Wine for Thanksgivng: Quick Picks

winePhoto by gcfairch, via Flickr

Last year here on the blog, I wrote two posts on picking wine for Thanksgiving. It was the first time covering the subject for me, but it’s a tried and true annual staple for wine writers. And it’s often one that is forced and full of clichés from “there are no rules”! to “you must follow these tips!”

So instead of rehashing all of the suggestions and tips, I’m just going to keep it simple. Here are the links to last year’s posts:  Critics’ Tips and My Tips.  And below you’ll find two of the wines that I’m bringing to this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

But first, here’s the MOST important tip that you’ll ever need – make sure you buy enough wine!



2010 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier – $12

From the Winery: “This unique marriage of two varietals that would never share the same bottle in their native France unites the crisp, honeyed fruit of Chenin Blanc with the plush body, light floral aromas and juicy stone fruit notes of Viognier, for a wine that is both sophisticated and easy to enjoy.”


2009 Erath Pinot Noir, Oregon – $19

From the Winery: “This lustrous beauty showcases aromas of raspberry pie with pleasing hints of mint, citrus and a provocative suggestion of smoke. Fresh and bright flavors on the palate are balanced with a blend of juicy cherry and racy pomegranate. An easy sipper yet enough acidity to pair beautifully with your favorite dish.”


Wines for Easter

Easter Eggs Photo by vanherdehaage via Flickr

Quick post today, but I wanted to throw out a few wine picks in advance of this weekend’s Easter festivities. As with most holidays, Easter dinner is front and center and a time for family and friends to come together (after attending church, of course…). Most meals traditionally feature a main course of lamb or ham, so I recommend using that as your guide. For lamb, pinot noir or a merlot-dominent Bordeaux are great picks. For ham, you can’t go wrong with a dry reisling or any white with bright acidity.

4 Wine Picks for Easter

2010 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Washington, $14 
Don’t let a riesling scare you away. This Washington state wine is dry, crisp, full of stone fruit flavors.
2008 Stift Klosterneuburg Wiener Nussberg Gemischter Satz, Austria, $15 
 The perfect Austrian white for the holiday – it’s made at a monastery that’s been turning grapes into wine for more than 900 years.
2009 Joseph Drouhin Laforet Pinot Noir, Bourgogne,$15
An excellent pinot noir from one of the biggest names in Burgundy. 
2009 Chateau Robin, Lussac-Saint-Emilion Rouge, Bordeaux, $15 
First growth 2009 Bordeaux futures are selling for over $2000 (per bottle!), but there are plenty of 2009 bargains on the shelves now. Merlot is dominant in this wine, but balanced out with cabarnet franc.
All of these wines can be found in the DC area. The most difficult to find is the Stift Klosterneuburg, which is sold at Bell Wine on M Street. 

Wine Picks for Valentine’s Day

V-Day Wine-Picks

Still need to find a gift for Valentine’s Day or a nice bottle to serve with dinner tonight? Consider one of these three wines, all sure to be an excellent match for the holiday.

Looking for a great value wine? Go with the Louis M. Martini cab from Sonoma Valley. It’s one of the sleeper hits of the year and a steal for the price. Is tonight the night for celebrating? Try a different kind of bubbly and go with the sparkling rosé from Schramsberg – the first California winery to produce sparkling wine in the French traditional method. Do you like splurging on Valentine’s Day? A Roessler pinot is certain to impress and deliver the goods.


2008 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley – $12

From the winery:

“Made to accentuate the high-toned, delightful fruits of Sonoma County’s vineyards, the wine offers many layers, featuring aromas and flavors of red cherry, blackberry and fresh sage with an underlying dry creek dustiness. Subtle herbal notes are complemented by additional layers of chocolate and vanilla, resulting in a complex, yet easy to enjoy, wine.”


2007 Schramsberg Brut Rosé, North Coast California – $35

From the winery:

“Juicy strawberry jumps out of the glass, followed by raspberry and cherries. The berry bouquet is complimented by mandarin orange and papaya. The palate has exotic flavors of mango and cantaloupe, followed by mouth watering citrus. A juicy viscosity leads to a long, lingering finish.”


