I was asked by The Capital Grille to compile ten "wine" tips this holiday season that are sure to impress your old friends, and win new ones as well. It was impossible to pick just one, so I gave my top two or three for every category. These tips run the gamut in terms of vintage, price and region, but not in terms of taste. They are all very enjoyable and will make you the hit of any holiday party. I look forward to hearing about your wine discoveries and stories. Happy entertaining!
Best Wines at Retail Under $10:
- Wrongo Dongo Monastrell - tasty red wine with a funny name - from the Jumilla region of Spain that is known for great reds at a great price. Made from the Monastrell grape - the mouthfeel of Syrah with balance of fine Pinot Noir
- Indaba Chardonnay - a friendly South African white - "it just tastes like good food!"
Best Wine to Give as Gift That Will Impress:
- A quality Rioja from Spain (e.g. favorites are Bodegas Muga, Sierra Cantabria and Allende)
- Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
- A Kistler Vineyards chardonnay (from Russian River, CA)
Best "New" Wine Region Today (be "in the know" to friends and family):
- Argentina! Argentine Malbecs are among the greatest red wine value today - great offerings out there with varying price points from8 to200. Argentina's Torrontes varietal is another must - an aromatic and tasty white wine from the country's Mendoza region. Torrontes is guaranteed to become your new obsession and you will be hard pressed to find a Torrontes priced over15.
Best "Undiscovered" California Wines
- Any wine from Jonata Winery near Santa Barbara, CA - the new vineyard from the folks behind the legendary Screaming Eagle vineyards in Napa. The wines are not cheap, but the high quality and limited quantity means you can't miss.
- Brewer-Clifton chardonnay (Santa Barbara)
Best Wine & Food Pairings:
- Chinese Food (for anyone doing takeout!) - Selbach-Oster Riesling - or other Mosel Reislings (Germany)
- Mexican Food -Malbecs from Argentina would go great with the Latin holiday tradition of tamales
- Christmas Ham - compliment with an Oregon Pinot Noir such as Scott Paul or Chehalem from Williamette Valley
Three Must-Haves For Your Party or Home (in $20 range):
- Juan Gil Monastrell - a Spanish red that tastes better than most35+ reds
- Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc - South African white with more flavor than most Chardonnays today
- Mulderbosch Rose - wonderful cabernet sauvignon with refreshing cherry flavors
Best Wine to Bring to Family/Friend's House for Dinner:
- Catena Malbec from Argentina
- Any Argentine Torrontes - try TIlia and Crios - again, fresh, food-friendly and one that will make an impression.
Best Wines to Try:
Track down one of these bottles:
- Botani Muscat from Malaga in Spain - intense and flavorful white Muscat from the southern coast of Spain - it may just push Chardonnay out of your cellar!
- A. Rafanelli zinfandel and cabernet sauvignons
- Anything from Ravenswood Single Vineyards
- Shaya Verdejo "Old Vines" Rueda - a delicious Spanish white sourced from vines whose average age is between 75 and 112 years old. Similar to high quality sancerre for less price!
- Anything from Fisher Vineyards
Best Unique Gift
- Blueberry wine. Keel and Curley Winery in Tampa, Florida offers a selection of dry, off-dry, and sweet blueberry wines - all three types are wonderfully different and good!
And last but not least ...
Best Splurge for THE Special Occasion:
- A 2000 Bordeaux - fabulously expensive and hailed by critics as the greatest vintage Bordeaux has ever produced!