It’s that time of year. We’re getting ready for our Wine is Life gift exchange and curious to see how big our wine bottle tree is going to be this year. The elves are busy shipping Wine is Life swag to our wonderful fans. We’re getting invited to a bunch of Holiday parties.
That last one is the trickiest part. We’re supposed to be the Wine Geeks of our crowd, so the expectations are pretty high. A good friend of ours makes cured meats like salame and really nice hams, and every year he gets invited and we all expect him to bring some savory meats. It’s kind of what he does. Another friend is a comedian, and as soon as he walks in we all expect jokes. But with so many shindigs to attend, how do we decide what to bring?
Rule #1: It’s not the size of the price tag. It’s what you do with it.
Some of our soirees are pretty fancy, so we wear a jacket over our Wine is Life tee. They break out the snazzy china and we drink from real crystal. So it would seem to make sense to bring a fancy wine, right? Well, we’re not cut from the same cloth as our hosts, and bringing a $75 bottle isn’t really in our budget. And we also have at least a dozen other parties to attend. We often make a great impression just by bringing something that nobody can pronounce. An imported wine brings a little bit of class to any event. And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There’s a great German vineyard called Tiefenbrunner, and they have an awesome Pinot Grigio that you can pick up for around $20 bucks. They’re an established maker, and the “Classic” has hints of pear and candied fruit. Refreshing and difficult to pronounce.
Rule #2: Balance the meal.
When our meaty friend shows up, we want something that is going to pair well with his wares. It helps to know a little about the expected menu. Most gatherings are going to feature some kind of meat product, be it ham, turkey, or simple finger foods, so it’s easy to go with a red. Concannon Vineyard is in California and has been making wine since 1883. Still in the same family, Concannon was the first winery to have a female winemaker, and the first to make an American Petite Sirah. Their 2008 Reserve Petite Sirah has tones of blackberry, currant and leather. In addition to zesting up a meat, it goes great with fudge. Great call.
Rule #3: Wine. It’s not just for breakfast any more.
We often bring a bottle of something assuming that it will be consumed along with a meal. Meh. There is always going to be someone drinking scotch, there will be a fruit cake, and the scotch drinker will turn out to be a fruitcake. Sometimes part of the fun of going to one of these things is the unpredictability of the event. Sure, you can bring your favorite chardonnay, or a nice cabernet, but why not do the unexpected? Bring a champagne. Or even better – a nice bottle of port! Port wines are technically all made in Portugal, and generally use one of five very distinct grapes. They’re generally very sweet, and a bit heavier than other wines, so you typically serve them for dessert. Not that all wines don’t taste great for dessert, but we’ll be with company, so we’ll behave. Anyway, in addition to this heavier body, they also feature a higher alcohol content, so leave the tumblers and go with a snifter or a specific “port glass.” This is a sipper, not a gulper. Churchill’s Late Bottled Vintage 2003 comes from a pretty reputable bottler, and you can usually pick it up for under $30. You’ll taste cherry and chocolates, so great for after a meal, but it also goes great with funky cheeses like bleu or gorgonzola. Silky smoothness and tangy bite; a nice contrast.
We hope that you get to spend some time with friends this Holiday season. We hope that you, like us, get invited to a nice party and get to break bread with like-minded people. We tend to break stemware, but we bring wine, so we keep getting invited back. This is your chance to impress your friends. This is the time of year to wear last year’s ugly sweater. There’s no need to go crazy with your gift of wine, but a little thought can make you the life of the party. But, and this is important, so listen to Wine is Life:
If anyone breaks out a karaoke machine, take your bottle and go home.