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No-Brainer Holiday Wine Ideas: from What to Pour, to Boss & Co-Worker Gifts

Wine is both an entirely festive way to celebrate the holiday season and a winning approach for gift-giving. The trouble is knowing what to pour - when - and what to gift - to whom. Are we right?

This holiday season we're giving the gift that keeps on giving - easy answers. Below, you'll find wine solutions for your party planning conundrums as well as ideas for gift giving - from stemware to great reads.

Remember, there's naturally some overlap - often wine itself is a wonderful solution in and of itself. So take these ideas and run with them. You're sure to hit the nail on the head with a touch of your own personalization.

Sparkling Wines

From hosting to gifting, sparkling wine is a foolproof way to bring a natural, festive flare to bear. If you don't know your recipient (or his/her tastes) well, they are also a great answer to The Personalization Problem. No matter what, they add levity - and New Year's is a built-in opportunity to open and enjoy.

Here is our own Guide for Selecting the Right Sparkling Wine for the Occasion.



Need specific ideas?  Some of our favorite sparkling wines this year can be found below, beginning with the most affordable styles (e.g. Prosecco + Cava) to the most baller (Champagne). (Note: These specific wines are available to those of us shopping in the Greater Boston area. You can ask your local retailer to order any wine they don't stock.)
 

Marsuret Prosecco  |  Veneto, Italy (Valdobbiane)
Deliciously quaffable and festive, Prosecco wines have taken the world by storm. Here the Marsura family stays true to their 80-year tradition to produce a particularly winning option: zesty, delicately pear-nuanced with a touch more pizzazz than its counterparts.

When/For Whom? Cost-effective, basic bubbly that delivers a festive element/gesture. Ideal for any and everyday - from a holiday brunch to topping-off a "champagne" cocktail.


Dibon Cava  |  Penedes, Spain
Cava drinkers have gotten the memo for a footloose and fancy free sparkling beverage that’s closer to proper Champagne for its toasty notes and fleshier texture – at a fraction of the price. Frothy and fruit forward, Dibon delivers memorable peach and orange notes, backed by hazelnuts and citrus zest.

When/For Whom? Casually festive and versatile, but with a bit more to it. Appropriate to serve during cocktail hour, offer for a festive toast, or even segway into the first course. An affordable way to thank/appreciate colleagues, or supply a casual host/ess gift.


Cave de Saumur Crémant de Loire "49M"   |  Loire, France
Crémant wines come from elite regions of France - outside of Champagne - and are goldmines for exceptional sparklers. This hidden gem from one of our favorite CO-Ops is both charming and dry - and bursting with familiar fruit nuance. You can't go wrong with 49 Million, tiny, crowd-pleasing bubbles!

When/For Whom? Crémant wines are our Go-Tos because they are perfect for dialing things up a notch, without anyone knowing how much you spent. You'll be winning with a ~$20 budget.

 

Taittinger 2008 Brut Champagne  |  Champagne, France
This is the real deal, and then some. Featuring the 2008 vintage alone, this blend of all 3 legally-permitted Champagne grapes delivers tell-tale orchard fruits, a hint of stone fruits and mouthwatering citrus. Better still, its decadent brioche side makes you wonder if you just stepped into a Parisian bakery. . .

When/For Whom? To make an impression - this is brilliant, baller bubbly! Gift to your boss or open with really, really good friends.


Westport Rivers "RJR" Brut Sparkling Wine   |  Westport, Massachusetts
Massachusetts' own Westport Rivers Winery kills it when it comes to sparkling wine. And the RJR is their flagship - separating itself with a frothy, creamy mousse and giving you flashbacks to an autumnal New England picnic. (Bonus - this wine has been on the White House's go-to list!)

When/For Whom? Whenever you need a secret weapon or a local treat to gift/serve. Typically c. $37/bottle, we saw it recently for just c. $20!


choosing wines: Gifting + Celebrating

1.    Looking to make a BIG splash? Whether throwing a party or looking to impress your gift-recipient, this trick never fails.
 

2.    You can also boost your party vibe with a creative approach to wine selection that mitigates fussiness for you - and ensures guests stay engaged in the fun otherwise. Here's How.
 


beyond the bottle: the Essentials


STEMWARE.   There's no need to geek-out on this one. Simply give a great glass that works perfectly well for wines of ALL colors. Our pick is the Vinum Riedel Extreme Series. We use the (white) Sauvignon Blanc option for ALL of the wines we taste/evaluate - red, white or pink. We love the sleekness of the glass as much as its versatility. (If you specifically know your recipient is a red wine fan, you could opt for their Bordeaux/Cabernet/Merlot glass instead. Don't overthink it beyond that!)
 

