15 MUST-TRY RED WINES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Oenophiles around the world love their red wine, which is always an excellent choice when you’re looking for a satisfying and healthy glass of vino. Inexplicably, red wine seems to taste even BETTER during this time of year, which inspired the wine.net team to compile our list of 15 must-try red wines for the holidays. Our selections were recommended by a panel of wine connoisseurs and experts, and include a wide variety of reds from all over the globe. Remember UB40’s 1983 hit, Red Red Wine? With lyrics like “red red wine, stay close to me, don’t let me be alone,” this song is an excellent tribute to the healing powers of vino. Thankfully, red red wine will never leave you alone during the holiday season (or ever), which means we should all celebrate its timeless wonderfulness this November and December. Salud, and all hail red wine!
ALIANE 2011 CÔTEAUX BOURGUIGNONS VIN DE BOURGOGNE GAMAY ($15)
Sommelier Maryse Chevriere of Petit Crenn in San Francisco had the following to say about choosing a red wine during the holidays: “The best reds for Thanksgiving are lush and full of bright fruit, but lean toward the lighter side of medium body and offer not-too-aggressive tannins and fresh, punchy acidity. They won’t weigh you down or overpower a dish’s more delicate flavors, and they’ll add herby, smoky, earthy notes that are great with turkey and stuffing.” She recommends Aliane’s 2011 Côteaux Bourguignons Vin de Bourgogne, which “gets a lot of attention around Thanksgiving [because of its] lighter, earthy, cherry-forward [notes]…this wine offers a little bit of everything that’s great about Burgundy’s reds. Bright cherry flavors mingle with earthy tea leaf and mushroom-y aromatics; the wine is as identifiably autumnal as everything on your plate.” Gamay is a red grape that is light and fruity and bursting with flavors of sour cherries, dried berry, and black pepper. Aliane is dedicated to importing Old World wines for New World palates, and aim to supply “French wines from independent vintners for the independent thinker.” To learn more, visit www.alinethiebaut.com/ourwines.html.
Maryse Chevriere is a sommelier at Petit Creen in San Francisco, drink editor at The Daily Meal, and also turns sommelier speak into cartoons. Learn more at https://www.seriouseats.com/user/profile/MaryseC, @marysechev on Twitter, and @freshcutgardenhose on Instagram.
Domaine Aliane is a California vintner dedicated to importing Old World vines for New World palates. Visit www.alinethiebaut.com to learn more.
TABLAS CREEK 2012 “PATELIN DE TABLAS” ROUGE ($23)
The wine.net team also spoke with A.J. Ojeda-Pons, who is the Wine Director at The Lamb’s Club in New York City and an expert sommelier in his own right. A.J. has worked with some of the finest restaurants in Manhattan, and recently earned The Lamb’s Club the prestigious Two Glass Award from Wine Spectator and two stars on the World’s Best Wine List from The World of Fine Wine. The Lamb’s Club is owned by Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and offers his “modern approach to American cuisine with distinct ingredients, highly seasonal menus, and a signature approach to hospitality.” Tablas Creek is a California-based organic vineyard whose grapes were directly sourced from Beaucastel, France, and their “Patelin de Tablas” is a Rhône red blend of syrah, grenache, mourvédre, and counoise. Mr. Ojeda-Pons recommends drinking this delicious red with a Christmas ham, a staple of many holiday season gatherings. Learn more at https://www.tablascreek.com/ and @TablasCreek on Twitter.
A.J. Ojeda-Pons is the Wine Director at The Lamb’s Club in New York City, and his passionate enthusiasm for his craft is contagious to diners, fellow colleagues, and wine enthusiasts alike. Learn more by visiting www.thelambsclub.com and @ajojedapons on Twitter.
CHÂTEAU MONTROSE 2005 SAINT-ESTEPHE BORDEAUX ($154)
Mr. Ojeda-Pons also recommends Château Montrose’s 2005 Saint-Estephe Bordeaux, a French varietal grown in vineyards overlooking an estuary in Médoc. According to Wine-Searcher, this bordeaux is “a big, juicy, mineral-driven [wine whose] tannins are so ripe [and filled with] so much rich fruit [that] the wine can be enjoyed today if you like a primary drinking experience. It’s lush, mouth filling, regal, and refined.” Mr. Ojeda-Pons’ “best advice is to stick with what you like to drink, and do your research and explore older vintages of the wines you like,” which is an excellent tip for any wine enthusiast. Learn more about Château Montrose at www.chateau-montrose.com.
