Holiday Wine Guide

Tab 1

Winter 2011-2012

If there were ever a season for a sublime glass of wine, it’s the holidays. Wine can be a sophisticated warm-up from winter’s chill, a mellow reprieve in the crazy bustle of the season, and a fitting toast to the end of one year and the beginning of another.


But, really, who has the time—especially this time of year—to languish over scores and reviews when there are parties to attend, packages to wrap and relatives to greet?


That’s why we tasked master sommeliers with choosing the top bottles they’ll be drinking this season (or wish they’ll be drinking), along with inspired choices for gifting the party host or the wine aficionado. Here’s to calmer living and spot-on wine picks all season long. Salut!

Wines for a Host Gift

“Choosing a bottle of wine to bring to a holiday party can be tricky because you want something that will appeal to a big cross-section of practiced and novice wine drinkers, and you want something with a stunning label,” says master sommelier Randa Warren of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who suggests the 2006 Dolce ($64), a half bottle of California dessert wine made from a blend of late-harvest Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The art nouveau-inspired bottle comes from the only American winery dedicated to producing a single late-harvest wine. “It’s a surprising and elegant choice, and most novice wine drinkers do enjoy sweet wines, so this will appeal to lots of people,” adds Warren.


Master sommelier and respected wine importer Dan Kravitz suggests the 2007 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère from the Peumo Vineyard in Rapel Valley, Chile. Kravitz describes the deep, dark red as “very soft and friendly.” He also liked the price point just $20—as well as the fact that the Carmenère is a grape varietal that’s still under the radar. “The Carmenère varietal is going to get a lot of buzz in the next couple years, but right now it’s still relatively unknown,” he says. “Bring one to a party, and you’ll look like you really have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening next in the wine world.”

Tab 2

Winter 2011-2012

For the elegant, black-tie holiday party, critic and wine judge Ronn Wiegand of Napa, California suggests partygoers choose an expensive tète de cuvée from a known producer, but also one that is somewhat hard to find for the surprise factor. His choice: a bottle of 2007 Louis Roederer Cristal (around $275). “It’s a legendary champagne,” says Wiegand. “A bottle of Louis Roederer at a holiday party is like a woman who wears Chanel No. 5—it’s classic. Plus, the 2007 is a little trickier to find, so that will be fun for your recipient.”


Wines for Bright and Early

As the youngsters tear through their packages and stockings, what are the grownups to sip? Why mimosas, of course, says Warren. But not just any mimosa. She suggests starting with the 2001 Brut Reserve ($70) from America’s top sparkling wine house, Schramsberg. Then she adds equal parts freshly squeezed orange juice and peach nectar plus a splash of pomegranate bitters. “It’s a mimosa you’ll never forget,” Warren adds.


Kravitz likes the idea of mountain-fresh alpine white, such as the 2010 Les Rocailles from the Les Rocailles vineyard in the French Alps ($15-$18). The wine is an Apremont, a feather-light white made from the Jacquère grape. “It’s so delicate and fresh you could pour it over your cornflakes,” says Kravitz. “It’s the perfect breakfast accompaniment when you’re not up to serving champagne.”

Wines for a Traditional Goose Dinner

Ask any fan of Charles Dickens: Christmas time isn’t truly complete without a traditional roast goose with crispy skin, served with a display of rustic root vegetables. For this meal, our experts were indefatigable in their support of a truly special Burgundy to go with this once-a-year intimate holiday meal.


For a stunning display, Warren suggested the 2005 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 2005 ($1,400) from the Domaine Armand Rousseau, also from the Burgundy wine region. “A stunning wine with spice and fruit,” says Warren. “You will be amazed by how it plays with the rich, gamey flavors of the goose.”


Wines for a Chocolate Soufflé Finale

One of the emerging trends with the holidays is capping off a Christmas Eve with a Christmas watch party complete with a chocolate buffet or some other decadent dessert. For a serving of homemade chocolate soufflé, Warren has just the thing: Dow’s 1977 Vintage Port ($120), which is just now arriving at peak maturity. “This is a powerful tawny port with notes of chocolate,” explains        Warren


To serve a bigger crowd, Kravitz suggests the Rivesaltes Ambré from the Château de Pena Winery in French Catalonia ($15), a rich dessert wine that he describes as a perfect cross between tawny port and oloroso sherry. “This one has the guts to take on the chocolate,” he says.

Tab 3

Winter 2011-2012

Wines to Impress

Even the CEO needs to impress the chairman of the board. But choosing a gorgeous wine for that person can be a tricky proposition. Warren has two smart suggestions: a bottle of Remy Martin XO Cognac ($120) packaged with two Riedel Vinum Cognac snifters ($67). That, or a beautiful champagne sabre packaged with a world-class bottle of bubbles. Warren likes the sabre from Languiole with its rosewood handle and stainless steel blade—perfect for slicing through foil with the most dramatic of flourishes. For the champagne accompaniment, Warren says she would be blown away by a bottle of 1995 Comtes de Champagne Rosé Brut from the Taittinger house of Champagne in Reims, France ($200).


“If your aim is to artfully impress, this would be a home run,” she notes.


Wines for the Oenophile

Our wine experts loved this category

and rattled off several bottles that would steal their hearts in an instant. Wine educator, author and master sommelier Evan Goldstein says he would be speechless to open a box and find a bottle of late-vintage Barolo made in northern Italy from Nebbiolo grapes. Specifically, he’d swoon over a bottle of Barolo Brunate from the Roberto Voerzio vineyard ($220) or a bottle of Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto from the Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa in Nieve, Italy ($150). “Barolos are the epitome of high-end,” Goldstein says, “particularly the great vintages of late: 1997, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006.”


For Warren, she went all the way to the top, suggesting a $1,180 magnum of Stefano Zagni’s Angel Champagne. “I don’t think there’s any wine drinker in the world who wouldn’t love receiving a bottle of fabulous champagne.”


This article represents the opinion of the writer and the sommeliers. The winemakers and sommeliers are not affiliated with U.S. Bank in any way. U.S. Bank is not responsible for and does not guarantee the product, services or performance of third-party providers.

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