Wines For The Holidays


It always makes me chuckle this time of year when A Christmas Carol is shown for the millionth time on TV and all sorts of black and white movies suddenly appear, depicting the Dickensian tale in various guises. It makes me fall off my perch with laughter when the Ancient Movie Channels show old flicks set in World War II London, with everyone speaking with clipped upper class accents. Then there are the Sherlock Holmes sagas (Rathbone’s versions) with fogs swirling and mustachioed fiends presenting themselves as princes, lords or some such upper tier of the landed gentry set.  Today, of course. Lords are mostly rock opera impresarios and the only peers of any note are spelled piers and you have a walk along them looking down at the ocean.

The US and the UK once separated by a common language are now pretty identical. Same stores along the high street, same Starbucks serving same cappuccinos, same ole same ole. Thanks to the European Community laws (pre-Brexit), red telephone boxes are the wrong color, double decker buses too high and policeman’s helmets plain silly looking. It’s enough to make a grown man tear off his slippers, tread on his pipe and sack the downstairs servants. However, one is truly thankful for the odd morsel of old Britain – lavish annual rituals drizzled with a little sentiment. The annual Harrods’ Christmas catalogue was always delivered to my letterbox, without fanfare or tugging at the forelocks. It just appeared, as it had for countless years, filled with delicacies and quaffs fit for self proclaimed queens and lesser mortals than Elton John. But now, it’s instantaneous gratification simply by going to: The online catalogue is crammed with some astonishing Christmas hampers, which really switch the saliva glands to maximum throttle. Of course, nothing matches the olfactory experience of walking into the great store’s Food Hall where all the senses are mesmerized by the melding of fruits and cheeses and breads and meats and fish and every type of food known to man. But in a very distant second place, is the opportunity to ponder the many Holiday gift items available at the Harrods on-line store. I’m just going to mention a couple for no other reason than the off-chance one of my readers might wine the NJ Lottery and feel inclined to order me a Christmas gift! In which case, can I recommend (and request) “The Decadence Hamper” from Harrods? A mere snip at £20,000 (the exchange rate is wildly fluctuating right now but it’s around $25,000). It contains some of the finest wines from the greatest vintages along with the best cheeses, smoked salmon, caviar and … I’m not here to promote Harrods, but it’s a great read if you want to enjoy life in the manner of a Lord or Lady, vicariously through the catalog.

For those of us who live on planet Earth, the Holiday season is always predictable. And Procrastinate is the most used verb, this time of year, to describe the average shopper’s intensions for buying gifts. And, of course, the meal itself served either on Christmas Day or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or any other Holidays being observed is also pretty predictable. The ONLY aspect of this season, which isn’t predictable, is the choice of wine to either gift or serve. Which leads me nicely into my Holiday Cheer Column for this year. Here are some quaffing and gifting wines, which come under the category of: “Most Awesome”.

Viansa Sonoma is a stunning winery perched atop the summit of Sonoma Valley, California. Check it out online. Gorgeous! And I had the good fortune of sampling a pair of their wines recently which will be stellar accompaniments to your Holiday meal, or again, as a gift:

Viansa Sonoma Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 (Approx: $28) is the perfect wine for Pinot groupies who will adore this 100% Pinot Noir. The perfume you get from a couple of swirls in the glass is just like sitting in a garden of berries in the summer. Typical of a young Pinot yet this one is 3 years old so there’s life in it’s engine yet. This is most definitely a Pinot Noir I would chuck into the fridge for 10 minutes for a super-amazing flavor experience. And the flavor is dark and plummy and yummy.

Viansa Sonoma Gewurztraminer 2015 (Approx: $48) is a beaut! To some extent it’s text book with the typical character profile of perfume you enjoy when walking into a florist’s shop and those passion fruit and lychee flavors. But I also tasted some tropical fruit notes in this wine and it is definitely a two-glasser quaffer.

