OUR PICKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS AHEAD
Leading up to New Year festivities we host every sort of holiday gathering inspiring creativity in the kitchen, ambitions at the bar, and generosity from the special corners of the cellar.
To answer one of the questions we often hear this time of year, we went ahead and asked everyone at The Wine Company:
“What are you drinking for the holidays?”
As you might imagine, these answers vary, ranging from specific food parings to certain selections for particular holidays to ever ready recipes and bottles to face whatever may come.
We wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings and wish you all our very best in the holidays ahead
I do American wines for Thanksgiving. Greeting friends and family at the door while appetizing aromas waft from the kitchen requires proffering a wine lively yet attention getting. Paetra Dry Riesling. Some people will surely take it to the table. As to spirits, we will savor an assortment of Calvados.
The Thornphy household will be drinking Dr. Burklin-Wolf Riesling Trocken for the white wine, a perfect pairing with turkey, and for our red, we’ll be enjoying some Prieler Blaufrankisch, a perfect pairing for my Mom’s Killer Bean Hotdish!
No surprise that our holiday cocktail will be mezcal based! A couple ounces (or three…) of Cruz de Fuego Tepextate, about an ounce of Fred Jerbis Amaro (or the Bitter, still workshopping), a halfish ounce of Interrobang red vermouth and a half ounce or so of the Blueberry Poblano Sharab shrub. Maybe add a dash of bitters. The nightcap will be a lovely neat sip of Puni Sole or Two James Grass Widow.
We are drinking Gamling & McDuck 2017 Chenin Blanc now that a little bottle age is revealing what more this mineral wine is capable after a five year evolution. From Mangels Ranch, in the Suisin Valley southeast of Napa, nestled into the southeast corner of St. George Mountian Range, the ripening Chenin gets bay breeze traveling from San Pablo through a gap in the North Carquinez Hills. Wine Co alum come wine grower Gabriel Shaffer tells us, “When you walk this vineyard, the air smells crisp and salty. In 2017 that minerality stuck, and when I drink this, it shines through. It has great citrus notes and feels bright. Not like the sun or daylight, more like a lightness of soul.” After some time in the cellar this will be a perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner.
OUR HOLIDAY COCKTAIL?
• 1.5 oz J.Carver Straight Bourbon
• Soda Water
• 3-4 dashes – The Japanese Bitters Co – Yuzo
• Ice in Highball glass
• Cranberry to garnish
My wine pick is the 2021 Nigl Freiheit Gruner Veltliner. Exploring the Austrian treats available to us from the Skurnik portfolio has been a real treat for me in the last year and this wine is an absolute showstopper of versatility and value. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
As I’ve been drinking very little lately for health reasons, the Phony Negroni by St. Agrestis has been a lifesaver of interesting complexity. Pop the top and pour over ice with a zest of orange and you can hardly tell it is NA.
Avalanche Pinot Noir 2020 | AOC Valais, Switzerland: I am loving the way this high altitude, Swiss Pinot is showing right now with a bright, wild raspberry fruit profile and delicate little tannins. I plan to lightly chill it in the snowbank out the backdoor of the kitchen and serve it with everything!
Domaine Dupont Calvados Crème de Calvados | AOC Calvados, France: My first run in with this expression was over five years ago and I was haunted by this French delight in the years to follow. After tracking down the new importer for my favorite Calvados producer of all time, Domaine Dupont, I am pleased to introduce everyone to their tasty creme expression. I will serve this chilled with dessert and a cup of coffee but wouldn’t judge someone for pouring it over a slice of apple pie ala mode.
For the holiday, I just want to drink a really good red wine so we chose a Bordeaux at the richer end of the spectrum: the Chateau Chapelle d’Alienor. As an 80/20 Merlot Cabernet Franc blend from the same talents behind the 1er Grand Cru Classe Saint-Emilion Chateau la Gaffeliere, this is a lot of wine for a Bordeaux Superieur and strikes a nice balance between polished ripe cassis and toothsome tannins and savor of Cabernet Franc.