DECANTER.   Did you know, there are 5 Good Reasons to Use a Decanter Everyday? And this essential tool isn't in everyone's at-home wine supplies repertoire - yet. You can use the holidays to change that with a lovely gift.

Here's one suggestion - a half bottle size. It won't break the bank - and offers a sweet alternative to decanting an entire bottle (not to mention delivering a user-friendly nudge toward that ideal everyday use).
 

GREAT READS, BY INTEREST. 

for Fans of History, Villains + Heroes, or Fiction/Non-Fiction Crossover Reads:  American Wine: A Coming of Age Story

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Why Your Next Event Needs a “House Wine” + How to Choose

When was the last time you were at an event and you walked away from the bar talking about the wine? It’s hard to get excited about the same old selection you see ubiquitously at every one of “these things,” right?

If you’re like the corporate planners we polled this summer, the last thing you want is for guests to consider your event run of the mill. In fact, if you’re like them, you want your event to be memorable for the right reasons – with guests actively participating, having fun and connecting with each other.

You want your event to be fresh and add value.


Did you know wine selection is a key tool for making your event a success?

If you’re like the corporate planners we polled this summer, the last thing you want is for guests to consider your event run of the mill.

Let’s take one of our venue partners for example, a top-notch, full-service operation that must create stand-out events time and again to be successful.

They rightfully pride themselves not only on their immaculate space and thoughtful approach in planning, but also the farm-to-fork food experience they deliver. Their wine list needed to follow suit.

Called upon to help, we saw a unique opportunity to set them up for success – not only in working with their clients, but also by ensuring their wine list would pay itself forward to guests’ event experiences.
 

Why? Analysis Paralysis is an Event Killer. 
 

A key networking and guest-engagement opportunity is lost.

People (guests) who find themselves in unfamiliar territory are overwhelmed by too much choice. And people who consider themselves in the know become distracted by too many options (whether good ones, or more often, stuck determining the ‘best of the worst’). At an event, while the bar line grows and grows, conversation among party-goers becomes awkward as people fight their decision demons. Guests become stressed and just want to get back to the people they already know and the larger festivities. A key networking and guest-engagement opportunity is lost.

So we retooled their custom list aiming to:

a)  Streamline offerings, which even novice clients (like many guests) could comfortably choose from;

b)  Offer wine options that would stir the interest and enthusiasm of guests when they saddled up to the bar – and as they headed back to the festivities;

c)  Creatively reflect their brand.

From here our partner was ready and able to work with their own clientele to create a winning guest experience. In effect, their custom wine list became their secret weapon.

In effect, their custom wine list became their secret weapon.

As in the example above, you can – and should – use your wine selection to bring additional creativity to bear, get people engaging (in and outside of the bar line) and underscore your brand or event in a fresh, subtle way.
 


How do you go about it?
 

Streamline Selections, aka Operate in Technicolor.   While guests may not know the ins and outs of wine, they do know which color they prefer. Offer just one of each style: a white and a red, with one festive sparkling wine for good measure. That’s your flight of what we call “House Wines” – Analysis Paralysis abated.
 

Pique Curiosity.   Skip the Italian Pinot Grigio, California Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and the Argentine Malbec. You get the idea – these are the predictable options. Offer choices that have familiar nuances, but that guests might not ordinarily come across. Guests who consider themselves in the know try something new (or are excited to enjoy something they recognize isn’t often an option) while novices just enjoy for the sake of enjoyment.

Hint: Blends from France, Spain and Italy are often a wonderful starting point, or seek out wines from lesser-known countries like Austria (whites) or Lebanon (reds). Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance, or get outside help. Your local wine shop is a great resource to solicit input on lesser known crowd-pleasers.
 

. . . make things less fussy – and more fun – for guests.

Unleash Your Creativity.   Once you’ve decided on the wines, facilitate fun organically by renaming each selection in a spirited or meaningful way that will get folks engaging in line – and afterwards, with their choice in hand. Try playing-off of branding or corporate culture elements. Or use the excuse to celebrate (or roast?) particular staff members or departments. Want to detach a bit from work? Give the selections personas – like “Nuanced & Daring – Red” and “Lively & Luxe – Bubbly” for the sparkling wine.

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Bottom Line: Wine naturally adds levity – and a traditional bar set-up offers an opportunity for guests from all corners to connect as they make their way to your Libation Station. By being both more deliberate in choosing a focused selection of your own House Wines and more playful in how you present them, you make things less fussy – and more fun – for guests.