Wine-Searcher is a powerful vino database and search engine that brings together nearly nine million wines and prices from almost 60,000 merchants worldwide. For more information, visit www.wine-searcher.com or @WineSearcher on Twitter.
CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE-LAS CASES 2006 DEUXIÉME CRU CLASSÉ SAINT-JULIEN BORDEAUX ($201)
Another one of Mr. Ojeda-Pons’ recommendations was Château Léoville-Las Cases’ 2006 Deuxiéme Cru Classé Saint-Julien Bordeaux. This Bordeaux red blend is the second growth of Château Léoville-Las Cases’ “Grand Vin de Leoville du Marquis de Las Cases,” which was “the product of exceptional terroirs from the former Léoville estate…in the Clos Léoville Las Cases [in] Saint-Julien, [France]. According to Wine-Searcher, The Deuxiéme Cru is a “blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 14.5% merlot, and a touch of cabernet franc, [which] creates a deep-colored wine. With extended coaxing, cedar, lead pencil, cassis, tobacco, and forest floor aromas come alive. Powerful, tannic, concentrated and backwards, this classic and classy Bordeaux demands another decade or longer before its civilized.” Learn more at www.domaines-delon.com/en/chateau_leoville_las_cases_histoire.html.
CHÂTEAU LALANDE-BORIE 2008 SAINT-JULIEN BORDEAUX ($35)
Another delicious Bordeaux blend included in Mr. Ojeda-Pons’ recommendations was Château Lalande-Borie’s 2008 Saint-Julien Bordeaux. This vineyard was founded in 1970 by Jean Eugene Borie in Saint-Julien, France, and has almost 65 acres under vine. According to AP Wine Imports, “Château Lalande Borie is planted with 65% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, and 10% cabernet franc [and] is managed traditionally, while [also] including the latest viticultural techniques, including leaf-thinning by hand, green harvests in summer, partial cover crop, control yields, and application of sustainable phytosanitary treatments.” Wine-Searcher describes this bordeaux blend as “a full bodied red with [dark ruby flavors and] ripe, round tannins…[its] upfront flavors [are] generous and fairly long [and the wine should be enjoyed] in 5+ years time.” Learn more at www.apwineimports.com/us/services/chateau-lalande-borie.
AP Wine Imports is dedicated to representing the best European terroir-driven wines in the United States. Visit www.apwineimports.com, @APWineImports on Twitter, and AP Wine Imports on Facebook to learn more.
SINE QUA NON 2011 “DARK BLOSSOM” SYRAH BLEND ($316)
The final must-try red recommended by Mr. Ojeda-Pons is Sine Qua Non’s 2011 “Dark Blossom” syrah. He notes that this is “a nice blend of syrah (84% syrah, 8% grenache, 4% petite syrah, and 4% roussanne), [but you] won’t get a bottle for a couple of years since there is a six year waiting list…just to get on the waiting list!” Regardless, this outstanding red is too good to ignore. Sine Qua Non is a California winery dedicated to making vino “that is so distinctive and so delicious as to make it indispensable to wine lovers the world over…at heart, we are a Rhone (Ranger) house where syrah and grenache play top fiddle, supported by mourvedre, roussanne, and viognier…we also grow non-Rhone-origin grapes such as petit manseng, touriga nacional, graciano, and petite sirah.” If you ever have the opportunity to taste this wine, you will enjoy vino that is “inky [and] dark with purple accents in color…the wine is intense, rich, concentrated, and [shows] a beautiful purity of sweet, velvet, textured fruit. The wine leaves an impression on your palate that stays put for at least forty seconds or more.” Sounds worth waiting for! Learn more at www.sinequanon.com.
Sine Qua Non is an Oak View, California-based winery specializing in syrah grapes and red wines. Visit www.sinequanon.com to learn more.
