by Mark Moody
North Forty News
Holidays are often tied to feasting and what better compliment than a bottled spirit to enhance the experience. Wine has become enormously popular especially during the holidays. The grape not only offers a vehicle to wash down the Christmas roast but fortified versions are a friendly companion for rich desserts.
Here are a few suggestions complete with some history based upon extensive research to enliven your holiday gatherings.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the planet’s most popular red wine. Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, the cradle of many popular selections of today, Cabs beginnings started in the 17th Century. Grown in many winemaking regions because of its hearty disposition Cabernet has strong tolerance of variable climate conditions. Cabernet’s full-bodied flavor makes it an excellent blending grape combined with other varietals. On its own the fruit forward burst of flavor is the proper companion to beef dishes and heavy tomato concoctions. California is awash is fruity cabs. Stag’s Leap and Jordan Vineyards offer tasty but somewhat pricey selections.
Chardonnay is one of the three most asked for wines anywhere. The Burgundy region of France started Chards centuries ago. Although grown in a variety of climates, Chardonnay vines can be sensitive to early spring frosts. As with many wines, California Chardonnay began significant commercial production in the 1980s. The taste can vary from citrus to vanilla based upon the vintner’s preference. Simi winery has a solid Chard with a citrus flavor, while mega-vintner Kendal Jackson’s more oaky offering is one of the best selling wines in the country. For those with deeper pockets Bergstrom’s Sigrid is awesome at a hundred bucks a bottle.
Many other wines are available to fit most palates from Zinfandels with their great depth of flavor and syrah, a more traditional taste of the Rhone Valley. Stepping away from the most popular, pinot noir is the out of the box selection. France’s Burgundy region also begat pinots, a fussy grape requiring a far narrower climate condition preferring wetter and cooler growing seasons. Grown and nurtured throughout the world some of the best pinot noirs are available from the Pacific Northwest. Pinots taste is vastly more subtle reflecting soil conditions where a rocking growing medium produces a more mineral taste. Some of the loamy soils of the inland acreages show off more fruit taste.
A to Z Vineyards has a consistently fine pinot under twenty dollars, but many others can be well over thirty bucks.
Fortified wines as a group have a higher alcohol content and thicker consistency and pair well with many of the holiday’s rich desserts. Ruby, tawny or vintage ports melt in your mouth when coupled with anything chocolate. Sauterne with the flavor of butter and honey can be heavenly with creamy confections and cheese cake.