Choosing wines for holiday occasions can be confusing. Whether you’re giving the wine as a gift, cooking with it, hosting a dinner party, or relaxing after a long day, it’s nice to have some guidance when choosing from the myriad offerings. To assist you, we contacted area experts for their favorites in two price categories: under $20 and over $20. Here’s what they told us.
Joseph Buchter, State Line Liquors Import buyer
Under $20: Eugene Carrel’s Cremant de Savoie Brut, $18.99
Between entertaining and gift-giving, it’s all too easy to spend more than you mean to during the holiday season. Having solid go-to sparkling wines at a reasonable price can be a lifesaver for a last-minute gift, or for hosting or attending a party. To that end, I recommend Eugene Carrel’s Cremant de Savoie Brut, or, if you can’t find this wine, Cremant in general. Eugene Carrel is located in the Savoie region of eastern France, where they make this dry, bubbly wine out of Chardonnay and a local grape called Jacquere. As a refreshing bottle of sparkling wine, it has light toasty elements in conjunction with precise citrus flavors.
The true value to this wine, and Cremants like it, is that the production method is the same as the method used in Champagne, with slightly different aging requirements; some Cremants are aged longer before release than Champagne, some for less time. Either way, you can usually buy two or three bottles of Cremant for the same price as one bottle of Champagne.
Over $20: Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe 2016 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, $84.99
Buying red wine, especially as a gift, is more difficult than it sounds because not all red wines are created equal. For the purpose of versatility, I often recommend wines from France’s Southern Rhone Valley.
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe has been owned and managed by the Brunier family since the late 1800s. Their plot of land is located in the Southern Rhone Valley’s most famous appellation, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where red blends based on the grapes Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (along with a host of others) are the norm. This wine, and ones of its ilk, are so useful because they are easily appreciated by fans of both French and California wine. Plus, reds from Chateauneuf-du-Pape show delicious red and black fruits in their youth, but also develop great complexity as they age.
Ed Mulvihill, Peco’s Liquors
Under $20: Raisins Gaulois Beaujolais 2017, $14.99
Young, fresh and vibrant, this unique offering from Kermit Lynch is a great choice for Thanksgiving. It’s Gamay grown on old vines, late harvest , and fermented using indigenous yeast. At only $14.99 this is a steal. It has loads of fresh fruit on the nose balanced with bright acidity. From the turkey to all the side dishes, this wine is a winner.
Over $20: Moobuzz Pinot Noir, Monterrey 2014, $20.99
Pinot noir is one of the classic parings for your Thanksgiving meal. Moobuzz will not disappoint. This medium body red has notes of fresh red fruit balanced nicely with savory spice and a long finish.
David Govatos, Owner of Swigg
Under $20: Domaine Laurens, Marcillac Rouge, Cuvee Pierres Rouges, 2016, $17
Domaine Laurens is a 21-hectare, family-run farm located in the wine growing region of Marcillac, primely positioned within the Massif Central mountain range. The property was founded in 1975 by Gilbert Laurens. His two sons run the property, and focus on growing Fer Servadou grapes. In the glass, the wine exudes loads of red current, rhubarb compote and inflections of raspberry notes and beef bouillon. The wine unravels different layers of earth, spice and funk as it’s left open. At 12.5 percent alcohol, the wine is totally “crushable,” and its smart interplay between tannin and acidity allows it to cleanse the palate while tackling savory seasonal stews.
Over $20: Foris, Cedar Ranch Pinot Noir, 2015, $32
The Gerber family has been growing grapes in Oregon’s most southernly wine-growing appellation, Rouge Valley, since 1974. In fact, Foris is the southern-most vineyard in the Pacific Northwest. Cedar Ranch has 46 acres under vine, 25 acres of which are devoted to pinot noir. In the glass, the wine expresses notes of brandied maraschino cherries and menthol with hints of powdered chocolate and mountain herbs.
John Murray, Proprietor, State Line Liquors
Under $20: 2016 Dashe Les Enfants Terribles Carignane Evangelho Vineyard, $19.99
Gnarly old vines planted circa 1890 in Contra Coast County California on the Sacramento River Delta’s sandy soils produce eloquent fruit flavors of cherries, strawberries and pomegranate that enhance this vibrant and bright wine. Soft tannins, with nice spices and good acidity, lead to a long and rich finish. The winemaking team of Anne and Mike Dashe have crafted many excellent wines, and this is no exception.
Over $20: 2013 Stony Hill Chardonnay, $59.99
Spring Mountain fruit is vinified by the McCrea Family and longtime winemaker Mike Chelini. Stony Hill is known for crafting Old World wine with New World fruit. Fermented in neutral oak with Montrachet Yeast and no Malolatic Fermentation, this Chardonnay exhibits flavors of apples, citrus and exotic spices. Hints of mineral components with good clean acidity make this wine absolutely incredible.
Linda Collier- Collier’s of Centreville
Under $20: Varichon & Clerc, $14.99
This is a sparkling wine from the Alps and is made in the champagne method, with a combination of grapes, including jacquere, chenin blanc, ugni blanc and colombard.
Over $20: Champagne; Vielle France Brut Rose, $41.99
This is pinot noir, chardonnay and 15 percent coteaux champenoise rouge. My feeling in life is you can never have enough bubbles as they make every day a celebration and go amazingly well with lots of foods or simply by themselves.
Jeff Kreston, Kreston Wine & Spirits
Under $20: Second Growth Cabernet Sauvignon, $15.99
The 2016 Second Growth Cabernet Sauvignon draws fruit from a number of small vineyards in the Columbia Valley in Washington, and 2016 was a record vintage for the area with high quality and a large harvest. The result is a rich, velvety wine with flavors of black cherry, cocoa and velvety tannins. It’s the perfect wine to cozy up to for the colder days ahead!
Over $20: Le Mas Des Flauzieres Gigondas 2015, $25.99
Received a 92-point rating from Robert Parker. Has with hints of dried spices and vanilla over a core of cherry fruit. A full bodied, supple and profound flavorful experience.
Stephen Allegretto, The Wine & Spirits Co. Of Greenville
Under $20: 2016 Pierre Sparr Pinot Blanc (Alsace, France), $19.99
Over $20: Veuve Fourny & Fils, Premier Cru, Rose Champagne, Brut nv (Vertus, France), $56.99