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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

The Perfect Wines for Your Thanksgiving Feast

November 14th, 2013 No comments

Photo credit: riptheskull, Flickr

There’s no way around it: choosing wine to accompany the Thanksgiving meal is a tough task. First off, you have to choose a wine that goes with a wide variety of dishes: something that can stand up to Aunt Mabel’s marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, but that also doesn’t overwhelm the simple flavors of Grandma’s cornbread stuffing. It also has to be a wine that will keep your palate interested throughout the long meal, without making  you long for something different after half a glass. Not to mention: it has to be a crowdpleaser. But don’t panic: our experts here at Vintage Cellars have shared their favorite Turkey Day wine picks. And for that, we give thanks.

Sparklers

Sparkling wine’s acidity and effervescence cuts through fats (of which there are many on the Thanksgiving menu). This refreshes the palate, keeping your taste buds enlivened through the meal (and even a second helping).

You may not want to serve sparkling wines at dinner, but consider starting off your celebration with a glass of wine for everyone. Be sure to choose a Brut (the driest type), and pick something with a clean and light finish.

Whites

When choosing white wines for Thanksgiving, go for a bright, lively wine rather than a heavy one like a buttery Chardonnay. If you like fruity wines, choose wines with sharper, tarter flavors like pear and apple, or citrus flavors like grapefruit and lemon, rather than luscious, sweet ones like peach and honeydew.

Wines with highly mineral notes are great for this meal too: Sauvignon blanc is a crisp and pleasantly non-fruity varietal that will taste great from appetizer to pumpkin pie.

Reds

It may seem rule-breaking to serve red with turkey breast, but hear us out: the rest of the dishes are so rich that they call for a red to stand up to them. Just don’t go too far: a heavy, rich red can overpower the meal. Instead, choose something with bright fruitiness.

Pinot noir is a great choice for Thanksgiving: look for younger wines (which will be bright rather than smokey), with flavors like strawberry or raspberry. Beaujolais is another winner: light, dry and fresh. Slightly chilled is the proper way to serve it, and also helps further helps enliven those butter-laden mashed potatoes.

Of course, one of the most wonderful things about wine is that you can (and should) drink what you like. If our advice to choose something light and lively rather than heavy and intense sounds, well, boring, trust your gut. If a super-buttery chardonnay or a dark, fruity Cabernet is going to make your guests swoon, then choose that wine to stock your table. After all, Thanksgiving is nothing if not a day of indulgence.

 

 

 

Natalie MacLean’s Updated iPhone App

Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLeanInstead of giving traditional (and often non-useful) gifts to your folks this Mother’s or Father’s Day, considering celebrating with the gift of a good bottle of wine that will really make them smile!  Sure ties, socks, and ceramic hippo nicknacks are the norm when you’re not really sure what your parents want or need, but a bottle of wine–a classy touch of elegance–shows just how much you appreciate them, much more than any generic gift ever can.

Because Mother’s and Father’s Day meals contain all sorts of food items, finding the right wine to accompany your parent’s chosen dish may often pose a dilemma.  Fortunately, the app Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean features a Mother’s Day Brunch matching option under the Pairings tab.  Simply selecting this option brings up plenty of perfect pairings.  For example, here are the top five:

  • Spanish omelette with Pinot Grigio
  • Spinach and bacon quiche with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Crepes Suzanne with Icewine
  • French toast and raspberries with Champagne
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels with Pinot Noir

Curious about what to bring to the family’s Father’s Day cookout?  Select Father’s Day Barbecue from the list!  What are some sure-fire suggestions?

  • Seared Pepper Steak with Shiraz
  • Planked Salmon with Riesling
  • Flame-Broiled Hamburgers with Zinfandel
  • Grilled Chicken with Chardonnay
  • BBQ Pork Chops with Merlot

Mmmmm…  In addition to helping you select fantastic wines for your family’s fun holidays, the app allows you to access a host of tasting notes, scores, prices, and recipes.  You can search over 150,000 wines at retailers across the U.S.,  and create a wine journal containing your own notes and photos.  Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry, and allows users with other mobile phones access to a mobile site.  The latest version was updated on Feb. 04, 2012.

