Throughout the year, readers come to us with questions about how to choose wines for the question of how to choose the right wines. During the holiday season and for very special celebrations, this topic comes up even more, as consumers seek out more than simply a known label or wine region to serve to guests, or to give as gifts to wine loving friends and family.
Whatever your celebration, our team has taken on the rigorous task of tasting through hundreds of vintages and varietals, and narrowed down our picks for the best wines of the season, as well as what dishes will pair best with each wine.
Pata Negra Cava Organic Brut, NV (SRP $14.99)
Produced in Barcelona, at a hillside winery, Pata Negra’s origins date back to 1647, with a walled estate from the seventeenth century. Today, the winery is surrounded by an estate of 309 acres.
Their 100% Macabeo cava is produced using the traditional champagne method, which yields a higher quality wine with natural, finer bubbles. The label design was inspired by an unusually patterned gate at Casa Mila, also known as ‘La Pedrera’ in Barcelona, originally designed in the early 1900’s by architect Antoni Gaudi.
Pale golden yellow in color, small persistent bubbles are immediately present upon disgorging. The nose exhibits lemon and citrus flower, with crisp acidity, yeast notes, and apple peel on the dry, lingering finish.
With a pale straw yellow hue and bursting with small bubbles, this organic cava adds a high intensity finish to a fruity nose with hints of apples and citrus. Easy to drink, it has a pleasant structure in the mouth with a long, clean, fresh finish. Perfect as an aperitif, this organic favorite pairs well with appetizers, white meats, and any form of creamy cheese.
Altemasi Trentodoc 2013 Brut Millesimato, (SRP $45)
Trentodoc wines are made exclusively using the Classic Method, or “Metodo Classico,” and are one of the world’s first officially recognized Metodo Classico wines. The grapes (100% Chardonnay in this vintage), are cultivated up to a maximum elevation of almost 3,000 feet above sea level, which significantly impacts the ripening process and acidity of the grapes.
Find tiny, bright bubbles and bright acidity in this Italian holiday sparkler. Pair it with seafood and poultry dishes, like chicken stuffed with goat cheese and spinach or shrimp and asparagus in puff pastry with cream sauce.
Veuve de Vernay Ice (SRP $13.99)
Considered to be the ultimate ‘party’ wine from Bordeaux, this relatively new class of bubbly is based on a French custom called ‘la piscine’ (translated ‘swimming pool’), where locals on the beaches of St Tropez would drop ice cubes in their champagne to keep it cool. Slightly demi-sec (sweeter) and made from ugni blanc, chenin, and folle blanche grapes, it is meant to be served well chilled. Pale yellow with green tints on the rim, you’ll notice lots of fine bubbles,and fruity, white citrus flowers aromas.
Fresh and mellow, this wine is a great alternative to Champagne in holiday punches, as well as in wine cocktails like a French 75. Pair it with desserts like a strawberry cheesecake, lemon mousse, or cherry pie with a graham cracker crust.
WHITE AND ROSÉ WINES
Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato 2017 (SRP $20)
Named for its copper, or ‘ramato’, color, obtained by leaving the must in contact with the skins for 24 hours, this bright, rosy-colored wine from Friuli-Venezia Giulia will surprise even the most cynical of rosé drinkers. This wine boasts a rich, fruity bouquet and opens full-bodied on the palate, with flavors like white peach, summer melon, blackberry, and cherry. Perfect when paired with cold water fish or cream based dishes, as well as brunch dishes like quiche with spinach and prosciutto.
Chateau Minuty M de Minuty Grenache Rosé 2017 (SRP $23)
For its limited edition 2017 vintage, Chateau Minuty invited American artist and illustrator Ashley Mary to use the winery’s iconic Provençal bottle shape as her canvas and reflect her travels on the St. Tropez. In the glass, M de Minuty is a vibrant, dry rosé with peach and candied orange aromas, and delicious citrus and floral notes on the balanced palate. M de Minuty is made in the traditional method for the purest expression of Grenache rosé.
Georges Duboeuf Chardonnay 2017 (SRP $11.99)
Light buttery yellow in color, Geoges Duboeuf’s latest ‘wildflower’ label release features aromas crisp apple, peach, citrus and toast with French oak on the finish. The grapes for this wine came from south-facing vineyards in the Pays d’Oc region of France, in the high valleys of the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Pair it with fish or shellfish, including sushi, broiled lobster, spicy Asian dishes, or light salads with citrus vinaigrette dressing.
