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Vines & Vittles: All I want for Christmas is fruit of the vine

By John Brown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Is this fun or what? The holiday season, I mean.

It's not often you get a pass to cast prudence and caution to the wind and plunk down some serious green for a little red or white.

I've already been perusing the shelves of my favorite wine shops (and online too) in search of that special bottle. The good news is that there is an incredible selection of wine from all over the world available in any number of price ranges.

And giving the gift of wine, particularly to someone close to you, can have its own reward since there is a good likelihood you'll be invited to sip along with the giftee once that special bottle is uncorked.

And, of course, whenever I consider a wine, I always ruminate over what type of food will present the best opportunity for gastronomic synergy. In my particular situation, I'm thinking about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals and the wines that will make the feasts memorable.

In my household, my wife and I divide responsibility for the two meals. I take Christmas Eve and she is chef de cuisine for Christmas Day. As one who was raised in a Catholic Italian family, I will spend all day Christmas Eve preparing and cooking seafood (à la the Feast of the Seven Fishes).

After five or six hours of frying, boiling, steaming, smoking and poaching fish, I will be worn out, cranky, smelly and in serious need of a sip or two of wine. My choice to soothe my weary body and reinvigorate my spirit is champagne or sparkling wine, which is also an excellent accompaniment to all manner of seafood.

On Christmas Day, my wife will prepare a more traditional American holiday meal featuring a standing rib roast. After working her culinary magic for a couple of hours, she will emerge from the kitchen smiling broadly, full of Christmas cheer, and smelling of lavender. Of course, this meal demands a big red wine such as cabernet sauvignon or even a Christmas claret (Bordeaux).

So today, I'm going to share a list of wines I would love to find under my Christmas tree, and which just happens to include bottles that would go particularly well with our holiday meals. I think you would like them too.

Cabernet sauvignon/Bordeaux red or Bordeaux-style blends (for example, blends that might consist of any combination of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, Malbec or petit verdot):

2005 Chateau Lynch Bages; 2007 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon; 2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia; 2007 Dominus; 2005 Harlan Estate The Maiden; 2005 Chateau La Dominique; 2007 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; 2000 Chateau Brainaire Ducru; 2008 Merryvale Profile; 2005 Chateau Cos d'Estournel; 2007 Saddleback Cabernet Sauvignon; 2009 Pontet Canet; 2005 Leoville Las Cases; 2008 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; and 2007 Ornellaia.

Champagne and sparkling wines:

Nicholas Feuillatte "Blue Label" Brut; Mumm Napa Cuvee (sparkling); Paul Bara Brut; Veuve Cliquot Brut; Roderer Estate (sparkling); Krug Grande Cuvee Brut; Perrier Jouet Grand Brut; 2003 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé; Iron Horse Russian Cuvee (sparkling).

Happy Holidays!

For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's Vines & Vittles blog at thegazz.com.


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