Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Wine Advice

( Wine? Why yes I think I must! )

No doubt you have sorted through your share of holiday wine pairing and serving advice this time of year for many years. This year’s articles are making their rounds and there are a couple of things I look for that keep me reading. First, a personal story. Who are the people and how does your holiday table work when they all get together? Second, a range of choices for different foods from different places, different tastes as well as something local. And lastly, first hand feedback on what worked and what didn’t.
 
Why? Because I am looking for things to try at home where I get to be in the experience with my guests.

I make a wide variety of wines specifically to have different flavors around to pair with our meals. We also buy many different local wines that work well with regional dishes. We pull out all kinds of gems for holiday gatherings and often decide on making mulled wines, spiced wine punches or fruity sparklers that taste like holiday desserts as well.

When we get together with family for Thanksgiving we pick several white and several red wines to have with dinner. Margot, Celeste, Chris, David, Eloy and Gerry are all over the wine. Oh, and me too. We might warm up with snacks and cocktails and my brother’s-in-law are usually working on the beers. The larger the gathering the more likely it is to be a traditional turkey, stuffing, potato, bread meal which works with both red and white wine. Last year we opened Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet from Sterling Vineyards. Both were good tasters before dinner and were pleasing with dinner, but not blockbusters. I served Pinot Noir from my own collection and a Chambourcin from Connecticut Valley Winery in CT. The Pinot is fruity with some oak and worked very subtly with the food. The Chambourcin was the best pairing with dinner and sadly we only had one bottle. Something about the spiciness of it worked with turkey and gravy. We bridged dinner and dessert with Diamond from Candia Vineyards. By the time we got to dessert my tastes buds had been tweaked with some light white wine and were ready for more powerful flavors. For dessert I opened bottles of homemade Riesling and plum ice wine and served them with apple and squash pies. I don’t actually remember dessert. I was happy.
 
( Early 2010 vintage white wines being served )

Pairing with diverse meals is the ultimate challenge. This year we are going to try some fruitier white wines like a medium dry Riesling, and adding some dimension with a floral Viognier. I may bring some red wine to where we are going this year, but our hosts are not typically that interested. Easier pairing for me! I am planning on serving the sweet dessert wines with sharp cheeses early in the day as a surprise. Coffee with dessert this year, especially for the driver!

For our holiday open house I am making a mulled wine using the following recipe:

Ancient Fire Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine, good but inexpensive
½ cup water
¼ cup superfine sugar
2 large cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
2 lemon slices
1 orange slice
3 dashes orange bitters

Boil the water, sugar, spices and citrus and then take it off heat and allow it to steep for ½ hour. Add the wine and slowly reheat to below boiling. Add bitters and mix. Strain and serve hot.

The aromas from the mulled wine begin to fill the house as soon as it warms up. The citrus and spices hang in the sweet air. It should be semi-sweet with a good sour tang and some heat from the spices.
 
When you get to choosing beverages for your next holiday meal make sure you keep it personal, explore the local choices and have a range of offerings to be served depending on how the event goes.

Here are several recommendations from recent tastings that can be used throughout the holidays:
  • Travessia Vidal Blanc – I felt I got some residual sugar off of this and it was just enough to round out the body and immediately made me think of food.
  • Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV – a good bottle of bubbly is a must for some. this was light and fruity with a clean finish
  • Si Soave – very light making it a great starter and a good match for lighter creamed dishes and seafood
  • Red Truck – Big House Red in a box. 3 L of a medium bodied red blend with fruit, wood and a clean finish. We had this at a party and it worked both socially and with the food. Great value!
Here are a couple of holiday wine links that have great stories, tasty options and things to try at home.


Cheers!

--Jason

4 comments:

Judy said...

I'm getting homesick reading all the Thanksgiving related posts. I'll have to save my wine pairings for Christmas, I guess.

Chris and Amy said...

Great advice, and thanks for the mulled wine recipe. We enjoyed Gluhwein in Budapest and have been hooked ever since. We'll try yours!

Winelady Cooks said...

Great post Jason. The mulled wine recipe looks great. I hope to try it and share with our guests this year.

Thanks and Happy Holiday!
Joanne

Magic of Spice said...

Great post and tips...A "Mulled Wine"
I must try this!