T he holiday season is here. With all of the details and fuss that you have to worry about, the last thing you need to have on your mind is finding a decent bottle of wine here in Juneau for your holiday meal that won’t cost you the price of the Lego Super Star Destroyer that Junior claims he can’t live without.
Since ostensibly you are celebrating, why not start off with a bottle of sparkling wine? Roederer Anderson Valley Brut and J Sparkling Brut are from California, are made in the traditional French style and are both very elegant ways to start a meal. The Roederer family also produces the high-end champagne Cristal so the Anderson Valley Brut can be an affordable way for you to pretend you are Jay-Z coming down the chimney like Santa Claus.
With an apology to any vegetarian readers, let’s assume that the centerpiece of your holiday meal is going to be a large roast or possibly a ham. And, unlike Thanksgiving, there are probably not a whole lot of side dishes on the table that will “confuse” your palate, so most of the recommendations here will be red wines.
There is often a direct and inversely proportional relationship between the number of people at the table and the quality of the wine served; i.e.; the more people the cheaper the wine. If you are having a small gathering, or actually enjoy the company of those at a large gathering, consider these two beauties from the Northwest: Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir or Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Domaine Drouhin is a classic styled pinot with notes of raspberry and pepper. The Woodward Canyon would be a better choice if you like your wines with more power.
For the more adventurous, there are some terrific red meat wines from Spain and from Italy. Buying European wines can put folks off since the labels are not always forthcoming with basic information, like what grape the wine is made from or the wine’s style. Consumers that are used to the fruit driven California and particularly Australia reds will find that Spanish and Italian reds are a little more acidic. But it is that acidic quality that makes them pair better with food. Beronia Reserva Rioja is a steal for about $25. It is made from Tempranillo, possibly Spain’s greatest grape, and grown in Rioja, possibly Spain’s greatest region. If you need confirmation, look up how many times the Allegrini Palazzo delle Torre has been on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year. It is made in a very extracted style that might remind you of dried fruit and spice.
Here are two reds in the affordable enough for large groups category — and even before I put them on paper I can hear a collective sigh from those who are sick of the Mad Yellow Cow Jumping Turtle Housewife “cutesy” label wines, and I agree, it’s tedious, but these two are made by real people in real wineries. Velvet Devil Merlot is made by the iconoclastic Charles Smith winery in Columbia Valley and it packs a lot of punch for a merlot. Lodi, California is a hot climate and the wines produced there have a delicious plummy and jammy quality. Plungerhead Zinfandel is new to the Juneau market and is a crowd-pleasing wine that also goes well with that big holiday roast.
• John DeCherney is the regional manager for Specialty Imports in Juneau.