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12 Ways to Stay Ho-ho-Happy this Holiday Season: Pour Favor’s 12 Wines of Christmas!

For some people it’s all about getting through the holidays. Others embrace the season with aplomb. For wine lovers, it doesn’t matter which camp you fall into! Wine served is a life lived well. One of our clients couldn’t have agreed more, inviting us to consult on some holiday wine selections for them. The line-up was so worthy, we thought we would impart a little Christmas cheer by sharing with you, too! And so we bring to you Pour Favor’s 12 Wines of Christmas. Consider the holidays saved!

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me gentle rosé bubbles! Domaine Robert Serol’s “Turbullent” vin rose festif et petillant is as festive, lively and lovely as it sounds, featuring 100% Gamay. It’s earthy yet bright, red-fruited nature combined with just a touch of effervescence is the perfect thing to get you in the holiday spirit. Pop cork, trim tree!

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Oveja Negra’s Maule Valley single vineyard Carmenere is one of our favorite single-varietal wines of the year. Robust and pure, this dark, smooth and brooding yet lifted wine is buoyed by Chilean earth and finishes with a dark chocolate espresso note. Sip and savor with the homemade fudge your neighbor dropped by – and relish looking at your trimmed tree.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! ‘Tis always the season to embrace the wierdos, and Heitz Cellar’s Napa Grignolino is certainly that - until we saw/tasted this wine we didn’t know they were even cultivating this grape in California, one traditionally grown (in limited quantities) in Piedmont, Italy. After last night’s fudge fest, you’ll relish this charming, lighter-bodied, silky, slightly fertile wine with baking spices on the finish. Put out the bowl of imported strawberries and dive in!

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! A Riesling and Sylvaner hybrid grape, Mueller Thurgau is a gift in and of itself as opulent freshness is buoyed by all the main apple varieties - red, yellow and even tart green – and a thrilling herbal component comes into play. Tough day wrapping up projects at work before the end of the year? No worries! This killer white will tickle your tinsel-time fancy!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! With just one week ‘til Santa is nigh you’ll need something with power and elegance to give you a mental timeout while you start wrapping presents. Sink your teeth into Campi Nuovi’s Montecucc Sangiovese and call it done! This unfiltered, organic certified wine is Old World bliss: blackberry and cherry tang are composed by worn leather and fresh earth. You’ll be mid-bow-tying and having a ‘damn! That’s good’ moment. Promise.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! After all that wrapping you’re thinking how much you’ve spent this month and wondering how you’re going to keep drinking well without breaking the bank. Enter Johanneshof Reinisch Pinot Noir. We’ll let this one speak for itself. It’s that good!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Tonight you’re ordering pizza and uncorking a really special bottle to enjoy all on your own (partner optional). You’re so excited about it you even have the presence of mind to uncork before you head out the door to work. And why wouldn’t you be? Only 3 barrels of Hendry Blocks 9D & 26 Napa Cabernet Franc were made – and your true love was lucky enough to score one and smart enough to squirrel it away for you. Tonight Christmas comes early!

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Tavel from the Rhone could rival Provence for historic rosé recognition. Here we are talking about wines that are outstanding when fresh, and mesmerizing when they have a little bit of age on them. Chateau d'Aqueria hits the genre out of the vineyard with a generous, winter-ready body, mineral-rich purity, lovely flowers (violets and roses alike) and a light spice note. Get out your charcuterie board and call it a casual night in while the family comes over the river and the through the woods to your house.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! It’s now Sunday night and you’ve been cultivating your beef stew in the slow-cooker all day while you were out doing last minute stocking-stuffer shopping. Fortunately you’re true love knew a good Bordeaux would be the perfect match! Chateau Bourbon la Chapelle offers all of the flinty magic of the Médoc, with graphite and tea adding interest to an otherwise pretty, black-fruited wine that’s not weighed down by wood-aging. Could Santa be your true love?!