Viansa Sonoma wines are NOT available in stores so you have to buy them online:

Since I received some amazing responses from my last column for a wine I only recently discovered and fell totally in love with, I’m including 2 more of their wines this month. As I noted in my previous column, Masciarelli Winery, is led by the forward thinking and dynamic female owner Marina Cvetic, in Abruzzo ,in Central Italy.

Villa Gemma Masciarelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC (Approx $14.99) is a red wine made with 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes and the appellation “Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo” is the newest DOC of Abruzzo. This complex rosé wine is a deep cherry pink, offering an exquisite floral bouquet with hints of thyme, pomegranate and walnuts. With a palate that is balanced and fresh with subtle tannins and boasting flavors of red fruit, this wine is bold, elegant and a perfect pairing with the lighter fare on your holiday spread.

Marina Cvetic Merlot IGT Terre Aquilane (Approx $32) is a 100% Merlot wine, striking a concentrated ruby red with garnet reflection in the glass. The bouquet is intense, full and complex while the flavor profile is rich with notes of ripened red berries, blackberries, dry flowers, violets, and vanilla. The wine pairs exceptionally well with charred meats, lamb, game and strong cheese.

Harken Chardonnay 2015, Salinas Valley, California (Approx $15) is made in a style that the winemaker believes offers the traditional Chardonnay flavor that the consumers still craves. The wine is fermented in barrel to ensure the oakiness that so many people lust after. There are some tropical fruit notes and that beautiful creaminess the best Chards always deliver.

One of the most intriguing wine regions on this planet is also the one which is most overlooked: Hungary. And that is a terrible shame since the wines coming out of that country are totally fabulous. The principal grape is the Furmint which makes stunning dry wines but is also responsible for the legendary Tokaji dessert wines. We have tasted several on my radio show and I’ve attended many tastings in New York and I’m never disappointed. The names of the wines are perhaps difficult to say but the drink inside the bottle is always very easy to swallow. So here are a few you should look out for:

Barta Winery Szamorodni Sweet Furmint 2013 (Approx $47) Barta Winery is family-owned with vineyards planted on volcanic soil. This particular wine is made from overripe botritysed Furmint grapes then cellar-aged in oak barrels for 18 months. Grapes which are late harvested, produce intensely, natural, sweet nectar and although this type of wine is traditionally served at the end of a meal, or sipped in front of a fire, I actually love having it BEFORE the meal as an aperitif. And at the price it’s a steal!

Béres Vineyards & Winery Estate Furmint Száráz Dry 2014 (Approx: $19) is a delightful fresh and fruity wine and ideally suited to those wine lovers who enjoy Pinot Grigio, and I will go so far as to say anybody who enjoys dry German white wines.

Erzsébet Cellar Zafír Furmint 2012 (approx: $25) is a wine crafted from a single vineyard. And normally single vineyard wines are very expensive. So this wine is a very pleasant surprise…on the wallet and the palate. Two grapes were blended for this elixir:

Furmint and Hárslevelű. Thank goodness I don’t have to say the name of the latter grape on the radio. I would serve this wine with your first course, ideally a salad. The wine is fresh and crisp and simply elegant.

Holdvölgy Winery Vision Furmint 2013 (Approx: $24) has enormous character. The perfume has a scent of summer flowers and the taste is reminiscent of citrus fruit and Bartlett pear. This is a very unusual wine as I could easily drink it with any number of food pairings and I feel it would be a great gift as it should please almost every palate.

I haven’t included any sparkling wines this year because I have one simple rule about fizz. Don’t spend a lot and don’t buy from France. I’m not anti-French, I truly believe that California produces some of the most remarkable sparkling wines on Earth. If your intention is to party like crazy on New Year’s Eve and pop open “bubbly” just to toast and be flirty then why waste the money on expensive stuff? And if you plan to sit quietly with your main squeeze and watch the ball drop on TV, I urge you to go to your local store and find some fizz from Napa and Sonoma. Well, OK, if I had to name drop, my favorite sparkling wine from the Left coast made in the Champagne Method and tasting far better than most French fizz and costing considerably less is my go-to turn of the year bottle: Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut which should give you change out of a $20 bill.




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