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The Secret to Holiday Entertaining – Celebrate Magnum Style

We shouldn’t need an excuse to pull out all of the stops when it comes to entertaining, but then what would the holidays really be for anyway?

Whether you’re a wine geek or not, our secret to dialing things up a notch is to Go Big – literally. A “magnum” of wine is what you call the super-sized bottle of wine you may have started to see more often since Thanksgiving. Said bottle contains the equivalent of two “normal” bottles of wine. It is a sight to behold, and certainly makes that statement we never mind to make.

No contest, magnums make for a fantastic gift for wine lovers. But how often do you have enough of a crowd to warrant actually opening a large-format bottle? Our staff relishes the chance.

Here are ten wines available in magnums we think are perfect for celebrating. Make an impression this holiday season!
 

Sparkling.

Adriano Adami Bosco di Gica Valdobiadene Superiore Prosecco| Veneto, Italy
The wonderful world of sparkling wine is global – you don’t always need to travel to Champagne, France for an enticing or satisfying selection! Here Adami over-delivers for the category, producing a lively, quaffable sparkler.
 

Billecart-Samon Brut Rosé  | Champagne, France
Behold, one of our absolute favorite producers of Champagne, let alone sparkling rosé. Seeing this wine packaged in a magnum – well, we caught our breath! Here the devil is in the details: tiny beads of joy oh-so-delicately deliver tangy red fruits first to your nose, and then to your palate. Notes of chalk-board erasers are a time machine back to less-harried, wonder-rich times.
 

Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Quality Brut | Champagne, France
Where Billecart-Samon scores high in the ‘delicious-subtlety’ category, Ployez-Jacquemart does so with equal enthusiasm in the ‘delicious-decadence’ category. Generous orchard fruits are lifted by citrus and quince – and that’s just the beginning! Toasty and lush with gratifying brioche elements, we just love how this wine wraps itself around your senses….
 

Rosé.

Bodegas Muga Rosado| Rioja, Spain
Nothing says party-perfect more effortlessly than a magnum bottle of sacred (read: somewhat scarce) rosé wine! Here the historic winery Bodegas Muga blends Grenache with white Viura grapes and a splash of Tempranillo. Aging the wine briefly in large oak vats adds body and nuance, while lees aging contributes subtle milk chocolate notes. The result is supreme – a dry but lifted, round-edged, winter-ready but refreshing style that can elevate holiday meals just as easily as it can coolly welcome friends. (Grab one if you see one – Rebecca did!)
 

White.

Chateau Montelena Winery Chardonnay | Napa Valley, California
This wine packs both a delicious and historic punch: established in 1882, Chateau Montelena is one of the oldest wineries in the United States –  and the 1973 vintage of this wine won the famous Judgement of Pairs in 1978! Is it still worth its muster? In a word, YES. The fruit for this wine was selected literally grape by grape. With only 10% new oak used and a cool growing season in play, this white is as dramatic as it is crisp!
 

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese Riesling| Rheingau, Germany
There’s just something about colder days that beg for a glass of something decadent, something you can cozy up to, something that somehow also rouses your spirits and delivers a surprise. Here one of our absolute favorite German winemakers, Josef Leitz, delivers all of that in one uncorking. Minerality creates a snappy tension with the fruity, sappy, layered flavor profile of this wine – and it is delivered in an abundant(ly), delicious package.
 

Red.

Buena Vista Winery “The Count” | Sonoma, California
A blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, “The Count” shows its innovative roots while showcasing the bold potential the Count himself saw in California wines. Medium bodied, this wine is as packed with purple and black fruits as it is with earth-driven nuance. Burnt caramel and cedar notes give it that touch of winter-time pizazz we all crave this time of year. Easy drinking and velvety smooth, this toothsome wine is a crowd-pleaser!
 

Burgess Cellars Library Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2002) | Napa Valley, California
Properties like Burgess are what put the Napa Valley – and Cabernet grown here – on the map. Determined to make a style of wine expressive of terroir, Tom Burgess was wise to snap up this plot of land in the Howell Mountains. Here above the fog, vines 60+ years old have become one with the mineral-rich, volcanic soil. Opulent yet still ‘pretty’, this wine is a teenager, packed with dark berry fruit, dusty earth and just a hint of mocha.
 