2006 Roessler Ridges Estate Bottled Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast – $55

From Wine Enthusiast:

“Tough and gritty in youth, this Pinot is showing edgy tannins, tart acidity and unincorporated oak. It’s almost like a barrel sample. But it’s stuffed with currant, licorice and mocha flavors, and should develop well in the bottle. Try after 2009.”

*I had a chance to try this wine last month and it is tasting quite well – the grit and edge noted above seems to have developed into a smooth, well-rounded wine with big and complex fruit throughout.

Wine for Holiday Parties: Tips and Suggestions

img_3006Photo by ksbuehler via Flickr

A few weeks ago, I did a couple of posts on wines for Thanksgiving and they were a big hit. I really enjoyed writing the posts too, so I thought I’d follow them up with some tips and wine suggestions for holiday parties. ‘Tis the season, after all.

Choosing wine for a holiday party is much easier than for Thanksgiving. First, you’re not constrained by the somewhat impossible task of trying to pair the wines with the food. In most cases, you’ll just be serving hors d’oeuvres and snacks – so forget trying to pair with food. Second, you’re likely buying wine for a larger group of people. Ultimately, you want wine to go with wines that people will simply enjoy and probably not think too much about. So keep it simple for yourself as well.

Holiday Party Wine Tips
Here are five tips to simplify the wine selections for your holiday party.

1. Buy by the case It’s a party, stock up. Plus, most wine shops will give you a discount when you buy by the case, which helps keep your costs down (see tip #4)

2. Pick crowd pleasers, easy drinkers No need to over think your choices and seek out some esoteric wine for a big party. Just go with crowd favorites. Serving two red and white options each is ideal, and I’d suggest choosing both lighter and heavier bodied wines. So think sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, pinot noir or merlot and big blends.

3. Screwcaps are key You’re hosting a big party, do you really have time to stand around and open up all of the those bottles? If the wine is flowing freely, screwcaps are great for minimizing the hassle of uncorking a dozen or more wines in a night. And while there’s plenty of debate over the longevity of screwcap wines, most are perfect for drinking right now.

4. Look for value There’s a time and a place for bringing out the expensive stuff, but I’m not sure a Holiday party fits the bill – especially if you’re hosting a big party. Personally, I’d reserve the good stuff for smaller parties with close friends so you can be sure the wines are fully enjoyed and  appreciated. Similar to my advice for Thanksgiving, there’s plenty of great wine available for under $20, especially among screwcaps. In fact, the $8-$12 range seems to be the real sweet spot.

5. Go with Prosecco for the bubbly In keeping with nearly all of the previous tips, you really can’t go wrong with prosseco. It’s cheap too. Plus, prosecco is a great sparkling wine to use in drinks like mimosas or poinsettias, which expands your cocktail options.

Holiday Party Wine Picks
Following those tips, here are a few wine picks. These wines can be found fairly easily in wine shops and supermarkets. For those in the DC area, I’ve found all of these wines at Total Wine stores in Virginia, and sold at big discounts too.

2009 La Vielle Ferme Côtes du Ventoux ($8)

2009 La Vielle Ferme Côtes du Luberon ($8)

NV Fess Parker Frontier Red Lot ($10)

2009 Angeline Reserve Chardonnay, Sonoma County ($11)

NV Zardetto Prosecco di Conegliano Brut ($12)

2009 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir ($13)

2009 A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris ($14)

2009 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($17)

2008 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir ($18)

Wine for Thanksgiving: My Tips

So many choices… (Photo by William Couch, via Flickr)

If you read yesterday’s post, or any article on pairing wine for Thanksgiving, you’re likely thinking that there’s no easy or simple answer. All told, there are probably too many opinions on the matter. No wonder it can seem overwhelming.

But in reality, it’s not that difficult. In fact, it can be fairly simple and straightforward. Just give yourself a few ground rules, come up with a game plan ahead of time and stick to it. The trick, in my mind, is not to over think it. And if your guests aren’t thankful for the wine you’ve provided with Thanksgiving dinner, well, no dessert for them.

