On yesterday’s episode of Here and Now on NPR, I was excited to listen to a wine expert make some fabulous and budget-friendly suggestions for the holiday wine season. When asked what makes a moderately priced wine a good steal, he rambled on about the ability of the wine to capture the essence of community and culture from which it emerged. Okay, maybe if you are looking for a romantic nostalgia. I am just looking for a good bottle of red. Finally, he got around to making some predictions that I am looking forward to try out myself, along with a slew of new wines I sampled at the recent Grand Rapids Food & Wine Festival. In the meantime, here is a list of some new wines I’m in love, along with some classic holiday season staples, great to share at a family gathering and not fuss too much over footing the bill.
Disclaimer: I am no wine expert, rather, these are just the terms my friends and family throw around to try to explain our tasting choices to each other. Sometimes our interpretations can say more to me than the descriptive labels that really all sound the same.
J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet, ($17.00): A staple at the restaurant where I once I played bartender, this is the kind of cabernet that can be enjoyed by a variety of guests. There is just enough body and and richness to please those who prefer a heartier wine, but with a fruitiness and clean finish for those who prefer lighter wines (or no wine at all).
OR UPGRADE TO…
J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon, ($35.00): At the wine festival, we sampled the restaurant version’s big brother, and this cabernet had us coming back for more. The wine description reads flavors of chocolate, hazelnut and black cherry, but what I remember most was a full mouth feel that finished strong. Definitely need to try this one again!
Francis Coppola Claret, ($21.00): In all fairness, the pretentious and snooty attitude at this vineyard forced me to boycott what has been one of our longtime favorites steals. Four years later, I’ve relented some. The claret is a perfectly smooth red, with a fuller mouth feel and finish as compared to the J Lohr, not quite as intense as Charles Krug. This one makes a good addition to a party and comes custom dressed in gold netting just for you!
OR UPGRADE TO…
Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon, ($29.00): I’ve been meaning to test this one out and was pleased at the Wine Festival to find it just as rich as the Claret with a stronger finish. I saw it again at Thanksgiving, though didn’t get to try it. Now I have my own bottle for an upcoming evening of indulgence!
FAVORITE NEW FIND…
Charles Krug Yountville Cabernet ($27.00 suggested retail, but I paid $20.00): What a steal for $20! I blindly selected this one from the shelf, but the minute we opened the bottle, it was love at first sight! The rich, dark colors hugging the cork gave us a hint, along with the enticing aroma of cocoa and black cherry. To us, this wine was just the right feel–strong flavor through to the finish, without too much complexity. Will be back for more!