Ten Wines for My Stocking; Sara’s Holiday Picks

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

A bottle of wine fills a stocking to the brim and with that there is no need for any other trivial treats. My top picks for wine stuffers range from bubbly to full-bodied reds so there should be something for just about everyone on your list. Wrap the bottle in a print-out of WineAlign reviews for that wine, as we recommended on Facebook, and you have given your gift an invaluable add-on.

Ruhlmann Signature Jean Charles Brut Crémant d'AlsaceCuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc1. A bottle of crisp, frosty bubbles is sure to bring a smile to just about anyone’s face. My first pick for sparkling wine this season goes to Niagara producer Henry Of Pelham for their Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2007, Méthode Traditionnelle, at $44.95. With an elegant new packaging and significant ageing, this showstopper of a sparkler will have most Champagne lovers in disbelief.

2. At a slightly more affordable price point, my international sparkling pick is a classy, elegant Alsatian Crémant at just under $20: Ruhlmann Signature Jean Charles Brut Crémant D’Alsace, France. Utterly compelling and also beautifully packaged, this pinot blanc and auxerrois blend is abundantly flavourful and is sure to spark conversation.

Domæne Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2011Caldora Sangiovese 20103 & 4. For those of you who would like an affordable add-on, here are a couple of selections that taste nearly twice the price: Domæne Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2011, Austria, $13.95 A stunner at this price, this spicy, classic grüner veltliner is sure fire hit for those adventurous wine lovers on your list. This wine is from a unique and very traditional winery that focuses on the monastic principles of ‘simplicity and strictness’ to create what their owners feel is a wine that is anything but uniform and homogenous. In fact, no modern technology is used at all at this winery, even pumps are disallowed so the barrels (from special locally sourced wood) are fitted with castors and are moved around the cellar when they need to be filled.

Readily available, the Caldora Sangiovese 2010, Abruzzo, Italy, $9.95 is an expressive, undeniably pleasurable sangiovese packed with character and charm. My ancestors hail partly from this rustic, wild and mountainous region of Italy bordered by the Adriatic Sea so I am always on the lookout for exceptional wines from this often undervalued region. There are great treasures to be found in Abruzzo, and over the years many boutique wineries have been established who are producing very polished wines.

BACHELDER NIAGARA CHARDONNAY 2010Bachelder Oregon ChardonnayLouis Jadot Domaine Gagey Clos Du Roi Marsannay5. If you feel the need to splurge, this is a wine that will certainly impress. Having made me swoon, I can certainly recommend this bottle as a present to your sweetie. Great pinot noir can bring you to your knees and this Marsannay from Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey Clos Du Roi 2009, Burgundy, France ($34.95) might just be the ticket for a holiday proposal. Regardless of your motives, this highly recommended bottle hails from an outlying Burgundian appellation on the northern edge of the Cote d’Or. It is exceptionally balanced and offers solid mid-term cellaring potential.

6 & 7. For the more advanced wineaux, offer a pair of wines that beg for a comparative tasting. Thomas Bacheleder, formerly winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne, but also well known for his accomplishments in Oregon and with Boisset in Burgundy, has released a set of chardonnays from carefully chosen cool climate regions. Currently available are his creations from the Willamette Valley in Oregon: Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2010, ($29.95) and Niagara Peninsula’s: Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2010, ($29.95). Open these side by side at the table for a result that is sure to provoke great conversation.

Descendientes De J. Palacios Pétalos8. Oozing with sensual power, one of my top international picks at under $25 this year is: Descendientes De J. Palacios Pétalos 2010, Bierzo, Spain. Thankfully, there are still enough bottles remaining that you can find a smattering across the GTA as well as across the rest of the province. The wine is made from 100% mencía – a floral, peppery and full-flavoured varietal known for its exceptional old vines plantings in the region of Bierzo, in northwest Spain, thought to have been an import of the French pilgrims during the middle ages. Iconic Spanish winemaker and innovator Alvaro Palacios and his cousin Ricardo named the winery after Alvaro’s inspirational father (and Ricardo’s godfather). Biodynamically produced with a minimal French barrique ageing and no fining or filtration, this assemblage of several villages around Corullón is an exceptional example of the fleshy, generous and approachable nature of the mencía grape.

Stratus Riesling Icewine 2008Encostas De Penalva 20099. The Dão region, located in central Portugal, isolated by granitic mountainous borders to the north, south and east, produces some of the most innovative and exciting wines in the country. Although we do not see a great deal of Dão wines in the province, I keep my eyes peeled and am careful to taste any examples that will grace our Vintages shelves. The Encostas De Penalva 2009, Portugal, ($14.95) is an indigenous blend of touriga nacional, aragonez and jaen that offers considerable depth, grip and enticing aromatics for the price. The spice and floral notes in this wine will complement wintery, festive menus of all sorts.

10. Finally, what holiday list would be complete without a selection of Ontario’s most esteemed export, Icewine. This is perhaps my favourite Icewine in recent memory and I am thrilled that is still available in reasonable quantities at Vintages. Even if you rarely appreciate this style of wine and consider it overwhelmingly sweet, you cannot help but be charmed by this exquisite riesling from Stratus: Stratus Riesling Icewine 2008 (200ml – $29.95). Balance is key to achieve greatness in this category and the best examples realize a dynamic interplay of sugar and acids to produce an exciting tension. Here is a terrific specimen that illustrates this quality quite successfully.

Very Happy Holidays to you and your family. May your stockings be thoughtfully filled!

Until next year,

Sara d’Amato

For a complete list of Sara’s reviews, visit Sara d’Amato on WineAlign

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