We will be hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in a few years, so I plan on littering the table with bottles that will work with everything. There will be Dopff & Irion Brut Rose, Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer, Pedroncelli ‘Bushnell’ Zinfandel and some of the Left Coast ‘Cali’s Cuvee’ Pinot Noir.
For something festive at Christmas, I’ll be making a few highballs with Ahus Akvavit, club soda and a splash of cranberry (lingonberry if I can find it). It’s a subtle Aquavit and makes for a fun twist on the usual vodka highball.
Once winter fully arrives there will be a homemade spaghetti sauce day. It takes most of the day to do it properly. It’s a BIG batch and lots of people are fed. That will be when I raid the cellar for a bottle (or two) of Felsina Chianti Classico. This is a chianti that is just so much better than the price and really worth aging for a couple years if you can bear to wait that long. It’s entirely possible a bottle of Poliziano Vino Nobile might get opened as well, just in case.
This year, I’m looking forward to sharing Studio Rosé by Miraval. I feel like Rosé is a crowd pleaser and goes with most everything on the Thanksgiving table.
We’ll get the party started with a French 75 made with J. Carver Barrel Gin. Delicious!
Domaine des Braves 2020 Regnie, Beaujolais. This is a widely appealing red wine. The warm, dry vintage accounts for the deep color and plushness in the mouth. The fruit is unusually dark and a touch ripe but with enough acidity to make one go “yum” on the first sip.
As it gets colder, I turn to cocktails with warm, baking spice flavors. This riff on a Lion’s Tail, which I call a Lion’s Mane with notes of orange and spice, makes an excellent winter warmer.
1.5 Oz Mayor Pingree Bourbon or J. C. Runestone Rye
.5 Oz Geijer Orange Liqueur
.33 Oz Geijer Spiced Liqueur
.5 Oz Lime Juice
.5 Oz Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Since Covid, traditions seem to have gone by the wayside; this will be true of our holiday table this season. I do know I will be looking to the great value of The Wine Company imports for my holiday selections.
Contests are common in our home over the holidays, so this year it will be a cocktail making cocktail contest using the fantastic array of Sharab Shrubs vinegar-based modifiers. If you already have a great recipe, please share it with us.
My Champagne of choice right now is the La Victoire from Buena Vista! It’s wonderfully priced and utterly delicious! The other bottles I will enjoy are the Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer and the Bourgueil Cabernet Franc.
I love a Cranberry or a Pomegranate Old Fashioned, usually using a Rye Whiskey. This year, however, I plan to use J. Carver’s new 7-Year Bourbon and replace the sugar with cranberry or pomegranate syrup and then add a splash of the juice while keeping everything else traditional. Makes for a wonderfully refreshing yet perfectly warming cocktail for the holidays!
Versatility is the theme of my choices. Cline Viognier has been a holiday wine of choice for several years. It’s a great partner during morning meal prep and can carry you all the way through second helpings – even dessert. Love the versatility and value of this wine!
Bordiga Centum Herbis – Love this sipper before and after our holiday dinners. The alpine herbal blend of genepy, wild peppermint, thyme, eucalyptus, chamomile, wormwood, fennel, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, and juniper is a great way to whet your appetite, then acts as a post-meal digestif.
In addition to every complexion of Riesling that always bedecks our holiday table, we will welcome a few new holiday choices this year: the polished Domaine de Vaudon Chablis. Planted 30 years ago and farmed bioynamically for the last 20+ years, this is nervy and supple – a Chablis for the whole table.
For a taste of red Burgundy within reach, the Devaux La Perriere Hautes Cotes de Beaune captures everything one wants of Pinot Noir from these hallowed hills at a relatively affordable price.