VIÑA CONO SUR 2010 “BICICLETA” PINOT NOIR ($10)
When it comes to choosing the best holiday reds, Jeffery Lindenmuth of Men’s Health reminds us that “rounding up bottles for gift giving, entertaining, and pairing with monumental meals” is extremely important. One of his favorite holiday wines is Viña Cono Sur’s 2010 “Bicicleta,” which is an extremely affordable pinot noir from Chile. Mr. Lindenmuth notes that “the diversity of flavors on the holiday table can be a challenge. Where do you find an affordable wine to match everything from bacon-wrapped scallops to turkey with stuffing? Chile, of course! This easy-drinking wine has pinot noir’s trademark cherry-raspberry fruit, with hints of smoke and spice that can really work a room. And, like many of Chile’s wineries, they rely on sustainable farming practices.” According to their website, Viña Cono Sur “was founded in 1993 with the vision of producing expressive and innovative premium wines [that] communicate the spirit of the New World…Cono Sur has a deep commitment to wines of high quality and excellence, which is always accompanied by innovation, creative use of technology, and [a] commitment [to] and respect for the environment.” Learn more at www.conosur.com and @ConoSurWines on Twitter.
Jeffery Lindenmuth is a well-known food and wine writer at Beverage Media Group and Men’s Health. Learn more at https://www.beveragemedia.com/index.php/author/jlindenmuth/.
CLOS DES BRUSQUIÉRES 2007 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE RED BLEND ($44)
Wine.net also spoke with businessman and red wine connoisseur Pavel Kushnarov, who recommended Clos des Brusquiéres’ 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This red is a blend of 60% grenache, 30% syrah, and 10% mourvedre, and Mr. Kushnarov described this wine as possessing a “soft, spice flavor with a cherry finish.” Wine-Searcher notes that this red is full of “earthy scents coupled with black raspberry and red plums.” According to their website, Clos des Brusquiéres is a traditional vineyard in the town of Brusquiéres, France that does not destalk their grapes and ferments their wine in cement tanks. Learn more at www.chateauneuf.dk/en/cdpen144.htm.
Pavel Kushnarov is a Canadian businessman who also dabbles in red wine. Learn more by visiting @PavelKushnarov on Twitter.
Clos des Brusquiéres is a 22 acre French vineyard founded in the early twentieth century. Visit www.chateauneuf.dk/en/cdpen144.htm for more information.
CHÂTEAU THIEULEY 2012 CABERNET-MERLOT ROGUE BLEND ($14)
When our team reached out to Zoe Wyatt, she recommended Chateau Thieuley’s 2012 Cabernet-Merlot blend. Ms. Wyatt is the founder of Social Media Shortcut and is dedicated to finding the perfect blend of technology and red wine. She tells us that “Chateau Thieuley is a great representation of this blend for under $15. With a soft and smooth flavor, the rich fruit flavor of apricot and spices are the star of this wine.” This award-winning red wine is a blend of 70% merlot and 30% cabernet sauvignon, and is one of the most popular wines from Bordeaux. According to their website, Château Thieuley is dedicated to “cultivat[ing] the vineyard and mak[ing] our wines with one master word: quality. [Our] philosophy [is] to combine tradition with modernity.” Learn more by visiting www.thieuley.com/en.
Château Thieuley is an award-winning French winery that produces some of the finest wines in Bordeaux. Visit www.thieuley.com/en for more information.
CHADDSFORD WINERY “HOLIDAY SPIRIT” SWEET SPICED RED WINE ($14)
Wine.net also spoke with Whitney Wingerd, founder of Mommies With Style and an expert on fashion, babies, maternity, travel, food, and wine. Ms. Wingerd’s recommendation for a must-try holiday red was Chaddsford Winery’s “Holiday Spirit” Sweet Spiced Red Wine. Located in the Philadelphia suburb of Chadds Ford, Chaddsford Winery was founded in 1982 and is Pennsylvania’s largest and best-known winery. According to the vineyard’s website, “Holiday Spirit” is a “sweet red spiced wine with everyone’s favorite flavors of cinnamon and cloves [and is] a traditional holiday treat just perfect for all your spirited seasonal celebrations.” “Holiday Spirit” pairs well with dessert and light snacks, and is a steal at only $14. Learn more at www.chaddsford.com and @ChaddsfordWine on Twitter.