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!

Decorate Your Wine Bottle

February 14th, 2012 No comments
A fiasco similar to those traditionally used for Chianti

Photo by Giulio Nepi (from Wikipedia)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Giving your Sweetie Pie a bottle of wine on Valentine’s Day?  In addition to presenting it with a fancy bow or ribbon attached, there are lots of fun, inexpensive decorations the two of you can make from it the same evening (once you both finish it!)  A bottle works great as a vase, so if you have a few pretty flowers, now you know where to put them.  You don’t need many, and just a couple can look quite lovely.  If you have several empty bottles waiting to be tossed, consider lining them up on the mantle with a rose or two in each for a Valentine’s surprise.  For a fun, romantic Italian atmosphere at home, place a lit candle in an empty bottle of Chianti while you dine.  Consider printing out a love poem and gluing it tastefully over the bottle, too!

  • You can paint and decorate your wine bottles, and even frost them with glitter spray to create delicate centerpieces.
  • Fill some empty bottles with water and place them around a short candle so the soft light twinkles through.  If your bottles are clear, add some food coloring to the water!  Have fun!
  • Consider filling empty bottles with bath salts, then wrapping them up as gifts, or even filling an empty bottle with liquid soap to make your tub area look a bit more elegant.  (Be sure to substitute a soap hand pump for the cork, for convenience!)

With a little creative thought, there’s quite a bit you can do inexpensively with an empty bottle.  Why not make a fun, intimate craft project out of your bottle together this Valentine’s Day?

 

Wine and Chocolate: What Really Works?

February 9th, 2012 No comments

So, you want to get your sweetheart a special wine to accompany the heart-shaped box of chocolates you’re giving him or her this Valentine’s Day?  What wine do you select?  Unlike “standard” wine and food pairings, pairing wine with chocolate can be a bit more tricky.  However, if you pair them well, the result is truly divine!  No matter if you’re pairing your wine with white, milk, or dark chocolate, here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction…

Chocolates for Valentine's Day: Pick the Perfect Wine

Photo by John Hritz (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Try to pair lighter, less complex wines with lighter, simple-tasting chocolates.  The reverse also goes; try to pair rich, robust wines with darker, richer chocolates, including dark chocolate covered cherries.  Since dark chocolate displays more tannins, combining dark chocolate with a wine packed with tannins has sort of a “cancelation effect” on the wine’s tannins, bringing out more of the wine’s inherent fruity flavor (which is just what you want!)

Because white chocolate is more subtle than milk or dark, it pairs very well with Sherry and Moscato d’Asti.  Though some people like to pair white chocolate with red or white Zinfandel, the counterpoint of flavors can sometimes provide a dissatisfying contrast (if not “sampled” for approval beforehand.)  Our advice: play it safe and stay away from Zinfandel unless you know your mate has enjoyed such a combination before!  Milk chocolate goes well with Pinot Noir, several Rieslings, and Muscat (one of our favorites!)  Ruby–not Tawney–Port is almost always a perfect fit for milk chocolate, so we recommend serving this dessert wine when in doubt.  Dark chocolate craves to be paired with wines that also display hints of chocolate.  A good red Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice for a box of dark chocolates.  Merlot and Tawney Port also pair exceptionally well with dark chocolate.

We hope these suggestions aid you on your quest to find the “perfect” wine to accompany the chocolate delights you plan to present your lover.  (Remember, there’s no harm in buying a few extra bottles of wine so you can sample some combinations yourself before February 14th, just to be sure!)  Cheers!