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a crazy Spanish red, Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! We all know Santa makes it to all ends of the earth on his sled, so it’s only natural to channel his exploration sensibilities this time of year. Anima Negra’s AN2 is mesmerizing, kind of like Rudolph’s nose. Hailing from Majorca, Spain, you don't see these too often, either! A blend of Callet, Mantonegre-Fogoneu and Syrah grapes it opens with floral aromas, and graces the palate with ripe, round red raspberry fruit flavors. It is refreshing yet firm, soft but juicy. It says, “Snuggle up to that roaring fire with me in your glass!”

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me White Burgundy, a crazy Spanish red, Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! For us seeing the Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo is a highlight to beheld this time of year – her grace, elegance and memorable strength and presence can’t be beat. The wine equivalent of this experience is Domaine Bachelet-Monnot’s Bourgogne blanc. Christmas Eve you’ll want to bring out something this magical. Uncork and hear the bells!

On the twelth day of Christmas my true love gave to me sexy Nebbiolo, White Burgundy, a crazy Spanish red, Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Christmas can’t come without Nebbiolo being in the mix. And while many gravitate first (among the elite Piedmontese styles) to Barolo, our heart is aflutter with the more feminine Barbaresco. Ca’ del Baio’s revered cru “Asili” vineyard Barbaresco is one of our favorites in particular, offering pedigree (fine tannins and varietal zip) and panache as mulled cherry notes meet herbal lift in a generous and open package. Merriment indeed!

And with that, we wish you Happy Holidays from all of us at Pour Favor!



Another January wine fridge winner

In my last post I mentioned that sometimes I 'gift' myself wine. Over Thanksgiving last year, this was one such occasion; I traveled for the holiday and knew I'd be spending time with a larger group with varying wine tastes and so I brought crowd-friendly wines I thought they would enjoy. For myself, I tucked away one of my favorite wines, the 2006 Kurt Angerer Pinot Noir, and anticipated opening it around the holiday with another friend who is just as enthused about it as I. Suffice to say, life got in the way and Kurt hung out in my wine fridge a little longer than I anticipated - I just pulled the cork last weekend.

This wine hails from the Kamptal region of Austria - a region that is challenged to produce exceptional red wines in any given year because the climate is so demanding. Vintage really matters. I've been sipping on Angerer's 2006 Pinot Noir for more than a year now and have enjoyed it all the while; but today I think it is tasting exceptionally well (though sadly, I fear not only that there may be no more left in the market but also that he did not produce another Pinot in 2007). This is a wine that is enjoyable out of the gates but truly benefits from decanting.  I took a quick taste upon opening it and then after three hours, I enthusiastically grabbed my glass and put my nose back to task.

The wine is so "pretty" I just kept breathing it in: roses, lavender and violets linger over fruit buoyed by aromas of smoked meats. These elements translate to the palate seamlessly, with a hint of mushroom and leather playing a note or two in addition. Its intense core of fruit really fleshes out when given time to aerate, delivering crushed cranberry and a whisper of dried cranberry fruit flavors, plus black raspberries and mascerated cherries, and a blink of tart, earthy rhubarb. Fine black pepper spice and a thread of savory charcuterie really come through on the long finish. An unfiltered wine, the texture is silky with oh-so fine tannins; the slight drying note makes the wine a better companion to food perhaps, but I find it did not at all detract from my enjoyment after the chicken marsala was long gone!




Drinking red after Memorial Day

Lambrusco at Pour Favor's March Wine & Style eventFolks have been coming by the shop with great gusto for warmer temps;  and they have been seeking out red wines for the occasion! No, we're not just talking about "BBQ wines". We're talking about wines to sip and enjoy with or without a meal while you sit on your porch watching the sun go down. Today I'm going to share some lesser known varietals or unique regional offerings (hybrids or blends) perfect for just such an occasion. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is taking this list (or a modified version, as you see fit) to your local shop to see which offerings they have on offer. These are some cool wines to keep your summer fresh - but they aren't necessarily available at every shop. They are, no less, worth seeking out.

Zweigelt. Austrian fruity goodness. Some earth. Often a touch tart. Lively. A hybrid of  St.-Laurent and Blaufrankish.

