminder).
As we move to the Christmas season, the weather definitely gets cooler, hopefully there is continued precipitation (the rain variety…not the white, fluffy stuff), and the entrée sources become more myriad. What a rich bounty to choose from…beef, ham, turkey, lamb, great wild game, and fresh gulf seafood. Is it any wonder that we chose this place to live? And since this is Texas, these choices coincide pretty well with smoking or grilling. Red meats generally call for a rich robust red. Great choices are out there in the Cabernet, Merlot, and Pinot camps. Kim (McPherson Cellars) offers that his Rousanne is a great white for Holiday entertaining , and his Tre Colore is a very unique red blend to dazzle your out of state guests. Great alternative offering are wine from Spain, Argentina, Italy, and Australia/New Zealand. Discover these new varietals that include Tempranillo, Garnacha/Grenache, Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz, Sangiovese, etc. A quick plug for the Beaujolais region. Remember the Nouveau mentioned for Thanksgiving? This wine will still work for your Christmas dinner. In fact, many of my customers from Mexico buy this by the case, and use it for all three Holiday meals. And for those wanting something a little richer and more complex, consider the great Cru Beaujolais…think Nouveau on steroids. There are 10 different styles (from 10 different villages or cru’s) that offer a great range of styles and tastes. Your favorite wine shop, or wine guy or gal can provide more information and recommendations.
Lastly as we come to the end of the busy holiday, we finish with New Years dinner. Each year brings an accumulation of memories that makes it a magical time. The innocence of our children is balanced with the wisdom of our elders. It is a special time for family and friends, rich in remembrances of places and events this past year. Nothing goes better with family and friends than good food and wine. All of the entree suggestions listed above work seamlessly with this celebration, but there seems to be more of an emphasis on apps (yes the other one…Appetizers, not applications for your phone or computer), and especially champagne….lotsa champagne. And a personal recommendation for an entrée suggestion based on using this recipe…Jean Yves Osso Bucco (please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for your copy, and thank you Hefe for sharing)…what an exotic way to celebrate New Years dinner. And each New Years brings us that fresh start, a new beginning for plans, goals, and resolutions. The very essence of wine that it is never static, but always evolving and changing for the better….new vintages, winemakers, regions, and varietals… a real sense of new discoveries. Step out of your comfort zone…if you buy domestic, try an import…red wine drinker, try a white. Discover the ABC wines (anything but chardonnay for the white lovers, and anything but cabernet for the red lovers)….Torrontes, Viognier, Tannat, Sangiovese, Riesling, Moscato, Malbec, Vermentino, Tempranillo, Grenache…the list is ongoing. And please remember that Champagne (or sparkling wine) is not just for celebrations, but is an excellent food wine. Its complexity using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as its main grapes makes it perfect to pair with a variety of foods. Last year we talked about finishing these great meals with a nice port, coffee, and possibly a good cigar. We covered the Ruby and Tawny styles, along with the LBV, and vintage port styles. I got some great feedback on other ways to finish, including some fantastic single malt Scotches. Other suggestions were some of the small batch Bourbons and Tequilas (Thank you John and Dr. for that feedback ).
Again this Holiday season, my thoughts are again very rich with memories of spouses, children, friends, and extended family. My shared thought again with all of you whom I’ve known through the years is heartfelt blessings as we reflect on all we have to be thankful for, celebrate the joys of giving, and hopes for continued blessings in the New Years.
A special toast to all of you…may your paths be straight, may the wind always be at your back, and may the land rise to meet you!