This time of year, with holiday feasting in full swing, what to pair with your seasonal meal is on the top of everyone’s mind. However, how do you start and end the night may often get overlooked.
At 11 am today on KXAS-TV/NBC DFW, I will walk us through a few decadent options to open an evening and what to enjoy at the end of the night. With merriment in mind, each will also make an ideal hostess gift for your holiday gathering. A link to the segment is here. Cheers!
To start the night: Bubbles are always a bonus. From inexpensive to highly prized, sparkling wine and Champagne will please a spirited crowd.
For lovers of classics, Champagne is best. Sister winery to celebrated Champagne house, Champagne Salon, Champagne Delamontte Blanc de Blancs uses the same premium cru fruit of their sister winery with a great price, around $60, a steal for the quality that the wine delivers.
Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rose 2012 ($85) marks an exceptional vintage year, revealing a structured, refined wine with strawberry, red apple, toasted biscuit, and thousands of tiny bubbles. Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the winery, Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne ($40) honors the history and heritage of the winery, a beloved favorite of Napoleon, which the winery celebrates in the limited edition 150th Anniversary bottling of the sparkler. Crisp, lively, and balanced with stone and orchard fruit melding with honey, fresh cream, and toasted spice.
Utilizing the traditional method, with traditional grapes for Champagne, California emerged as a leader in the crafting of premium sparkling wine years ago. Napa and Sonoma’s Carneros region consistently delivers ideal vintages thanks to sunshine-filled days, melding with cool overnight temperatures, producing complete wines with structure, texture, and refinement. Carneros is home to the Taittinger family’s prestigious Domaine Carneros; Moet & Chandon created Domaine Chandon; G.H. Mumm developed Mumm Napa.
Cuvaison Estate in Carneros
In recent years, still wine producers have gotten on board, producing minimal amounts of sparkling wine in the traditional method. Cuvaison 2016 Rose Brut Sparkling Wine ($50) from the rolling hills of their Los Carneros estate blends Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for a vibrant, refreshing sparkler with texture, layering strawberry, tangerine, a hint of yeasty brioche, and tropical lychee fruit.
Celebrating their 50th Anniversary ZD Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley has created a very limited production sparkler to honor their story and their long history of wine in the valley. ZD 50th Anniversary Sparkling Cuvee Brut ($90) from 100% Carneros estate-grown Chardonnay fruit, revealing layers of lemon ice-box pie, toasted almond, white peach, and honey.
For a quality sparkler at a stellar price point, Cava from Spain is your go-to. Made in the traditional method of Champagne from classic Spanish varieties, like Macabeo and Paradella, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva reveals juicy cherry, wild berry, and earthy herbal notes for an incredible price, usually about $10 a bottle. With a beautiful presentation, Segura Viudas Heredad Reserva Brut ($25) delivers green apple, ripe citrus, and blanched almond, with a firm and refreshing palate that lingers.
If you want something a bit out of today’s norm, to open your night, Dry Sherry, Vermouth, or White Port. Throughout Europe and beyond, each is the rage awakening the palate and getting it ready a night of merriment. Pair with a salty snack, like anything from almonds and olives to croquettes, charcuterie, or aged Parmesan.
Graham’s Fine White Port ($16) with tonic is the ideal thirst quencher, especially if you typically enjoy gin and tonic cocktails. The Port is slightly floral, slightly herbal, slightly sweet, that when mixed with quality tonic water, like Fever Tree, harmoniously melds into an appetite awakening cocktail with character.
Mouthwatering, somewhat briny, very dry Tio Pepe Fino Sherry ($20), made from the Palomino grape, reveals an earthy, soft herb, almond, and yeasty toastiness, perfect for enjoying as an aperitif.
La Copa Rojo Vermouth ($25), produced in Jerez from grapes traditionally used for sherry, is woody, herbacious, and earthy, thanks to the blend of oak barrels used for aging the spicy wine.
To end the night:
Now, after you have enjoyed your meal and the evening is winding down, there is no better way to top off a night of merriment than with a Port wine. Port is a fortified wine with many faces, from ruby to white, late bottle vintage to tawny.
Each made from a field blend of indigenous fruit, fermented and then mixed with brandy to stop the fermentation (maintaining some of the residual sugar, maintaining the fruity sweetness,) making it the ideal wine to end the meal.
When crafted as a still wine, the Portuguese varieties like Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional reveal rustic, robust, tannin-intense red wines. The still Portuguese wines are delicious, but, when made into the prized port wine, they shine.
The Symington family has been masterfully crafting ruby and tawny Port from the terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley since they arrived from Scotland in the late 1800s.
Arriving in Porto 130 years ago, Andrew James Symington was looking for an adventure in a new world. After a short time working with Graham’s Port, he set up a small port shipping operation under his name. In 1891 he married Porto-born Beatrice Leitão de Carvalhosa Atkinson, whose grandfather had been in the port trade since 1814, and whose family can trace their roots in the port trade business back to the late 1600s. Their union brought the history to the vision and story AJ was determined to tell.
Today the 5th generation of the Symington family runs the business led by CEO Rupert Symington with his cousin, Charles Symington, as Director of Wine.
Over the years, the next generations of Symingtons have made AJ’s dreams a reality, with the group of wineries under the Symington umbrella producing over 20% of the total amount of Port made in the world. These wineries include some of the region’s most historic properties, and port houses, including Warre’s, Dow’s, Graham’s, and Cockburn’s.
Through prosperous times, and times of depression, over the past 130 years, the Symington family has never let their faith in Portugal, and the production and possibilities found in Port wine, slide. Their commitment to the land, the people who work it, and the product, traces its roots to their ancestors. Protecting their history, and allowing their brands to shine, is who they are and why they work. An inspirational and aspirational outlook that consistently delivers. Their prestigious Port wines are simply delicious.
Ruby port will be the most fruit-forward, as it is aged in casks the least amount of time, usually just a few years, maintaining the juicy blackberry, black cherry, and blueberry characteristics of the grapes. A late bottle vintage port can age for decades, concentrating the fruit notes, developing more dried fruit characteristics. Before releasing the Dow’s LBV Port ($25), the fortified wine will age in the bottle for a minimum of 10 years, creating an intensely concentrated, dried blackberry, cherry, and purple flower-filled wine. If you are a chocolate lover, or a berry or cherry pie fan, LBV Port is the ideal pairing to make the dessert shine. It is also delicious with aged blue cheese or stilton.
For oak-aged, brown spirit fans, like lovers of aged scotch or bourbon, Tawny Port may be your new favorite with similar caramelized toffee, dried orange, and baking spice characteristics extensive oak aging gives to a spirit. Graham’s 10-Year-Old Aged Tawny ($39) reveals candied apricot, tangerine, and apple. With more concentration, Graham’s 20-Year-Old Aged Tawny ($67) shows nutty hazelnut, toasted baking spice, and orange peel, with a lengthy, velvety, creamy, dreamy texture.
Colheita is a single-vintage-dated Tawny Port, aged for a minimum of seven years in seasoned oak barrels. In Portuguese, “Colheita” means “harvest.” Dow’s 2007 Cohleita Port ($42) reveals toasted almond, dried orange, caramel notes the oak imparts, with dried cherry and purple flowers. A perfect pairing with apple or pumpkin pie.