Friday, December 13, 2013

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

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for the Whole Foods Market Top Ten (12) list of holiday wines. If you have stopped in to Whole Foods recently, you have probably noticed the display in the wine department and you may have even been tempted to pick up a bottle or two.  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 also sponsored a pair of Twitter tasting events featuring their holiday wines, which were fun, interesting and informative.  The first one was back before Thanksgiving while the other just happened, just in time for Christmas.  The December lineup featured singer/songwriter/musician Mat Kearney chatting about his Napa red blend, Verse and Chorus.  You can check out the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #WFMWine.



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


Here are the four wines were covered in December 2013

*Roger d’Anoia Cava, Spain $9.99
This Cava - the Spanish term for sparkling wine - is produced by Freixenet, who have made more bubbles than Lawrence Welk.  The grapes used for it are exotic for most American eyes: 60% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo, 10% Parellada.

Frothy big bubbles dissipate quickly.  A lovely nose shows a fruit spread of apples, nectarines and tangerines.  On the palate, things are fresh and refreshing.  The sparkler is fruity without getting too sweet and there is not a trace of funk in it.  It is a pleasant wine - maybe even a little simple for some - but it should be a hit as a holiday aperitif or with a cheese plate.  With only 11.5% abv, the alcohol won't wear anyone out.

*Skouras Anassa 2012, Greece $11.99
From the large peninsula of Peloponnesos comes a white wine that is breathtaking.  Peloponnesos is connected to the northern part of Greece by only a narrow isthmus and a bridge, so it is very nearly an island.  George Skouras established his winery in Argos in the 1980s and uses grapes grown in his vineyards as well as fruit from neighboring growers.

Anassa is made from 70% Moscofilero and 30% Viognier grapes and is bottled under a screw cap.  Alcohol is quite moderate at only 12.5%.

This straw-yellow wine smells outrageous.  Huge salinity, great citrus, minerals galore - white wines from Greece are simply amazing, this one particularly so.  Some floral notes add complexity to a noise that needs no help in that area.  On the palate, more savory saltiness joins a wide swath of Meyer lemon and a mid-tempo acidity.  It can't miss with fish - the fishier the better - and it turned a handful of roasted, unsalted cashews into a banquet.  Since Kalamata is over on the other side of Peloponnesos from Argos, you might serve it with a olive plate.


*Santa Julia Innovacion Bonarda Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Argentina $9.99 (1 liter)
This wine is a big ol' bargain.  This one liter bottle gives you an extra glass of wine - two if you are a restaurant.  Three if you are the really cheap, lousy restaurant down the street with the tiny pours.

Bonarda is a great grape.  It should probably be the national grape of Argentina instead of Malbec.  The grapes for this wine come from Mendoza and are sustainable farmed.  The wine is labeled as "vegan friendly."

Dark in color and rather brooding on the nose, this wine shows plummy aromas over a layer of tobacco.  The palate is rich and smooth, with a tart raspberry edge.  It's a great wine to sip, with soft tannins and only 13% abv.

*Mat Kearney Verse & Chorus Napa Valley Red 2012, California $24.99
This rich Bordeaux-style wine is the product of a collaboration of musician Mat Kearney, Peju Winery and the John Anthony family.  It’s a blend of 87% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown in the Napa Valley.  The 15.1% alcohol number sounds high, but doesn't play that way.  Billed on the "record label" which adorns the bottle as "Long Playing, High Fidelity," you'll want two glasses so you can enjoy it in stereo.

The wine shows a nice, dark ruby in the glass and displays great aromas of plums and cherries enveloped in vanilla.  The palate has gorgeous red fruit unfolding into layers of pencil lead, eucalyptus, mocha, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It opens up beautifully and shows wonderful hints of tar with a bit of time.  If this wine doesn’t bring the holidays home to you, be ready for a visitation from three ghosts on Christmas Eve.


These four wines were covered in November 2013

*Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling 2011, Washington $9.99
Washington state is known for, among other grapes, 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 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 standing rib 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.


Here are the other four wines, to be covered here separately.  The notes are by Whole Foods.

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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