It may be early for holiday cooking or even the naughty-or-nice list, but there’s one thing you can get off your to-do list now – at that’s wine.
In Chicagoland, we purchase about one-half of our yearly consumption in the year’s final quarter, so even if you’re not a regular wine drinker, odds are you’ll need a bottle in the coming months. To make shopping easy, retailers are geared up with the best selection and pricing of the year. But which wine?
To avoid the panic of scanning grocery shelves for a decent bottle or the buyer’s remorse of over-paying for an unknown label, here are wines to explore now and keep on hand through the holidays.
Bubbly Turns Any Event into a Special Event
Prosecco’s star continues its rise, along with sales, now topping Champagne in bottles sold. But like stars of yore - Riesling, Lambrusco, Merlot - success has fostered overproduction and often low quality. For Mimosas and such, buy a budget brand. For fine drinking, look for labels with ‘DOCG’, which guarantees the best regions and (in theory) quality. At The Chopping Block, we offer:
Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Adami, "Bosco di Gica" 2020, VALDOBIADENNE, ITALY; $24.00: Dry and refreshing flavors, perfect to pair with international antipasti and light dishes. Guaranteed to add festivity to any occasion.
For finesse and elegance, there’s no substitute for Champagne. To impress your cork dork friends, colleagues (and even yourself!), ask your merchant to suggest a favorite label. At TCB, we recommend:
Cuvee Rosé Brut "Grand Cru", Champagne R.H. Coutier, NV, CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE, $72.00: A sumptuous Champagne with power and finesse, blended of Chardonnay and an ample dose of Pinot Noir. For five generations, the Coutier family has farmed Champagne's finest vineyards (Grand Cru, rated 100%), with conversion to organic farming beginning in 2019. Dry, complex and classy, this is a meal-time bubbly for the richest vegetables, seafood and poultry, as well as red meats.
Serve the Safety
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have dominated sales for decades, so odds are good that someone will enjoy your well-selected bottle. Each grape, tho’ has its own haters in ABC Clubs - Anything but Chardonnay and Anything but Cabernet. I use the selections below regularly in my classes and personally recommend as straight-ahead examples of our glorious American vineyard.
Chardonnay, Raeburn, 2019, RUSSIAN RIVERY VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, $22.50: Layers of tree fruit, brown spice and vanilla flavors, grown in California’s prime Chardonnay region. Serve as a satisfying cocktail and complement to rich appetizers and seafood, vegetables and even meats, especially prepared with butter.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Requiem, 2017, COLUMBIA VALLEY, WASHINGTON, $27.50: Substantial, ripe, complex flavors of blackberry, currant, and tobacco leaf, outlined by firm tannin. For meat, the richest poultry, and vegetarian dishes.
Look Like a Wine Expert
To step slightly off the beaten path, instead of California Chardonnay, serve:
Chardonnay "La Revanche" J. C. Somers Vintner, 2020, WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON, $39.00: Native Oregonian Jay Somers is a 30-year winemaker, devoted to his band (Portland Cement), his dogs (German Shepherds) and to the expression of Willamette Valley's terroir in elegant wine. With the mineral-driven Chardonnay of Chablis, France as a beacon, "La Revanche" is firm, complex and focused. Serve as a rich cocktail and complement to seafood, poulty and vegetable dishes, especially prepared with butter.
Instead of Pinot Grigio, serve:
Albarino, Bodegas Lagar de Besada, 2019, GALICIA, SPAIN, $24.00: Shimmering appearance, dry with lemon and lemongrass flavors and endless finish, this Spanish specialty makes a vibrant cocktail and partner to a wide range of veggie, poultry and seafood dishes.
Instead of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, serve:
Rioja Reserva, La Antigua Clasico, 2010, RIOJA, SPAIN, $39.00: An opportunity to experience a fully developed red, reserved in barrel and bottle for complex plum, pepper and meat flavors and firm tannin. Serve with meats, rich vegetables, and poultry.
If There’s Roast Turkey in Your Future
Pinot Noir is a great turkey complement, with cherry-like flavors to echo cranberry sauce and light tannin to meld with the bird’s protein. For a swellegant affair, choose the Rosé Brut featured above or TCB’s new selection Morgan “Santa Lucia Highlands”, $50. Be aware that turkey’s sweeter fixin’s – candied yams, for instance – will add bitter flavors to dry wine. Instead, try a white with a hint or more of sweetness:
Riesling, Schloss Gobelsburg "Gobelsburger", 2019, KAMPTAL, AUSTRIA, $25.00: Dry but lush with nectarine flavor intertwined with mineral complexity and refreshing finish, this Austrian beauty satisfies a wide range of cuisine, including most appetizers, spice cuisine, fried dishes, seafood (including sushi), veggies and poultry.
Riesling Spatlese, Huff, 2018, RHEINHESSEN, GERMANY, $28.00: A classic Riesling, “late picked” for juicy peach flavor, mineral accents and refreshing tartness for a sweeter cocktail and complement to foods prepared with fruit, spice and/ or smoke. Delicious with all cheese, especially blue!
To taste and discuss wines with me, please join me for How to Bluff Your Way Though Wine on Friday, November 26 at 6pm at Lincoln Square. This class is a must for entry-level wine drinkers and a fun refresher for aficionados. Tasting includes five international wines and tasting noshes.