The holidays are here, a special time of the year to celebrate with friends and family — all the excitement of catching up on the new and the old, football scores, latest movies and a much anticipated holiday dinner along with great wine. Whether you favor a riotous sports enthusiast crowd or an urbane gathering, this is the time of year for food and wine lovers to entertain. There are four to five preferred grape varietals that will take you through the beginning, middle and end of your holiday feast. Two red grapes are Gamay, from the Beaujolais area of France, and Pinot Noir from your favorite region. The whites include Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay. Beaujolais Nouveau is a light and fruity wine that is released once a year on the third Thursday of November, just in time for the holidays. The light-bodied Gamay grape of Beaujolais offers an easy drinking style and a great start to your dinner. The fresh and lively acidity will carry you into the heart of the meal as it pairs well with the main components of a traditional turkey dinner. It is recommended that the Beaujolais Nouveau be served with a slight chill at 52 degrees and consumed within the first two to six months of the current vintage.
Another great option is Beaujolais-Villages, typically a medium- to full-bodied wine that can vary in weight and intensity. The Jean-Marc Burgaud Beaujolais-Villages from the Burgundy region of France offers suppleness on the palate and flavors of dried raspberry and black cherry combining with wild marjoram notes accenting the constituent cranberries. Recommended serving temperature for Beaujolais-Villages is slightly warmer than Nouveau at 56 to 57 degrees. Pinot Noir is another favored varietal for the holiday feast. Because of the body, structure (light soft tannin) and red or black fruit flavor components, almost all Pinot Noir styles, regardless of origin, will pair nicely with turkey and accompaniments. California and Oregon Pinot Noirs can offer bright red chewy flavors of raspberry, cranberry and cherry, although some may be more “forest floor” and earthy in style. Fiddlehead “728” Pinot Noir 2007 is an exciting option, as it can be a lively topic of discussion. The winery is mentioned in the movie Sideways. From the Santa Maria Valley, California, where the mountains run uniquely east to west, “728” is the mile marker driving in from the coast, where the vineyard is located. Flavors of the wine include black fruit delivering alluring blackberry and black cherry alongside raspberry, with violet and hints of plum notes rippling through the lengthy, rich and luscious finish. Check out the website of the Fiddlehead winery for more facts and details about this wine.
From Willamette Valley, the Rapture Ridge Winery offers a true Oregon Pinot Noir (2009) with panache. From a family-owned and small-production winery, this wine offers a lively display of Bing cherries and Damson plums dancing alongside soft and graceful tannins, finishing with hints of vanilla, cassis and red licorice. Both of these wines are prestigious in pedigree and price, but well worth the special occasion of bringing together family and friends. Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir 2010, from the south of France, is an exciting Old World option. It’s definitely a value, with layers upon layers of complexity and jam-packed with flavor. Fresh, luscious black and red fruits tinged with rose petal accents offer a complete and satisfying Pinot Noir experience. For your white wine options, Gewurztraminers or Rieslings are a good bet. Typically high in acidity, with a light and easy drinking style, these grapes are a nice parallel as they possess adequate richness and depth of character that complement the holiday fare without overpowering it.
Gewurztraminer wines are typically very aromatic and suitably grown in cool climates — a naturally high sugar and acidity style with a common bouquet of lychees. Roses, passion fruit and other floral notes can also be found as a common trait of this grape varietal, which occasionally offers spritz or fine bubbles on the inside of the glass. J & H Selbach Riesling from Germany is another holiday favorite. It’s crisp and refreshing, offering an effusive aroma of peaches and apricots, luscious tropical fruits of mango and pineapple mid-palate, finishing with concentrated nectarine and a racy mineral component. A California Chardonnay that is fruit-forward in style can also make a great pairing. Bishop’s Peak 2009 from the Talley vineyards located in the central coast AVA (American Viticultural Area) is medium-bodied and produced entirely from hand-harvested Chardonnay grapes grown in the Talley family’s vineyards. The 2009 vintage offers unique orange blossom with hints of green apple and other tropical fruits. The lively acidity can cut through the weighty portion of the dinner while not overpowering the lighter fare of turkey. The 2010 vintage is similar in style with a bit more green apple and pear components. Hawkes “Home” Chardonnay from the Alexander Valley area of Sonoma is a full-bodied fruit-forward style with soft nuances of sweet Hungarian oak. The Hawkes Home Chardonnay offers a tremendous depth of character and flavor, displaying refinement and elegance. Mid-palate tropical fruits lead to an exciting finish with a defining mineral component around the pear and green apple. The Alexander Valley area is one of the paramount areas for producing world-renowned Chardonnay. The Hawes “Home” Chardonnay is a limited production wine of less than 500 cases (current vintages are 2008 and 2009).
Whether hosting or traveling to visit friends and family, take some time to enjoy your favorite wine and celebrate this joyful time of year.