Here we are on the eve, or nearly on the eve, of the Christmas and New Year holidays. Many of us entertain at this time of year. The gatherings are much fun with ample opportunity to roll out great wine choices, regardless of your budget. Here are some of our favorites that will help you impress your guests and also give you great enjoyment too.
Nicholas Feuillatte holds the unique distinction of being the best selling Champagne in France and remains one of the Champagne properties that is family owned. For sometime I have had reservations about the bubbly; I just didn’t fine the wine to be compelling. I recently had the chance to retry the wines and was thoroughly impressed! The non-vintage Brut ($45, wine club price $40.50) is just delightful for all your holiday toasts. The bubbles are fine and tight and the palate is dry and noted with apple and broiled citrus. Whether you dress it up and serve it with caviar or just use it for a group toast, you will not be disappointed.
Many of us are a bit intimidated by opening a Champagne bottle. Here are a couple of pointers. Champagne bottles should not “pop” when you open them. You should gradually ease out the cork so it just emits a light “fizz” sound. You do this by gripping the cork with your thumb over the top and gently turning the base of the bottle. If your hand strength or dexterity is limited you can also get a Champagne cork remover that helps with the grip. We sell them for $18.95.
Whether you will be having it with your Christmas Eve Dungeness crab salad or as a white alternative to your main event on Christmas day, Chardonnay is a go to pick. Both the Truchard from the Napa side of Carneros ($35, wine club price $31.50) or the Ryan Patrick Reserve from Washington ($30, wine club price $27) are great choices. Both wines have butter and oak notes that we crave from the varietal along with nice acid for a clean finish. The Ryan Patrick has a bit higher acid while the Truchard is softer and rounder, but both are delicious.
If you have guests who crave a more crisp white wine, then Chardonnay the Gavi di Gavi from Enrico Serafino ($20, wine club price $18) is a wonderful wine. Gavi is the varietal and the appellation in Northern Italy. The wine has salinity and citrus flavors with wonderful texture, making it an exceptional wine, especially with shellfish or as a lighter-bodied aperitif.
For those who will be serving turkey or other poultry over the holidays, the natural pairing is Pinot Noir. The varietal remains one of our favorites, so we always have ample choices. The Russian River Valley of California and the Carneros region remain our preferred appellations offering generous fruit along with mild earthiness and in some cases a bit of spice. The 2013 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir ($45, wine club price $40.50) is the standout of the Pinot Noir we carry. The fruit acid balance, perfect palate weight and silky mouthfeel are without compare.
For those entertaining a larger crowd and needing a more gently priced alternative the 2015 Annabella Pinot Noir ($22, wine club price $19.80) is a great choice, with lush cherry noted fruit and great balance.
If you are serving beef, the natural choice is Cabernet or a Cabernet or Merlot based blend. We recently added the 2015 Amavi Cabernet ($40, wine club price $36) from Walla Walla. Amavi is part of the Pepperbridge family of wines made by Jean-Francois Pellet and in our opinion offers some of the best Washington has to offer. The wine is elegant and exquisitely balanced, offering ample but well integrated tannin to serve with a rich meal like prime rib or filet.
The 2017 vintage of the Raymond Field Blend ($15, wine club price $13.50) is a great choice in Cabernet based blend to satisfy a crowd at the holidays. Dense rich fruit, mild tannins and a smooth delivery make it a perfect wine with many foods, and all at a crowd-pleasing price.
The choices of wines for your holiday entertaining are thankfully many! Stop by the shop and we will help you find the perfect wine for your event!
• • •
George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.