To celebrate in style and quench the thirst of a holiday crowd while not getting cornered as bartenders all weekend, we will enjoy a riff on the historic Regent’s Punch, batched ahead of time and finished on demand.
For 36 cups of this princely punch to see the holiday through without breaking a sweat, these are the ingredients and measures we will use:
8 lemons worth of lemon peels
4c green tea
2c pineapple juice
3c lemon juice
2c orange juice
4c Brandy Sainte Louise (ahem… a blend of declassified Cognac and Armagnac)
1c Bordiga Maraschino cherry liqueur
1c Saison Sherry Cask Rum
1½c San Zanj Clairin White Rum
1btl Selbach Incline Riesling
2btls Racauderie Brut Vouvray
Prepare oleo-saccharum combining sugar and lemon peels in a large mixing bowl
Muddle lemon peel and sugar every ten minutes for an hour while juicing the citrus and steeping the tea
Once steeped, use the hot tea to melt.
Stir in all remaining ingredients, save sparkling wine, and store in the refrigerator until service.
When ready to serve, decant it into a punch bowl, add ice, and top it with sparkling wine for guests to ladle as they like it.
I have always been a huge fan of Alois Lageder winery and prefer drinking biodynamically produced wines. This year my pick is their Schiava. My palate gravitates toward lighter, crisp and earthy reds; and this wine checks all of those boxes and is just a pure delight in its purity and floral aromas.
I prefer to consume most spirits neat. This holiday season, when I’m in need of a late night sipper, I am going to pour a little Rabbit in the Rye from The Dampfwerk Distillery. It is a marriage of American rye whiskey and a bitter, spicy, and citrusy herbal liqueur based upon an Old World German recipe. It needs nothing but an ice cube.
Tascante Ghaia Nera: The old stand-by for the big meal is Pinot Noir if you’re looking for red. However, I content Nerello Mescalese should be the new standard. Light, lean, fresh and with enough fruit to make you think you’re drinking a much heftier wine. Heck, serve it with a little chill and you won’t even miss your white wine!
In the immortal words of the genius Big Daddy Kane, there “ain’t no half steppin” when it comes to the opening drink of the holiday’s feast. Picture this, you walk into the home, warm and inviting, see all the people you love and a sense of calm washes over you. Then! Someone hands to two fingers Kilchoman Sanaig neat, and the day has somehow gotten even better.
In addition to Drappier champagne for the oysters, we have another something special in mind for the holiday table. This year we will enjoy Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir. After enjoying the opportunity to go out and visit Ponzi earlier this year and visit with Luisa Ponzi and taste through the lineup, I was struck by what an incredible winemaker Luisa is. Everything she makes from their family run estate is delicious and let’s be honest, in terms of a wine from an iconic American family, Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir is an astounding value for this sort of pedigree and this level of pleasure.
We’ll be making merry with the help of Black Manhattans made with St. Agrestis Amaro, J. Carver Wheat Whiskey, and St. Agrestis’ Amaro Soaked Cherries – because I really like those cherries and truth is, they are surrounded by Amaro so you can always use a splash of the liqueur from the jar should the bottle of Amaro run dry. Worth noting: J. Carver Wheat is one of the best products J. Carver makes and makes an outstanding Black Manhattan.
Among the great pioneers in American sparkling winemaking of the highest quality, Argyle is just the bottle for celebrating. Thanks to added complexity from the traditional method of fermentation in the bottle, this enjoys the hallmarks of Brut Champagne with a Willamette Valley twist.
Although it may not be a cocktail per se, the Warre’s Otima 10-year-old Tawny Port combines some of the Douro’s finest wine with the spirit of aguardente. When it is fortified to arrest fermentation Warre’s preserves some supple sweetness that only gets better during all its years in cask, inspiring new aromas and flavors and becoming more luscious over time. So even if it isn’t a cocktail one has to mix, I am calling it a ready-made cocktail in a bottle that we will enjoy over the holidays even more because one can simply pull the cork and pour a glass!
