This week brings Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that may mean time spent with family and friends around the dining room table. Stop by City Vino on Thursday, December 23, or Friday, December 24, to sample some wines that can grace your holiday table. Also, below, we will be including some wine-nerdy facts that you can perhaps use to tell the story of the wine or grape to rock the Christmas dinner table for your holiday dinner guests. Get ready for the oohs and the ahhs. Well, maybe.
Whether you start or end your meal with bubbles, a great choice is the 2019 Saint-Hilaire Brut Blanc de Blancs Blanquette de Limoux. Saint-Hilaire sparking is made from 90 percent Mauzac, blended with touches of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Mauzac is a white grape, grown mainly in Limoux and Gaillac. Limoux is located in Languedoc, and is geographically in the center of France, but far south, just above the border with Spain, in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains.
The dry Blanquette de Limoux displays aromas of peach, pear, and green apple. Those fruits are echoed on the palate, along with fresh ginger, almond skin, and candied lemon zest.
Saint-Hilaire’s history of producing sparkling wines predates Champagne by over 100 years! As of 1531, the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire were already producing the Blanquette de Limoux. Its notoriety spread over the centuries, and in 1794, it had much acclaim across France and became a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. It is believed that he was the first to bring this wine to the United States.
Our next wine is the 2020 Boutinot Wines Uva Non Grata Gamay, which comes from vineyards to the northwest of the city of Lyon, which is the third-largest city in France. Lyon is nearly 300 miles southeast of Paris, and 200 miles north of Marseilles. This wine made, from 100 percent Gamay, is produced by carbonic maceration, whereby oxygen isn’t allowed into the tank and is replaced by carbon dioxide during the initial fermentation, with whole clusters of grapes. Without oxygen, the grapes yield juicy and fruity flavors. Fermentation finishes the usual way. The resulting wine has lots of red berry flavors, very soft tannins, and a light style that can be served with a bit of a chill.
Gamay is known for being the grape in the wines of Beaujolais, but did you know that it was outlawed by Philip the Bold in 1395? In the time the grape could be summed up using the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “no respect, no respect at all.” The grape was, in the words of Boutinot, the producer of this wine, “maligned, mistreated and misunderstood.” Luckily, some winemakers hid Gamay grapes among the noble Pinot Noir grape. The name “Uva Non Grata” translates to “Ungrateful Grape.” Well, we are grateful for those winemakers who kept Gamay growing.
The 2018 Grochau Cellars Commuter Cuvée Pinot Noir hails from The Willamette Valley, in Oregon. It is 100 percent Pinot Noir, and is intended to bring the more floral and delicate notes of Pinot Noir into the glass. The hand-picked grapes are fermented without the addition of commercial yeast, and is aged for 7.5 months on its lees (spent yeast cells) in 90 percent used French oak barrels, and 10 percent stainless steel.
The wine is produced each year from grapes sourced from eight different organically and sustainable farmed Willamette Valley vineyards. It is the first wine to be released each year from this producer.
Did you see the movie “Sideways?” After the release of the 2004 film, which had its main character extolling the wondrousness of Pinot Noir and beating Merlot up with a verbal stick,” production and sales of Pinot Noir jumped and sales of Merlot dropped. Google “The Sideways Effect” if you are so inclined.
Our final wine is the 2018 Stealth Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley, California. The wine is 82 percent Cab Sauvignon, five percent Cabernet Franc, four percent Merlot, four percent Petite Verdot, three percent Malbec, and 2 percent Petite Syrah. This dark, rich, ruby-colored wine has aromas and flavors of plum, cassis, strawberries, sassafras, and maple cream pastry. Now we are thinking of a doughy, cream-filled doughnut, topped with maple icing. As if that wasn’t enough, the wine finishes with spiced dark chocolate. This is definitely a wine to pair with steaks and beef stews.
Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the world’s richest red wines, is the offspring of the natural-occurring crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. A red and a white grape join together and form a deeper, bolder, darker red. Amazing and astounding, no? Cabernet Sauvignon is currently the number one planted grape in the world, as of 2020.
Whatever you do or wherever you are this holiday season, we wish you good health and good cheer and a Rocking Christmas Dinner.