The days are now shorter and the nights a bit nippy. The twinkling white lights are out in front of the shops and city bistros. The holiday season is in full force marking the annual phenomenon of massive consumerism and “permissible” indulgence.
What an appropriate time of year to drink wine. Is there a bad time of year? Not really. But I personally enjoy warming up with a big meaty red wine that soothes my insides and pounds my chest like a gorilla. Ah yes, the pleasures of the vine…
If you like to imbibe, then here are some suggestions I might offer to help guide you through the gluttony.
If turkey is on table, I highly recommend the pinot noir wines. The light aromatic strawberry, floral notes of the nose paired with the acidic nature of this thin skinned grape cut nicely through turkey’s mysteriously sleepy compound. A solid pinot will keep you lively and entertaining at the dinner table while grandpa takes a nap in his potatoes.
Pinot Noir grapes
There is no better place to harvest the devious pinot noir grape than in Burgundy France. Of course, there is not a region in the world more complicated to understand. So many hearts have been broken in the pursuit to understand the terrior (dirt) there. One region to remember: La Domaine de la Romanee Conti, most commonly referred to as the DRC. Of course in order to drink the wines from this small patch of land you also will also need the income to afford a Gulfstream V to fly you there in style. For the rare one of you who may want to impress your boss at the Christmas Party by heaping yourself carelessly into debt, please try the DRC of the estate La Romanee Conti in the years 1985, 1990, 1995 and 1996 – with the ’85 ready to drink at the party. Unfortunately, you can’t find this at Safeway. You can however, commission your local wine broker to find a bottle for you on the auction market.
Some other pinot noir producers that hold good ground and cause less heartburn when you pour for friends come from Oregon state and Sonoma California. There are literally thousands to choose from, but for the sake of saving my time, I will recommend one from each area.
From the Willamette Valley in Oregon (one of the highly acclaimed growing regions for this grape) there is the Brick House “Les Dijonais” 1998. This producer not only has a name that conjures up a great dance tune, but they make a potent juice. This wine has powerful aromas of blackberry, currant, and plum melting into a supple, beautifully structured mouth feel that will last longer than your date at the office holiday party. Best of all, it will only knock you back about 40 bucks. There are cheaper wines, and more expensive wines. This one is right in the middle and will have you carefully choosing the friends that you want to share with.
From California’s Sonoma region, more specifically along the Russian River valley I offer you the Kistler Cuvee Kathleen 1994. This one is spicey and slightly herbal on the nose (kind of like patchouli incense) with jammy raspberry, black cherry and other forest berries integrating harmoniously to the acute acidity and touch of smoke. Oh baby, this one can make you cry…especially if you spill your glass. The Kistler is also right around the 40-dollar price mark, but you can easily pay 10 times that amount due to the availability and the propensity to gouge displayed by you local bistro or wine seller.
Well, there you have it. A few solid wines to add to your holiday shopping list. Before I go, I’d like to leave one last note of advice that might save you some snotty snobbery when requesting these wines at the local liquor and donut shop: the wines above are pronounced “pee-noh nwahr” not “peanut-no ears.”
I hope you and your family have a happy inebriation this holiday season.
To your health!
Julius Johnston, IV, is USOUNDS resident Sommelier, replacing Rigbert Evans after his tragic demise at the hands of an angry public. Julius is Butterfield and Buttterfield’s wine department manager, and lives in San Francisco, California.