Portions originally published in West Hawaii Today
Happy holidays! For the most wonderful time of the year, the best wine to toast with is the one you love. In my last “What To Drink Now” write-up, we raised a glass to aperitifs and dessert wines for the season. Today we will fill in the middle with wines to pair throughout your holiday meal. Where Thanksgiving wines are lighter pairing with the day-long feast, Festivus wines can be more robust, as holiday meals tend to include heartier options like beef, lamb, ham, and pork roasts.
Cabernet is king for the holidays, and right now, Napa Valley is in the middle of their Cabernet Sauvignon celebration. For the splurge of the season, you can’t beat the rustic, pencil lead, black fruit, black licorice, and Asian spice box filled Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon ($310) from the Shafer’s ultra-premium Stags Leap District vineyard. From the historic To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville, Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($175) melds ripe cherry, espresso, toasted almond, and creamy vanilla. Blending fruit from mountain, benchland, and valley-floor vineyards delivering the best of the region, Louis Martini Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon ($230) has power, texture, and refinement, wrapped in layers of black cherry, dried leaves, and spiced star anise.
With a history dating back to the late 1800s, Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) showcases their Rutherford vineyards with a rustic, rugged, dusty wine with structure and power. Showcasing the iron-rich soil of Howell Mountain, Duckhorn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) reveals tobacco, leather, and dried berry notes, with a firm, polished palate that lingers.
Southern Napa’s Coombsville region produces a fresh, luscious Cabernet Sauvignon for Ackerman ($95) with supple tannin highlighting violets, red currant, and cedar. Extensively aged for 30 months in new French oak, Trefethen HaLo Cabernet Sauvignon ($220) layers licorice, bay leaf, and toasted spice with a bold, robust palate. Soft and supple, Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) invites you to enjoy with flavors of blackberry, plum, and dark chocolate.
For lovers of a blend, Joseph Phelps Winery masterfully crafts a Bordeaux-style blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc, creating Insignia ($300) revealing harmony in the glass with structure and energy. Rustic, well-rounded, and refined, Alpha Omega melds the Bordeaux varieties for a dried flower and toasted spice-filled Proprietary Red Blend ($104) that opens with black and red cherry, boysenberry, dusty rose, and baking spice.
From Yountville, Paraduxx Rector Creek Vineyard Red Blend ($82) brings Cabernet Sauvignon together with Zinfandel for a spiced, earthy, brambleberry, graphite, and pepper filled wine perfect for pairing with grilled rib-eye steaks. The Hess Collection Lion Tamer ($45) adds Petite Sirah and Malbec to Cabernet Sauvignon for a fruit-forward Napa Valley wine with a plush palate and easy-drinking style.
For a Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend, Shafer Vineyards TD-9 ($60) allows Merlot to shine, bringing it together with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec forming an alluring wine with plum, strawberry, Asian spice, and toasted vanilla. La Jota Vineyard on Howell Mountain showcases fresh beauty and liveliness of Merlot ($85) with their mountain-grown fruit balancing earthy minerality, with black plum, espresso, and dried flowers.
Celebrating a long history of making wine in Central California’s Paso Robles, J Lohr Vineyards & Wine has just released their inaugural Pure Paso Red Blend ($27) of Cabernet Sauvignon with Petite Sirah and a touch of Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot to create an intriguing blend with black fruit, cigar box, and savory balsamic. From Washington’s Columbia Valley, Mullen Road Cellars ( $45) balances smooth elegance with a structured, concentrated backbone, to reveal a delicate yet well-defined Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend from the mineral-intense, arid soils of the region. From fruit grown throughout Northern California, Storypoint Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc showcases a story of the land, bringing the character of each into a harmonious wine.
Malbec is a Bordeaux variety that found its home in Argentina, with the best coming from high elevation vineyards in Mendoza. First planted in 1925, and sitting at 3000+ feet above sea level, Achaval-Ferrer Finca Altamira ($125) delivers Malbec with complexity and strength, while, maintaining freshness and balance for an appealing wine, ideal for prime rib or slow-smoked brisket. Blending Malbec with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cheval des Andes ($75) Bordeaux-style blend is spicy, savory, soft and subtle, all in one glass, delivering finesse, wrapped in a well-structured blend. From historic Tempranillo vineyards in Alta Rioja, Spain, Beronia Gran Reserva DOCa ($30) is the best of the best, highlighting black cherry and licorice, soft mint, toasted almond, and chocolate. From the hills of France’s Terrasses du Larzac in Languedoc, with well-draining clay and limestone filled terraced vineyards, Chateau des Cres Richards “Stecia” ($20) blends mostly Grenache and Syrah for a mineral-intense, olive, pepper, red cherry-filled wine with length and balance.
For pairing with slow-roasted pork shoulder or beef, look to Italy. Tenuta Sant Antonio “Antonio Castagnedi” Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG ($47) brings fresh cherry and berry together with dried cherry, dried blackberry, and allspice. Sangiovese shines in Italy’s Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione DOCG ($41), revealing ripe tannins with fresh acidity, accenting plum, tobacco, and earthy truffle notes in the wine. Pair with a wild boar ragu over penne or polenta for an elevated take on pasta night. From Tuscany’s premium Montepulciano district, Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG ($30) reveals dried woody herb and ripe red fruits in an agrarian, structured wine.
Brand new, La Caccia di San Giovanni Super Tuscan ($55) red blend brings 100% organically grown Cabernet Sa
uvignon and Sangiovese from San Giovanni, just outside of Siena. Allowing the fruit to speak for itself, embracing a non-interventionist style of winemaking, La Caccia showcases the balance blending the two varieties, bringing the best of both to craft a complete wine with character. Badia a Coltibouno brings the story of the Chianti region together in a dense, hearty blend of nine historic varieties from iron-rich soils in their Montebello ($60) layering earthy tar, leather, blackberry, and plum.
And always remember, at the end of the day, drink what you like. As the saying goes when someone asks a wine-lover what their favorite wine is, they simply reply “the one in my glass.” Hopefully, these suggestions will make planning a little easier.
Gary, Yoda, and I wish you a wonderful holiday. Hug the ones you love, and cherish every precious minute. And, drink the good stuff. Cheers!