Good Wine for Auld Lang Syne

December 29th, 2011 No comments
Champagne glasses on New Year's

Photo by Mike Gifford

Sung to celebrate the stroke of midnight which begins each New Year, Robert Burns’ poem is a New Year’s staple, and so is the tradition of toasting to the hour with Champagne, or other sparkling wines.  Are you hosting a New Year’s Eve party?  If so, what do you plan to toast with?  Here’s some basic info to help you out!

Champagne and sparkling wines are categorized (and, thus, labeled) according to their sugar levels.  “Brut” is probably the most popular seller.  It’s dry, crisp, and pairs well with lots of finger foods.  “Extra Brut” is especially dry.  If your wine is labeled “Extra Dry” it’s actually (oddly enough) a bit sweeter than the common “Brut” which makes it a terrific aperitif.  This might be a wine to consider toasting with, especially if it’s being served on its own.  “Demi-sec” wine is very sweet, and often benefits from being served with fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and desserts.

The Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS

The wine you choose will probably also be labeled as “vintage” or “non-vintage” (often abbreviated as “NV” on the label.)  Sparkling vintage wines come from a single year, while non-vintage ones are blends from many different years.  While vintage Champagne is usually pricier, the majority of sparkling wines are NV.

Always remember that sparkling wines are meant to be served chilled (i.e. usually between 42°F to 50°F), so don’t let your bottles sit out at room temperature before you pop their corks!  To achieve just the right serving temperature, a wine storage cabinet like the Le Cache Mission 1400 wine cabinet, or the Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS cabinet, is far more precise than putting bottles of Champagne in your fridge. Cheers to your successful party!

 

And  very happy new year to all our blog readers, customers and fans!

Wine for Christmas

December 22nd, 2011 No comments
wine in a gift basket

With Christmas and other holidays fast approaching, stores are packed with last-minute shoppers.  If you are among them, consider giving a loved one something very special this season: a basket of assorted wines.  Unlike socks, ties, and bolder clothing items that can be gambles (and unlike gift cards which, according to recent statistics, are rarely used in full), wine is a gift that virtually everyone of legal age can enjoy.  What is more, if some wines in your assortment do not suit your recipient’s fancy, she or he will often gladly open them for company.  (This means that none of your present goes to waste!)

A Polish Fruitcake

Polish Fruitcake, photo by Alina Zienowicz

Since some wines given at Christmas are opened the same day, it’s good to include a couple bottles that can pair with various holiday dishes like roast duck, turkey, beef, mashed potatoes, stuffing, various pies, chocolates, peppermints, fruitcake, prune cookies…  In other words, be sure to include a couple wines like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc that will not clash wildly with the barrage of disparate food items they may be stuck accompanying!  Because some odd dishes do appear during the holiday season, perhaps it’s not too off the mark to include a bottle or two of a novelty wine?  For example, consider cranberry wine.  This sweet, curious wine will certainly generate conversation.  Like comparing apples to pears, it can’t be adequately described with the same terms used for grapes.  This wine goes well with poultry, fried chicken, and chocolate among other foods, and can also be sipped by itself.

On the more potent side, you may want to consider a plum wine.  This wine ranges from tart to sweet, and can nicely complement a variety of pies.  If you’re unsure about what wines to include in your gift basket, you may want to include a few reds and a few whites.  One example of a nice variety of wines is as follows: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  You could also substitute a bottle of port for one of the reds, or gift a bottle of port with two whites.  No matter what you eventually select, rest assured that someone will enjoy your gift! To encourage them to enjoy your gift right away, consider including in your gift basket a Rogar Estate Bronze Wine Bottle Opener. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