Dole. A Swiss wine, which blends Pinot Noir and Gamay. Fresh, ripe redberry fruits and cherries. Distinct in its own right, it has a unique identity I think many palates will embrace.

Dornfelder. Some argue this is the new "hottness" out of Germany. Another red berry-fruited wonder, but with a great spice. Terrifically light on its feet - without ever leaving planet Earth.

Gamay. Low tannin, light style red. Very fruity and THE grape in Beaujolais red wines. Seek out Beaujolais Villages offerings to get a bit more depth in your glass (aka a dash of Burgundian earthiness).

Lambrusco. An Italian, frizzante style wine. Vinified sweet and dry - so ask to accommodate your taste or intentions. A lovely spectrum of depth and redberry fruit flavors on the market.

Some of these may be familiar to you as we've bantered about several in the past. But I've been known to get stuck in traditional ruts when on a mission for an aperitif or a lighter style red to accompany a meal on a hot day. So, go on! It's a big bad world of refreshing RED wine out there.  Remember these options and... experiment!

What other reds do you like on a hot day? There are several more out there... please chime in!



Wines with Style

Thanks to Gourmet for their image of The Achilles Project/Persephone!Ever been wary of a "Wines by the Glass" list? Been dubious the wines were opened two days prior to your debut at the bar? Or better yet, ever been overwhelmed by a list that's a real list, offering an ample array of wines you've never heard of?  The bars/restaurants that take their glass pours seriously are a rare and wonderful breed. The trick is navigating their list with style and grace. Not always an easy task! The Achilles Project/Persephone here in Beantown offers more than 20 different wines by the glass. To me, this is the first indicator they are serious about wine. The second indicator is that a good number of the wines on their list are "nerdy" (read: boutique offerings you don't see everyday). Like the boutique shop they run up front, they are focused on being fashion-forward, offering something new for folks to try. And because they are serious about glass pours, they also tend to be on the lookout for any wine that is past its prime, giving customers a greater opportunity to enjoy a "fresh" experience.  Sign me up!

Today I thought it would be fun to go through their "Wine By The Glass" list and pick out a handful of grapes that might cause a customer or two to scratch their head - when really they should be doing a little jig and embracing the list's fabulous uniqueness. Buckle your seat belt!

Lambrusco: This red wine varietal from Emilia Romagna, Italy is something else... Lightly sparkling (frizzante, as the Italians like to say), this wine offers smart red berry fruit flavors, often with just a touch of sweetness eminating from the ripe grapes they pick for this elixir. Think antipasto or anything with a touch of saltiness or lightly fried (calamari anyone?) as a perfect pairing. Or sip it on it's own! It's a real charmer.

Assyrtiko/Asirtiko: This white grape varietal may have different spellings, but to me they say the same thing: crisp, citrus deliciousness. The closest "mainstream" varietal I can reference for new Assyritko drinkers would be Sauvignon Blanc. But Assyrtiko brings additional minerality and even a hint of smoke to the table. This is a probably one of the most well respected varietals in Greece, with its real home in Santorini. Unique, bright goodness in your glass.

Scheurebe: This is one of Germany's best known hybrid varietals, yet it is still somewhat of an orphan.... DNA tests prove that this grape's dad is Riesling, but Mom is still unknown (though previously thought to be Sylvaner). Gotta love a freak! This wine typically offers tremendous floral aromatics and a touch of residual sugar (RS).  Tasting the wine out on the town can be a bit of a gamble, but your bartender should be able to guide you on just how sweet it is (though often enough you'll find they err on the drier side). Very much worth the experimentation, I've found. Often a great match for slightly spicy Asian dishes.

As for the Reds on their list, well.... some of these may be better paired with food than as a "cocktail wine" but it is certainly not everyday you see Austria's own delicious and lightly refreshing test-tube varietal Zweigelt on the roster, let alone a Mencia or a even a Monastrell (the Spanish name for the grape Mouvedre, which is better recognized in French wines). Nero d'Avola is up and coming, thought to be a pseudo Syrah with additional notes of currants, clove and vanilla; I find them more often distinct in their own right and offering far less oomph than Syrah can. But they are often just the thing to scratch the itch at a very reasonable price. Carignane can be wonderful, but I prefer to enjoy it when dinner's up, rather than at the bar with friends. I find it too dry, earthy and edgy without a bit of food on hand.