Georges Duboeuf 2018 Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé (SRP $13.99)
Newly released, Georges Duboeuf debuted the first Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé this year, just after the launch of the official Beaujolais season. The color of a blush pink rose, aromas of red berries, stone fruits, and citrus are present, as well as grapefruit zest and white citrus flower on the nose. Whole bunch harvesting is done manually, from 20 year old vines. The label was designed by American artist Chloe Meyer of Nashville, Tennessee. Pair this wine with fatty fish dishes, pork roasts, and fruit based desserts.
Stolo 2017 Estate Gewurztraminer (SRP $25)
Winemaker Nicole Pope experimented with extended skin contact time for the Gewürztraminer this vintage. After destemming, she cold soaked the grapes on their skins for five hours before gently pressing, settling and continuing fermentation. The extended skin contact heightened aromatics without any additional bitterness. This process, along with foot treading, dry farming, and other old vs. new world methods make Stolo Vineyards truly unique.
A perfect warm weather wine, flavors of white peach, juicy green pear, and citrus flower are present, with a fresh, apple aroma on the nose. Stone-like minerality is present, indicative of the terroir in the area (clay with cobble stone). The wine is balanced and crisp, with a touch of salinity and a medium body, and lingering finish. A very approachable wine, pair it with grilled salmon, salads, and lighter fare.
Stolo 2017 Estate Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $27)
Located less than three miles from the Pacific Ocean, Stolo’s 100% Sauvignon Blanc is truly the expression of what a California white wine should be. Highly aromatic, notes of fresh cut grass, melon, and lime blossom are present on the nose. Flavors are crisp and clean, with lemon zest,stone fruits, and green apple on the palate. The finish is clean, with great minerality. Pair it with poultry, fish, or cream based dishes.
Tussock Jumper 2017 Chardonnay (SRP $9.99)
Although not as well known as other French wine regions, the Languedoc-Roussillon area n the south of France is responsible for more than a third of France’s total wine production, and produces nearly as much wine as all of the United States combined.
Aged only briefly in oak, Tussock Jumper’s Chardonnay is anything but a California ‘butter-bomb’. Notes of apricot, juicy pear and green apple are present on the nose, as well as a bit of nuttiness, white flower, and lime zest on the palate. Medium in body, with a crisp, acidic finish, this lovely French white wine drinks more like a Bordeaux or Vouvray than what you’d expect from a Chardonnay. As a wine négociant, Tussock Jumper doesn’t reveal all of it’s sources, but it’s a steal at under $15/bottle. Pair it with fish, poultry, and lighter vegetarian dishes.
Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2014 (SRP $19)
Fruity on the nose with bright strawberry, red cherries, and notes of herbs, spice, and a bit of earth on the palate, this lively wine was rated 93 points by the LA International Wine competition for its 2012 vintage. Hand-picked grapes and traditional fermentation method have made this vintage of the Castello di Albola Chianti Classico a wine highly reflective of the soils of Radda in Chianti. 12 months in oak have aged this 95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo red wine to a full body, and delicate finish. Pairs well with holiday dishes like beef stew, or roasted and stuffed meats and fish dishes.
Cellers Unió Clos Dalian Terra Alta Garnacha Crianza, DOC Terra Alta 2013 – $11
Hailing from Catalonia, Spain, and grown on steep hillside slopes,
Cellers Unió Clos Dalian Terra Alta Garnacha Crianz wine is hand harvested from very old vineyards grown on irregular terraces, and in calcareous soil. The Designation of Origin DO Terra Alta is for Catalonia’s most southern, inland area, with the Terra Alta region closely linked to wine production for almost 1, 000 years.
Aged for 6 months in oak, it’s a big, bold wine, especially for this low of a price point. Notes of tart cherries and raspberries are on the nose, with cherry jam, leather, black pepper, and baking spice on the palate. Light red in color, and medium bodied, with low tannins, this wine will pair well with cherry cola barbecue ribs, coffee crusted pork, sausages on the grill, and onion gruyere tarts. Drink now through 2022.
Coto de Hayas 2016 Centenaria Garnacha (SRP $14)
Garnacha may be an unknown grape varietal to some-but it’s actually the Spanish name for what the French call Grenache. You’ve sipped it, and loved it, especially during the warm months of spring and summer, as it is a fruity, flavorful wine varietal.
