With all the holiday tasks, the one that shouldn’t cause you to break a sweat is finding an affordable wine to complete your Christmas table, without the bank. We are here to help. Included are a few red wines that will pair well with anything from turkey to tenderloin, all are around $20, many are less. I’ll post white wines suggestions next week. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.
I’ll start with Rose, as it is made from red grapes and should be enjoyed all year long. Lucy Rose of Pinot Noir, from one of the most respected Pinot Noir growing family vintners in California, delivers on incredible taste and gives back to an important cause. The Pisoni family, well known for their Pinot Noir vineyards in Santa Lucia Highlands, created Lucy, their fragrant, citrus and watermelon filled Rose of Pinot Noir with the goal to give back to breast cancer research. For every bottle sold they give one dollar to helping the cause, as well as donating to various events to help with the cause. To date, over $65,000 has been given, a rather impressive amount for a relatively new wine that produces less than 700 cases a year. $18 available via their website.
If you know me, you know that I find it hard to deliver a quality Pinot Noir at an inexpensive price, the grape variety is simply too finicky and requires too much hands on attention. However, I recently tried one that showed true varietal character, is under $20 and is working with a great cause. Noble Vines 667 Pinot Noir, sustainably made from fruit grown in Monterey, Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco AVAs in California, some of the best for growing Pinot Noir. The wine is made predominately from the black fruit and spice filled, well structured 667 clone of Pinot Noir, with a touch of lighter clone 115 to round out the wine. This, and all of the wines in the Noble Vines portfolio, recently partnered with Random Acts, a non-profit that aims to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time. Noble Vines will donate $1 for every random act of kindness done through their #NobleActs campaign, up to $20,000. If 20,000 people complete one random act of kindness the chain reaction effect will lead to a happier world. Include the #NobleActs hashtag in your random acts of kindness on social media to help with the campaign through the end of the year. $15, available at Spec’s.
When looking for quality I often try to see if some of my favorite wines have second labels, or an entry level tier to their wine portfolio. Happily, one of my favorite Napa Valley producers, Amici, does with their Olema Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. The Olema Somona County Pinot Noir, with 80% of the fruit coming from prestigious Russian River Valley, leaps from the glass with layers of black cherry, blackberry, cola and spice, the classic flavors of quality Russian River Pinot. A perfect holiday wine, from owners (and Texas native) John Harris, Bob and Celia Shepard, and Bart Woytowicz with legendary Napa Valley winemaker Joel Aiken, especially for the price. $23 at Total Wine and More.
Folie a Deux Pinot Noir highlights freshness and ripe red berry fruit, qualities their Sonoma Coast vineyards showcase. Benefiting from cool Pacific coast breezes, warm days and chilly nights the wine maintains bright acidity while developing toasted spice and toffee notes from 10 months of French oak aging. A great wine to pair with turkey or holiday ham. $20 at Total Wine and More.
Some of the finest Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is coming out of Washington State. Producers like Leonetti, ColSolare, Northstar, Figgins, Cayuse, Gorman and dozens more are proving the quality if the fruit produced in the state. But there are also many approachable, inexpensive options coming from one of the leading regions in the sate, Columbia Valley. I tried the g3 Red Wine Blend from Goose Ridge Estate recently from the area and found the wine to be a well balanced Merlot based blend from the region, with vineyards facing adjacent to Red Mountain. A good wine to pair with barbecue or burgers, great for family gatherings as the approachability will please a wide range of palates. $15, sold locally at Costco or via their website.
5th generation farmers, Randy and Brad Lange, the founders of LangeTwins Winery, believe that clean, sustainable farming is simply a way of life. They have to as they grew up in their family vineyards, and have raised their kids amongst those same vines. With a basis of sustainable farming they focus on producing high quality, vineyard driven wines. Their new 2011 release Estate Cabernet Sauvignon shows the flavors of their Lodi estate vineyards, showcasing Cabernet in its truest form, and filling the palate with ripe red cherry, licorice and leather notes. Usually retailing for around $15, it is a steal at $12.50 at local Spec’s stores.
Another family that continues to impress with both their green efforts and their economical pricing, along with the consistently great taste of their wines is the Benziger family with their Sonoma County wines grown in their sustainable, organic or bio-dynamic vineyards. Their Sonoma County Merlot, produced from completely handpicked fruit is one of the truest expressions of the grape, filled with juicy red plum and red berry with just the right touch of toast and spice from 16 months of oak aging to add depth and a silky texture with balanced tannin to the wine. I love a Merlot with lamb and this this is a perfect choice if your holiday table includes roasted leg of lamb or lamb chops. The wine usually retails for $19 but Total Wine and More has it now for $14 a bottle.
Red Zinfandel is one of the friendliest food wines any time of year, especially if your table includes barbecue or a smoked brisket. XYZin Old Vine Zinfandel includes highly concentrated fruit from vines dating back 100 years. Raspberry jam and red cherry fill the palate enhanced with spicy pepper notes and a touch of toasted vanilla. A food friendly wine at a great price, usually retailing for about $18, Spec’s has it available for $14.
Though not the traditional, soft, fresh and elegant Schiava is a red grape that can be be enjoyed from the start of an evening to the end, and the relatively low alcohol level will allow you to. The indigenous red grape variety from Alto Adige, Italy has been the go-to red wine for the region for generations, pairing perfectly with the hearty cuisine of the region. Kellerei Kaltern is a cooperative located in the village of Kaltern around Lake Kaltern, or Lago di Caldaro in Italian, the warmest lake in the Alps. This proximity to the lake to the vines creates an almost Mediterranean influence, allowing red Schiava grapes to fully ripen in the relatively cool climate, developing lush red and black fruit characteristics leading to a subtle hint of spice on the finish. Kaltern Campanella Schiava, with a food friendly 12.5% alcohol, is available at Jimmy’s for $19 a bottle.
If steak is on your holiday menu Malbec is an ideal choice. An interesting and tasty option is the Alamos Mendoza Seleccion Malbec. Hand picked fruit from high altitude Argentine vineyards provide a bold, rich wine with balanced tannin and acidity. Filled with black cherry, black plum, spice and earthy tobacco notes the lively wine starts off rather robust, but decant for about an hour before serving and the wine becomes lush and delicious. $16, available at Spec’s.
I love an interesting blend, finding different combinations can alter traditional tastes, uncovering something completely different. This is precisely what winemaker John Killebrew hopes for with his new red blend, Juxtapoz. The idea behind the wine to explore and create, Killebrew’s blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon includes a little bit of everything from softness to structure, juiciness to balance, freshness and richness. Definately a wine I would serve with food, but can pair with anything from smoked meat to spicy sausage to hearty roasted beef or game. $20-$25, available at Tom Thumb and Kroger stores.