Any which way you look at it, the key thing is context. Do you want to sip something easy like a bit of Zweigelt while you chat with friends? Do you prefer something more familiar but still adventurous (like an Assyritko) to take the edge off a long day? Or do you crave a bit more body in your wine as you snack throughout the evening? If you're unsure you can either start with a bit of bubbly or white wine to get the ball rolling - and you can always ask your bartender for a recommendation to suit your mood!

Half the fun of wine is where you  are, what you're doing or who you are with. It's worth a touch of experiment; don't you agree?



Winter Warmers: Gruner Veltliner

Austria's Stefan Rucker, Ukraine's Ruslan Podgornyy and Austria's Thomas Rohregger (L-R) cycle up the Grossglockner mountain during the third stage of the 60th Austrian Cycling Tour, July 9, 2008. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler(AUSTRIA)You're probably grateful to learn I'm not just a wine nerd. One of my other passions is cycling (yes, my road bike even has a name). I've found if you are really passionate about something (or things),  it is only natural your various interests intersect - however much in your thoughts rather than in practice. Case in point: I'm not likely to sip some vino and get on my bike, but sometimes I think about what "grape" I might be on any given day. (One of these days I'll probably even post on the topic in and of itself - or better yet, start a discussion on the new Pour Favor Facebook page....) For whatever reason, this week I've been feeling a bit Gruner Veltliner -  and feel compelled to post accordingly... Gruner Veltliner is a native Austrian white grape - their most well known and most planted, in fact.  Like training athletes, I find Gruner gets even better over time. 8 out of 10 times I open a bottle, it tastes better on day two than day one, and even better on day three than day two (after that, you may be pushing it). It takes time for it's muscle to show.  Gruner is a svelte athlete, with terrific definition, but without an overblown, steroid-infused look/feel.  (Exactly the one I'm going for myself.)

Gruner also balances it's sweet (read: fruit forward) with it's sexy (read: character-driven, white pepper 'spice appeal') side. Think ripe, fleshy white peaches, a hint of citrus, a dash of apricot - and white pepper minerality. This is the formula for one of the most food-friendly and versatile wines you can find. And its extra touch of oomph (i.e. weight from its svelte muscles) makes it a terrific white to enjoy during the winter months. Lovely acidity even allows it to precede a meal - or a night out on the town.

Which ones do I tip my hat to in particular? Try the Hofer Gruner Veltliner for a mere $12 (and a 1L bottle at that!); the Laurenz Singing Gruner for $15; or, seek out one of Kurt Angerer's special offerings.

Are you feeling like a Gruner these days, too?


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inspiration, hope, delight and a bottle (or two...) of wine

I was blessed with three things this Thanksgiving: inspiration, hope and pure delight. Since wine happened to be the catalyst for all three (and I feel like all we hear about is bad news these days), I can't help but pick up my blog after the holiday weekend and share some positive goodness. Inspiration. I've never had so much fun interacting with wine customers than last Wednesday night at the shop. People were looking for nice bottles of vino to accompany their meal, serve as delicious liquid 'balm' for potentially awkward family moments, or otherwise thank their host for their hospitality. People were simply in good spirits, looking forward to a few days off and satisfied bellies. Their bottle of vino was something they not only wanted to complete their meal, but to say something more, too.

Hope. People weren't panicking. Some were looking to spend less per bottle so they could buy more than one more easily, but I couldn't help but notice I was helping customers select more expensive bottles of wine for the occasion. (There is so much good juice at various price points I had anticipated helping folks find the perfect bottle anywhere from $10 to $100 - not more consistently in the $20-$35 range, which I did often.)

Delight. As I dressed my table, roasted my bird and prepared the delicious trimmings, it was lovely to open the bottles of wine I finally selected for the occasion (after much deliberation - after all, I am a Virgo with sometimes too much wine knowledge for my own good!). They were exactly what I hoped would delight my taste buds and guests.