Chateau de Saint Cosme Rouge | Cotes du Rhone, France
For (at least) two of us on staff, our love affair with European wine began with Syrah from the Rhone Valley, France. Wines like this iconic one are the reason why: fresh, purple-floral aromatics awaken your senses first, followed by a decadent palate rich with dark fruit, hints of spice and notes of saddle leather and bacon fat (yes.. bacon!). Welcome to the club!
 

Domaine Serene Vineyards Pinot Noir | Evenstad Reserve | Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon's Willamette Valley is thought “the Promised Land” for producing acclaimed, Burgundian-styled reds, aka exceptional Pinot Noir. And Domaine Serene is one of the darlings of this young yet heralded wine region. We were downright gleeful to discover their award-winning, flagship wine is available in magnums. Buyer beware: the Evenstad Reserve is a super-silky, complex wine that delivers a wallop of delight!

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Serving Rosé, Red and White Wines at the Right Temperature

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“What temperature should I drink rosé?” is the no. 1 question we’ve been fielding at wine events this summer. As a sort-of “cross-over” option between white and red and as perhaps the newest curiosity in wine, there’s no wonder there’s confusion.

The spectrum of rosé wine styles is as broad in variation as white and red wine styles can be. Rosé wines range from crisp and lively to bold and brooding – with a LOT of variation in between. That’s a fair bit to contend with and each has its own respective “ideal” serving temperature.

And wines (regardless of color) are INfrequently served at the appropriate temperature, even at restaurants. This can be due in part to infrastructure or practical reasons (e.g. cold glass-pour bottles are in/out of the cooler too frequently to maintain ideal serving temperature; and you may have noticed bottles sitting on the counter in staff-accessible locations, which are not temperature-friendly…). As a result even the so-called experts miss the mark, and you don’t get a proper taste-bud education or quality experience to reference.

Does it really matter anyway?

YES. A wine that’s served too cold is wearing a mask – none of its personality has a chance to show, let alone shine. It's frozen! You need to massage a given wine to do your taste buds a favor and otherwise honor the dogged work of the folks in the vineyards and winery who toil for your greater good.

Meanwhile, wines served too warm can burn you; the alcohol packs a punch and none of the fruit or earth nuances that make it unique (or delicious) come to bear.

At home you have the ‘luxury’ of being Goldilocks and getting it just right, even if you don’t have a temperature-controlled wine cellar. There’s a simpler way for optimal enjoyment whether you’re uncorking a white, rosé or red wine.

Here’s our rule of thumb:

Put said desired bottle of wine in the fridge – or the freezer – for 30 minutes. That’s your basic starting point for ALL styles (except Sparkling, which needs another hour) and about the time it takes to kick off your shoes after your day, flip through the mail and get dinner started. Simply grab the bottle off the rack and get it chill’n before you start your Unwinding Process.

Here’s where you go from there:

WHITES.   Especially in the summer and if you’re eating outdoors, put your white wines in the freezer for that half hour, not the fridge. Then use a wine bottle chiller to keep the bottle more/less at that temperature while serving it. Fuller bodied wines like Viognier and Chardonnay will be just about spot-on in that 30 minute window, depending how warm the bottle was before you got started. Crisper, leaner wines benefit from a little extra time. Shoot for more like 40 minutes. Unsure what style is in your glass? Err on the longer side of the spectrum. Wines can warm up pretty quickly, so you’re better off starting too cold than not cold enough!

ROSÉS. To start, apply the same thinking and preparation as you would a white wine as described above. If you know it is a more bold or brooding style, ease up on the freezer chill time. If it is leaner, or more crisp, give it that extra bit of time. And from there, enjoy what makes rosé perhaps the most fun category of all – the chance to taste it on its journey! I typically start with the wine chilled to its coldest potential point and then enjoy the experience tasting it overtime, as it warms on its own. The wine’s flavors shift and evolve in turn, which is a BIG part of experiencing rosé’s special magic!

REDS. “Room Temperature” is a concept of the past, when we didn’t have central air. Then room temperature was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or today what we think of as ideal “cellar temperature”. Most often reds are served way too warm, regardless how bold or lighter-bodied they are. Here you want to stick your wine in the fridge for said 30 minutes, with maybe 10 minutes less for bolder styles.

For wines that fall into the “Chillable Reds” category, if you offer up 40 minutes of fridge treatment, the wine will virtually frolick in your glass! French Beaujolais and Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, Italian Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Sciava and Frappato, and even youthful, un-oaked Spanish Tempranillo are all chill-loving.

In a pinch for time? Give any given wine an ice bath for 10+ minutes (you do the math given the above reference points) and you are good to go!

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