Theo Minges Scheurebe Feinherb 2018
Hands down the best answer to satisfy all palate preferences among your holiday guests (including my own). Think of Scheurebe as the perfect intersection between Riesling and Gewurztraminer: at once floral, racy and playful, while never cloyingly sweet nor laden with too much potpourri aromatics. Theo Minges packs a memorable punch that pairs perfectly with crispy poultry skin and traditional American holiday fare.
Bordiga St Hubertus Amaro Riserva
‘Let food be thy medicine’ is the ancient mantra proffered by Hippocrates over 2500yrs ago, and in this instance I will amend the statement to include Drink! This bitter, brooding and elegantly constructed amaro will calm your gut after an onslaught of fats, acids, sugars and possibly a wide range of beverages. My prescription: take 1oz of Bordiga’s Riserva at 10pm on Christmas and you will awake on the 26th with a clear mind and a calm stomach!
Drouhin Bourgogne Rouge 2020
A charming appellative red Burgundy made from Pinot Noir grown across clay and limestone parcels within a dozen villages makes for a lovely glimpse at the concentrated 2020 vintage. The Bourgogne Rouge proves Drouhin’s compelling invitation to explore Burgundy writ large. It is just beautiful. Low yields and fermentation with indigenous yeasts help capture the terroir even more – and it is just the bright red for the holiday table: a refreshing, aromatic red expressing red currants, raspberries, and wild strawberries that echo all these on the palate in a red Burgundy both elegant and nimble on its feet.
Cosmopolitan made with Valentine Vodka, and Bonanto
A blend of corn, wheat and barley, distilled in copper pot stills in small batches, Valentine Vodka, deserves all the awards they receive. It is peppery and polished yet creamy and textural in a way that plays well in Cosmopolitans. Bonanto, on the other hand, is a gentle aperitivo from Spain with a light, herbal bitterness that underscores the fruity touch of cherries that makes this such a magnetic component to a holiday Cosmopolitan. So good!
We will enjoy bottle upon bottle of Baumard Carte Turquoise Brut Crémant de Loire and Racauderie Brut Vouvray. I don’t like to think about sparkling wines as being for special occasions, but that doesn’t mean I can’t drink them on special occasions
Dark and Stormy with Black Tot Rum.
Black Tot Rum is excellent on its own or with just about anything, but it makes the Dark and Stormy I like best.
Gradis’ciutta Collio Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc is a regular favorite for its depth, edge, complexity, and, perhaps most of all, its affinity to so many food pairings. Instead of the Loire, Bordeaux, or the west coast, we will enjoy Gradis’ciutta Cabernet Franc from Collio in the northeast of Italy, where vine cuttings were first brought from Bordeaux in the 1800s and where it took naturally to this land and its climate. With a characteristic intensity, a mouthwatering herbaceous bouquet, and a balanced palate of grippy tannins and fragrant fruit, this is a wine for any roast meat or aged cheese, but also anything in the savory spectrum from cold meats to game. So we are excited to serve it whenever the timing works out.
Valentine Mayor Pingree 7-Year-Old Bourbon Homage to Barton Jon
As a Bourbon and Rye enthusiast, it was very exciting for me to be able to help select the barrels with my coworkers. I didn’t know I would ever be able to do that. Joel told me beforehand that we were getting these private barrels of Seven Year Bourbon from Valentine, one of my favorite distilleries, and he invited me to taste the barrel samples. I was provided drammed barrel samples to taste as we do with those customers we serve who take their whiskey seriously. Joel Nelson, Connor Green, Dana Bonelli, Josh Colbeck and I each had barrel samples to taste, so I took mine home. Tasting through these whiskies, I found the first sample was so incredible that the next couple had a hard time living up to that first impression, so I figured I had my mind made up until I got to the last one. Immediately after pouring it, I could smell all the notes I love about Bourbon, and no matter how good the other samples were that came before, this was it.