Our pre-bird snacks were accompanied by an old favorite of mine (though the latest vintage which I had not yet enjoyed), the 2007 Guidobono Barbera d'Alba. I call it my fireplace wine; it is so approachable and versatile I can enjoy it with a variety of foods - or simply stick my feet up in front of the fire and sip. The 2007 is perhaps less complex in flavor than 2006, but it is no less satisfying. It was perfect for me to sip on as I put the final touches on the meal, enjoyed my guests and snacked.

Our main meal featured the 2006 Hillinger Small Hill Red, a truly fabulous, character-driven, soft and supple Pinot Noir/Merlot blend from Austria. In case I haven't mentioned this wine here before, I will say it now: to me this wine is like the big, holiday bonus you didn't know you were getting (it shows you the respect you deserve, but does so with unprecedented sophistication and grace). A lovely knock-out!

All of these things were enough to put me in the holiday spirit. This week I'll be getting out my decorations and thinking about wines to delight us all as Santa slides down the chimney in but 25 days time!

How was your Thanksgiving? What wine(s) did you select for the occasion?

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Z-Why Yes!-Gelt

Ok, so it isn't really spelled that way.... But it certainly makes me want to run out and get some! Zweigelt, that is, a little Austrian red wine goodness that's perfect for this time of year.  (It's said Z-vye-gelt, if my title was of no use to you this delightful, holiday Monday!) What? Austrian wine? WHAT?!

Yes. Austria! I'm too young (if I do say so for myself) to really remember the (drinking) days when Austrian wine was a horrifying "No, No" - and, frankly, my experience with Austrian gastronomy has only been pure pleasure. (Who doesn't love herb-encrusted game? Cured meats? Hard cheeses? And delicious, oh-so-delicious, sweets!) I think of the Alps, the fascinating history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and those fine foods before I recall Austria has had its sad disaster of a period in modern wine making history.

To refresh your memory, Austria used to be known for its sweet wines. Things only got tricky in 1985 when a group of corrupt wine brokers tried to salvage poor harvests by adding diethylene glycol (found in antifreeze, no joke...) to the wines to increase the sweetness and then, worse, sell these wines as legit for a decent profit. I think NOT! Well, it didn't work out so well for these greedy businessmen; but it did ultimately work out well for serious winemakers. Austria can now boast the strictest wine laws in the world. And that's saying something when you recall the restrictions offered up in France and Italy, for example.  It also allowed serious winemakers to refocus their energies on making truly fabulous, dry wines.

Austria may still churn out 80% white wines (Gruner Veltliner is the major player on the white stage), but their reds are something to behold, too. Zweigelt is a test tube baby, or a man-made hybrid of St. Laurent (Austrian clone of Pinot Noir) and Blaufrankish. Why man-made? Well, Pinot Noir/St. Laurent is a tricky, tricky grape to grow because it is so delicate and, therefore, suseptible to so many different vineyards pests (bugs and birds alike), climatic challenges (frost, heat, hail, etc.) and even the human touch.  Zweigelt is less prone to frost, bud-breaks later and becomes a more mature fellow (ripens) earlier in the season. This is a godsend in Austria where the weather is a bit, shall we say... chilly?

Zweigelt is a white and red wine drinkers happiness. And it is perfect this time of year when you are thinking about the light fruitiness of Gamay (aka Beaujolais) and want something with a bit more character for both a warm day and cooler evening. The best part is that Austrian wines can be very reasonably priced - they do, afterall, have to redeem themselves in the global market!

If this is a new grape to you, try the Sepp Moser Zweigelt. It should retail for about 10 bones. It delivers cranberry and cherry fruit right up front and center stage. It can be a little on the tart side on the back palate and as it finishes, but I don't mind it (and I usually do!). The flavors in this little wine gets me excited about fireplaces and Thanksgiving dinner to come!

Are you a Zweigelt lover? Have you gotten (back) on the Austrian wine bandwagon?