Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top Ten (12) Holiday Wines At Whole Foods Market: The First Four

The Whole Foods Market wine department is crazy about lists.  They come up with lists of Top Ten wines for every occasion, holiday and season - which sounds like a pretty good job to me.

This is the time of year, of course, for the WFM Top Ten list of holiday wines.  Each wine on the list is priced below $25 and each is hand selected by the WFM wine folks as a winner for holiday parties, gift-giving and feasting.  There were so many good wines to choose from, the top ten list became a Top 12 list this year.

WFM is sponsoring a pair of Twitter tasting events you may find interesting - and informative.  The first one came just in time for Thanksgiving, on Thursday November 21, 2013.  The second will give you inspiration for the Christmas party season, on Thursday December 12.  Both of these virtual tasting events will happen from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT.  The December lineup will feature singer/songwriter/musician Mat Kearney chatting about his Napa red blend, Verse and Chorus.

It’s easy to participate.  Just pick up a bottle or two of the top holiday wines at Whole Foods and open them for the Twitter Tasting event.  Follow along on Twitter, using the hashtag #WFMWine.




Here is a list of the twelve wines.  My thoughts on the wines tasted on November 21st are given, and I’m including the WFM descriptions of the others to help steer you in the direction you want to go. “*” indicates a wine available only at Whole Foods Markets.

For Nov. 21,2013  7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT

*Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling 2011, Washington $9.99
Washington state is known for, among other things, Riesling, and here is one from Yakima Valley that registers "medium-dry" on the Riesling scale and barely hits 12.1% abv in alcohol.  Yakima Valley was Washington's first American Viticultural Area, and is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA.  Nearly half the wine grapes in Wahington come from this beautiful region in the southern part of the state and the grow a lot of other fruit there, too.  Not to mention hops - 80% of America's supply of that crucial beer ingredient are grown there.

The Grace Lane Riesling is a very light, clear golden color and features great aromas of granny smith apples and peaches with a fairly healthy dose of minerals.  It smells crisp and fresh, and it tastes the same way.  The acidity is nice, but not really razor sharp.  On the finish, the minerals linger long and the "medium" part of that "medium-dry" kicks in.  Riesling is a great wine to put on the Thanksgiving table - or Chistmas, for that matter - due to its versatility.  You can pair Riesling with just about anything successfully, even when it's not bone dry.

*Tablao Navarra 2012, Spain $7.99
Navarra is in the northern part of Spain, between Rioja and France.  In the Navarra region, a tablao is a cafe where they play flamenco music.  Now, flamenco is energetic and vibrant enough to grab me all by itself.  Tablao, the wine, brings similar fire and spice.  It is based in 81% Tempranillo grapes with support from 9% Garnacha, 8% Merlot and a 2% splash of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Produced by Bodegas Pagos Dearaiz, Tablao is influenced by French wine, to be sure, but its boots are made of Spanish leather.

Tablao is the kind of red that could make me feel festive any time of year.  Practically black in the glass, the nose is a big rig full of raspberry and black cherry, with a compact car of leathery cigar tobacco anise and nutmeg on its tail.  Lively on the palate, the dark side of cherries is displayed prominently.  There is a spicy element running through it with great tannins structure and lip-smacking acidity.  I'd put this on the table next to the holiday rib roast.  It's pretty awesome with a handful of pistachios, too.  At 13.5% abv, it keeps alcohol in check for what could be a day of over-imbibing.

*H & G Priorat 2008, Spain $13.99
The Spanish wine region of Priorat is in the northeastern part of the country and joins Rioja in the DOCa classification, the highest level of quality in Spanish wine.  Priorat is known for its black slate and quartz soils, a rich terroir of volcanic origin.  Garnacha is the main grape there, and Grenache - as we call it in other parts of the globe - is always a great choice for pairing with food.  Alcohol is fairly high, at 14.2% abv.  H & G Wine is a California-based winery which produces wine from various parts of the world.

The wine is colored very dark purple/black.  The nose shows blackberry, raspberry, licorice and lots of minerals.  The palate is full of spicy cherry and blueberry with a leathery note.  Nice acidity and good tannic structure round out what is a great tasting experience.  A lovely floral aspect on the finish makes for a good memory to take from the sip.

*Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux 2011, France $10.99
The Sichel family bottles this bold red six months after harvest on the right bank of the Garonne River.  The grapes used are two Bordeaux favorites, 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol is quite reasonable at 13% abv.

The winery says, "Maison Sichel has a longstanding partnership with a number of Grands Crus Classés (classed growths) and takes an active role in the marketing of more than 150 of the most prestigious Bordeaux châteaux."

Les Hauts de Bel Air shows a pure, fruity nose of red berries.  The palate is all fruit, too, youthful and vibrant.  Nice tannic structure and ripping acidity beg for a holiday roast.  The mouthfeel is light and juicy and it won't weigh down an already full table.  The wine displays the power of a Bordeaux with the freshness of a Beaujolais.  I can taste the turkey already.



For December  12, 2013  7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT

*Roger d’Anoia Cava, Spain $9.99
“Lively effervescence with bright notes of green apple and pear, this sparkler is ripe and round with a touch of sweetness in the well-balanced finish.”

*Skouras Anassa, Greece $11.99
“Made with 70 percent moschofilero and 30 percent viognier, this medium-bodied white has aromas of ripe apricot and orange peel and a clean, crisp finish.”

*Santa Julia Innovacion Bonarda Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina $9.99 (1 liter)
“Deeply complex and full-bodied, this red created by the Zuccardi family has forward notes of plum and cigar box with jammy flavors of dark ripe berries. The luxurious finish has smoky, savory notes.”

*Mat Kearney Verse & Chorus Napa Valley Red, California $24.99
“This bold claret is made through a partnership between famed musician Mat Kearney, Peju and the John Anthony family who, combined, have more than 60 years of Napa Valley wine making experience. This luscious red is 87 percent Napa Valley merlot and 13 percent Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and has soft aromatics of black currant, plum, and notes of cedar. The bold but well-balanced flavors of vanilla, black cherry and chocolate give way to juicy dark cherry and wild blackberry. And, the long finish has nuances of roasted coffee and toasted hazelnut.”


The other four:

Simonnet-Febvre St. Bris Sauvignon Blanc, France $12.99
“The micro-climate in the Saint-Bris appellation allows for the sauvignon blanc grapes to express their full aromatic character as well as the minerality of the terroir. The exuberant nose is characterized by freshly cut herbs and delicate fruits with a hint of red bell pepper, and the elegant finish has a lovely minerality.”

Novellum Chardonnay, France $10.99
“This zesty white has honeysuckle and white peach aromas, and anise, fennel and a hint of oak show in the lengthy finish.”

Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir, New Zealand $14.99
“This wine is rich and dark with black cherries, violets and a pleasant earthiness on the nose. It has a velvety, harmonious finish with smoky oak, subtle spice and raspberry flavors.”

Cercius Côtes du Rhône, France $14.99
“This blend of 85 percent grenache and 15 percent syrah is beautifully textured, lush and decadent with an aroma of smoky eucalyptus and berry and deep notes of kirsch, plum and stewed fruits and plum and a hint of leather in the long finish.”


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