For this vintage, the 2016 Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria was aged for 4 months in French Oak. Aromas of cherry and spice are present on the nose, as well as the palate. Flavors of dark berries, vanilla, baking spice, and a touch of leather are present. You’ll find this Garnacha wine has long legs, a medium body, and low tannins. It’s a great summer wine now, but wait a few years-this one is going to do well with age. Pair with a juicy steak, or robust vegetarian dishes like grilled mushrooms.
Georges Duboeuf 2018 Beaujolais Nouveau, A.O.C. Beaujolais (SRP $13.99)
Released for the 2018 holiday season, this 100% Gamay wine is a brilliant garnet in color, with hints of red and black fruits, and strawberry jam – a true expression of what Beaujolais Nouveau is all about. Light in body and highly quaffable, this wine will pair with everything from tapas and aged cheese to salmon, poultry, and berry tarts. Serve slightly chilled.
Georges Duboeuf Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Pays d’Oc (SRP $11.99)
With a bold and luscious mouthfeel and silky tannins, Georges Duboeuf’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is a jammy wine with hints of spice, vanilla, and chocolate on the finish. Only lightly aged in French oak, the grapes for this wine also hail from the Pays d’Oc region of France, benefitting from their location between the Pyranees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
The wildflower pictured on the Cabernet Sauvignon label is a Scabiosa varietal, which bloom in the fields and vineyards of the Pays d’Oc area. Pair this highly approachable Cabernet Sauvignon with a holiday Chateaubriand, roast beef, grilled steaks, lamb, and glazed roast duck .
Georges Duboeuf Merlot 2017, Pays d’Oc (SRP $11.99)
Slightly sweet with a shimmering ruby color, the 2017 vintage of Georges Duboeuf Pays d’Oc Merlot showcases aromas of plum fruits and dark berries, with spice, leather, and oak on the finish. A great accompaniment to meat dishes like Spaghetti Bolognese or grilled rib eye, as well as Asian dishes and spicy cuisine.
Georges Duboeuf Pinot Noir 2017, Pays d’Oc (SRP $11.99)
Bright ruby in color, this Pinot Noir exhibits aromas of red fruits, particularly ripe cherry and wild strawberry. The mouthfeel is elegant and lush, with a fruit forward palate of cherry jam, spice, and yet has seen no oak-only stainless steel aging. The wildflower pictured on the Pinot Noir label is the red poppy, which bloom in bright array in the fields and vineyards of the Pays d’Oc. Pair with soft cheeses like brie and freshly whipped goat cheese, charcuterie, grilled salmon or berry desserts like a French raspberry custard tart.
Montefalco Sagrantino 2009 (SRP $40)
Aged for 37 months, this wine is an ideal match for holiday roasts, or a juicy steak with balsamic mushrooms on the grill. Made in Umbria from 100% native Sagrantino grapes, this bold, fruit forward red shows flavors of cherry, wild berry, and pie spice, with smoky leather and rich tannins on the finish. Serve slightly chilled.
Montefalco Rosso 2014 (SRP $22)
The perfect pairing for lighter meat dishes, or eclectic holiday meals with a wide variety of flavors, this Sangiovese blend from Arnaldo Caprai made with Sagrantino and Canaiolo grapes is very approachable, but still shows notes of complexity in its dark berry and raspberry flavors, and full-bodied finish. An hour in the fridge or ten to fifteen minutes in the freezer will create the perfect serving temperature for this young Italian wine.
Pair this wine with everything from grilled meats, to aged cheeses, hearty beef dishes, or simply as an aperitif.
Tussock Jumper Shiraz-Grenache-Viognier 2017 ($9.99)
Recently selected as a Best Buy in Wine Spectator’s 2018 Elegant Reds list, this red and white wine blend is a unique entry to our best wines list. The blend is Shiraz dominant with a small percentage of Grenache and Viognier to create a softer, rounder finish.
According to the winemaker, very careful attention was paid to the viticulture practices for this wine, to ensure optimum ripening conditions, but also to ensure that water stress was never too prevalent. A very careful ‘green harvest’ was carried out at the onset of ripening to ensure concentration of flavors. The trellised Shiraz, Grenache and Viognier parcels were harvested separately, at the appropriate phenolic ripeness, with the Shiraz contributing a rich sweet fruit profile with a spicy, earthy dimension being added by the Grenache and Viognier.
After fermentation, the grapes are blended and matured in aged French oak barrels for 14 months before bottling. This wine can be appreciated now, but if you can stand the wait, another six years in the cellar will transform Tussock Jumper’s highly affordable wine into something truly stellar in the glass.
Pair it with berry and feta cheese salads, mushroom risotto, roasted meats, and even pizza.