For this post on Thanksgiving wine pairings, I’ve laid out a set of five tips for selecting wines and included a set of my personal picks based on those tips.


Justin’s Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Tips

1. Pick wine that you like. This is by far the best way to keep the whole process simple and relatively stress free. If there’s a wine you know you like, chances are other people will as well. Plus, it’s always good to go with what you know over taking a risk on a wine that you’ve never tasted before.

2. Include both reds and whites (and bubbly and rosé too). Worried that not everyone likes red wine or vice versa? Easy, include both. And if you’re really ambitious, throw in a bottle of bubbly or even rosé.

3. Mix it up with a variety of options. Expanding on the previous tip, include a variety of wines to choose from – a couple of whites, couple of reds, etc. This is a sure bet  to keep the crowd satisfied. If someone doesn’t like riesling, you’ve got chardonnay to serve. Zinfandel not your thing? Here’s a pinot noir.

4. Buy American. It is Thanksgiving, after all. Aside from the 4th of July, it’s the most American of American holidays. Embrace it. Besides, there’s plenty of excellent American wines of all stripes to choose from.

5. Don’t break the bank. Buy enough. The first part of this tip definitely makes the second part much easier. When serving wine to a large crowd at a big meal like Thanksgiving, there’s no need to break out the super expensive stuff. And there’s plenty of value wine to be found under $20. While you don’t want to go overboard, it’s usually best to be sure you don’t run out of wine. About a half bottle per drinking guest is a good formula – and you can always keep what’s leftover.


Justin’s Thanksgiving Wine Picks

In keeping with the tips above, I’ve selected a set of wines that I would love to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. For the most part, I’ve kept the selections to wines priced under $20. I’ve tasted all of the wines this year and you’ll notice something of an East Coast influence, with four wines from Virginia and New York. Personally, I don’t drink very much sparkling wine, so that category is excluded from my picks.

Rosé :

2009 Wolffer Estate Rosé Table Wine, Long Island, New York ($13) An excellent Provence-style rosé from one of the top wineries on Long Island. Yes, Long Island. This was my favorite rosé of the year, hands down.


2009 Linden Vineyards Vidal Riesling, Virginia ($19) The first of two Virginia picks, tropical fruits, slight sweetness, and nice acidity make for an excellent wine that will pair well with a variety of side dishes and desserts.

2009, Keswick Vineyards Viognier, Monticello ($22) Viognier is an up-and-coming varietal in Virginia, and this wine is a shining example. Aromatic, flavors of apples and pears, bright acidity and refreshing. A wine that should match well with the big flavors of the meal.

2008, Four Vines Naked Chardonnay, Santa Barbara ($12) A unoaked, light bodied and crisp chardonnay. A great value, especially for those looking to avoid a California oak-bomb chardonnay.


2007, Erratic Rock Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon ($15) This Oregon Pinot is an excellent value wine.  Cherry and earthy aromas matched with a well-balanced structure and fruit forward flavors.

2007, Shinn Estate Vineyard Wild Boar Doe, North Fork Long Island ($30) A Bordeaux-style blend might be considered too big of a wine for the meal, but this Long Island blend leads with merlot (40%), displaying dark fruit, spice, and vanilla flavors, with ripe but not overpowering tannins and a nice finish.

2008, Owen Roe Sinister Hand,  Columbia Valley ($24) An excellent Rhone-style blend from the Pacific Northwest, ripe red fruit, savory, herbaceous and earth flavors make for a great pairing.

NV, Rosenblum Cellars Vinter’s Cuvee, California ($13) Zinfandel, the American wine – and not the pink stuff either. At 13.5% alcohol, this is a lighter, medium-bodied wine with nice flavors of cherry, berries, and spice. 

A note on the links, prices and availability: I’ve linked directly to all of the wineries included above. The prices listed are based more or less on retail prices that I’ve seen for these wines, not necessarily the prices quoted on the winery websites. Many of the wines can be found in wine shops and grocery stores in DC (Bell Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods, Safeway), with the Virginia and New York wines being the exception. To find good deals on these wines, I recommend using