JOEL GOTT 2012 CALIFORNIA ZINFANDEL ($18)
According to Chris Morocco of Real Simple, Joel Gott’s 2012 California Zinfandel is an excellent choice when looking for a red wine this holiday season. He describes this wine as “a smooth blend of blackberry and spice [that] lingers long after you sip, amplifying the earthy flavors of stuffing and spuds.” Joel Gott is a California-based vineyard founded in 1996 and focused on selecting “the best fruit from growing regions in California and Oregon [that are blended] to create more balanced, clean, complex, and elegant wines.” Visit www.gottwines.com and @Joelgott on Twitter.
MISS VICKY’S BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES ($20)
Another excellent red wine for any holiday gathering that was recommended by Miss Vicky’s Wine is her Beaujolais-Villages. Miss Vicky is the daughter of a winemaker in Beaujolais and an expert in wine and social media. She recommends her winery’s beaujolais, which is “full of fruit” and “easy to drink.” Miss Vicky also loves beaujolais because it is “the first wine of the year, as young as [it is] simple, [and] just one to enjoy. [It is also] a great start to [a] new year of tasting, [and I] love beaujolais nouveau because it’s fun, vibrant, and a super occasion in these times of the year when [everything] gets cold and foggy.” This particular wine is grown from gamay grapes, which are grown almost exclusively in Beaujolais and the Loire Valley. This delicious red pairs well with oysters, ham, cheese, and soup, and is, according to Miss Vicky, “gold!” To learn more, visit https://missvickywine.com/ and @vickywine on Twitter.
MARQUÉS DE RISCAL BARÓN DE CHIREL ($17)
Another expert who was generous enough to share her feelings on a great red wine for the holiday season was Liza Utter. Ms. Utter is an award-winning restaurateur and wine expert who recommended Marqués de Riscal’s Barón de Chirel bordeaux. According to Ms. Utter, bordeaux wines have “just enough body to stand up to the more substantial foods and bold flavors of the season like cranberries, onions, roasted root vegetables, and savory sauces and meats. My suggestion when hosting a holiday party at home is to find one wine that pairs well with everything and then buy a lot of it…a wine I’m really enjoying these days for this reason is the Marqués de Riscal from Spain. It is a wonderful wine that has similar characteristics of a bordeaux in that it is an old world-style wine with a hint of age and lovely tinges of the earthy minerals, terroir, and some hints of the barrel…whether I’m pouring for a sophisticated or aspirational wine drinker, this wine is always a hit.” The vineyard’s website explains that “Barón de Chirel wine first appeared in 1986 as the result of experimental production using a selection of grapes from very old vines [that were] between 80 and 110 years old.” Learn more at www.marquesderiscal.com and @marquesderiscal on Twitter.
Liza Utter is a restaurateur and wine expert focused on liberating Americans from the stuffy do’s and don’ts of having a good time. Visit www.lizaamericashost.com and @LizaUtter on Twitter to learn more.
BOGLE VINEYARDS 2004 PETITE SIRAH ($11)
When selecting a great red wine for your next holiday dinner or party, wine expert Ray Isle recommends Bogle Vineyard’s 2004 Petite Sirah. Mr. Isle is the Executive Wine Editor at Food & Wine, and explained that sirah “can often be aggressively tannic, but this bottling…is soft enough to go with a vast range of dishes. Its ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit is luscious and compelling.” Bogle Vineyards describes their petite sirah as being full of “jammy, luscious flavors” and “a bouquet of brambled berries [and] juniper [along with] baking spices like vanilla and nutmeg.” To learn more, visit www.boglewinery.com and @BogleWinery on Twitter.
YELLOW TAIL SHIRAZ ($7)
According to About.com Food’s resident wine expert, Stacy Slinkard, Yellow Tail’s shiraz is a must-try during the holidays. Ms. Slinkard is a wine writer, educator, and sommelier, and her recommendations are always spot-on. She chose this wine because Yellow Tail has always been committed “to making consistent, quality wines with great distribution and a perfect ‘party’ wine price point…not to mention that the Yellow Tail shiraz has good berry fruit-forward flavor, with raspberries rising to the top of the palate and a decent finish.” Yellow Tail was founded in Italy in 1820, but packed up and moved to Australia in 1957. They are dedicated to producing “wines with incredible freshness and character year after year,” which is abundantly clear when enjoying their shiraz. For more information, visit www.discoveryellowtail.com and @yellowtail_usa on Twitter.