Rogar Estate Wine Bottle Opener

Wine: The Perfect Last-Minute Gift

December 20th, 2011 No comments
Last-minute shoppers looking for gift ideas

Shoppers on Dundas, photo by Ian Muttoo

Shopping for gifts at the last minute, again?  Does what to get for a certain loved one have you stumped?  If you continue to suffer from the daunting task of gift selection, here’s a gift that is always appreciated: wine!  What is more, shopping for wine is much easier than sifting through racks of ties, perusing packages of festive socks, or combing the entire hardware section of Sears.  And unlike jewelry that may not see the light of day once fashions change, or knickknacks that may have just a two-week shelf life, wine will always be popular and appreciated.  You need not break the bank when purchasing wine (there are good bottles in every price range), and its affordability allows you to easily put together decent gift baskets for less than $50.  Single bottles can even be given as gifts; special “artistic” bottles created by vineyard artists make excellent showpieces after they have been enjoyed, and most retailers offer gift bags, boxes, and wrapping services so your present will look extraordinarily presentable!  Because gifted wines often get opened around a broad array of holiday foods, at least one wine to include in a gift basket is a Pinot Noir since it pairs adequately with most foods.  Equally good is a sparkling wine, which is always associated with festive times.  For variety’s sake, you may want to gift one of each– white, red, and sparkling wine –so that your recipient has options to choose from.  Also, you may want to consider including a rosé; though this wine is often associated with summertime, it adds a breath of fresh air to winter dinners.

Red and white wine served at dinner

Photo by Adrien Facélina

When serving wine at your holiday dinner, make sure you use proper wine glasses, and keep your wine bottles at the proper serving temperature.  It is especially important to make sure your sparkling wines are adequately chilled.  (No one likes warm Champagne!)  Whites should be chilled properly, too, but most reds can be served at cellar temperature.  To be sure your wine reaches its ideal serving temperature, consider using a Le Cache European Country 1400 wine cabinet, or a Vintage Series 2 door single-deep credenza in your dining room.  No matter the occasion, the gift of wine is one that will always be welcomed.  Happy Holidays!

Blueberry Port Sauce for Duck and Goose

December 15th, 2011 No comments

This winter season, tantalize your taste buds with a delicious port wine sauce that’s perfect for roast duck, goose, and even turkey.  Easy-to-make, and with a welcomed reference to summer (i.e. the blueberries), this unique treat could possibly become a holiday staple.

Roast Duck Breast

Roast Duck Breast Meat (photo by Chensiyuan)

Here’s what you’ll  need:

  • 1 heaping cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 1/4 cups tawny port wine (or ruby port)
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. redcurrant jelly

Thaw the frozen blueberries.  Pour the port, jelly, and half of the blueberries into a saucepan.  Heat on medium-high and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes thin.  Remove from heat and add the remaining blueberries.  Stir in mustard.  Keep your port wine sauce warm until ready to serve.

Enjoy this unique blueberry port sauce with your favorite roast poultry dishes.  For an exciting variation, try substituting boysenberry jelly.  Enjoy!

Red and White Wine Turkey Sauce

November 22nd, 2011 No comments

He prefers red wine, she prefers white, and their daughter likes some of both.  Now, they are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner.  You wanted to make a delicious wine sauce to accompany your turkey, but now you just don’t know which to make: red or white?  Never fear!  With this easy recipe, red lovers, white lovers, and those who enjoy both will all be delighted.

First of all, you’re going to make two different sauces–one with white wine, one with red.  These sauces can be served separately, or combined to form an intriguing red-white sauce!  (Excited yet?)

A Roast Thanksgiving Turkey

A Thanksgiving Turkey (photo by Gregory Kohs)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup red wine (on the drier side)
  • 1/2 cup white wine (dry or sweet)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 4 ounces chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 cup unsalted butter

Put the red wine, butter, and chicken stock in a pan and simmer on low for 12-14 minutes.  Now, into another pan, put the white wine and chicken bouillon cube.  Heat over low for 6-7 minutes, then stir the heavy cream and chives into your white sauce.  Continue to heat 2-3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Voilà!  Once your turkey is ready, ask each guest’s preference before pouring the red or white sauce over it while serving.  And for guests looking for a real treat, pour both sauces over the bird.  Enjoy!