Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday party wines

Made a trip to the liquor store Saturday, with daughter in-tow. I'm getting more and more impressed with our current PLCB chairman's (Patrick J. Stapleton III) selections, and the Shadyside store director's (Ron Dreshman) purchases. Some great Holiday gift giving ideas... and some equally great value wines for all those office parties your wife may end up dragging you to.

If you're not familiar with Pennsylvania liquor laws, then you're one lucky summabitch. In PA, we are limited in what we can buy, by what the state agrees to bring in. We are beholden to the state to make the correct purchasing decisions and offering choice wines, which so very often they fail in their ability to provide. However, it's getting better. While we may never see the vast selection that other states offer, at least PA seems to be making a concerted effort to keep up with the current wine trends.

In my shopping experience I came across a few gems I was familiar with, from offering in one of the many restaurant I purchased for. I thought, maybe, to share some of these picks with you.

The first one, that can regularly be found across the country, and is one I often buy in New Hampshire when on vacation up there, is Big Tattoo Red from 2 Brothers. Big Tattoo Red is a Cab/Syrah blend (50/50) from Chile. It's a nice, value friendly, bottle of wine that I enjoy cracking after a fewer bigger bodied and bigger priced bottles. It's easy drinking and reliable... and it's only $9.99. This wine isn't gonna knock your socks off, but I think for the price you may be fairly impressed with the quality. I like this wine as a gift for the Holidays as every bottle sold donates 50 cents to the Arlington, Virginia Hospice and a breast cancer research foundation in the name of Liliana S. Bartholomaus. Introduced in the Winter of 2002, sales from BIg Tattoo Wines has raised over $850,000 for charity. It's my feel good wine!

For a bigger body, huge extracted fruit, and just plain delicious bottle... I recommend the Earthquake Petite Sirah from Michael & David Vineyards in Lodi, California. This is a wine to give to the unsuspecting host/hostess at the office Christmas party. It's a closet wine that will "wow" the receiver. I cracked one of these at the last Halloween supper club I hosted and the bottle was the house favorite... gone within the first ten minutes of attendees arriving. Where most wine descriptors will halt at "blueberry" or "coffee" Earthquake takes these flavor profiles a step further with "Up front blueberry syrup, black cherry and coffee bean shake up the senses, finishing with warm cigar box cedar and vanillan flavors." At $18.99 you're getting every penny's worth!

For a more classically styled wine I noticed the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Store is now offering Catena Malbec from Argentina at $23.99 a bottle. This is one of the finest expressions of malbec I have encountered (for the price) from Argentina. Malbec is THE varietal of Argentina, though some equally fine malbecs are being produced in Cahors, France... and of course, malbec is one of the blending grapes in the wine capitol of the world Bordeaux (so obviously, you'll also find malbec in most meritage blends). It has a distinct plum-like flavor, and less distinct hint of anise which is helpful in rounding out the highly tannic cabernet of Bordeaux blends and filling out the softer merlot. Argentina has perfected this grape and produced some of the best 100% malbecs in the world. Quickly gaining in popularity, this is a nice gift as a substitute for a cab or merlot offering.

My favorite selection, however, and the one I ended up bringing to my wife's office party, was/is Rumball Sparkling Shiraz from Coonawarra Australia!

You're saying to yourself "What! Sparkling shiraz? I've never heard of such a thing." Or, possibly, you're more sophisticated palate than I've given you credit for is saying "Waitaminnit! I've had sparkling shiraz and it's always insipidly sweet... you can't really recommend such a disgusting mutation of this beautiful Australian varietal?"

I have tried dozens of Sparkling shiraz, and only one has ever made the cut for my lists and my home, and that is Rumball. Inky black, earthy and grapey, Rumball does a magnificent job in creating a varietally correct sparkling shiraz. At Casbah we put it on our brunch menu as a "Black Mimosa". the mixture of citrus and dark, spicy chocolatey shiraz gives your mimosas a whole new depth of flavor. You'll shock and delight your gift receiving friends with this choice bubbly. It goes great with meat! The gamier the better. Also, highly recommended with a nice stinky blue cheese! YUM!

Hope this helps with Holiday shopping! May you and yours have a very Happy Holiday! Cheers!

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