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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!


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"impossible" pairing - nein?!

Is there such a thing as an "impossible" food/wine pairing? Some say Yes, others No. I'm of the mind that nothing's impossible! Sure there are a few tricky foods in the wine-o-sphere: asparagus, artichokes and eggs, come to mind immediately.

But trial and error proves time and again that for eggs there is always sparkling wine (and the higher the acid, and finer the bubbles the better, me thinks). For asparagus you can try Albarino, the Spanish white varietal that is low in alcohol, high in acid and lanolin-like in texture and is as food-loving as they come. In fact, this is my usual go-to for trickier pairings like super spicy fare or a redmeat-centric dish that would really do better with a red wine or even a rose, but where a white is required.

In my mind, artichokes are actually the biggest wine challenge - and in truth, this is probably a pre-conceived notion that I have because as much as I absolutely love them, they are such a pain to work with that I rarely prepare them myself.  Leave it to my good friend, a wonderful cook, to invite me over for dinner and make them! Fortunately she gave me the heads up so I could ponder the pairing for a little bit. She also told me that the main protein would be monkfish - so my playing field was happily narrowed: a white wine would be the best route to take.

As alluded  above, bubbly is certainly a safe bet when it comes to tricky pairings. But I wasn't in the mood for full-throttle bubbles or too much toasty richness; and Prosecco doesn't strike me as a sparkling with enough pungency or pizazz to fight back in the Table-side Food Challenge Throwdown that was presented. Something with tang seemed more like it.  Something that had enough 'muscle' to stand up to the 'choke was needed.

Tocai came to mind, but didn't win me over. So did New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes - but I wondered if their pungency would actually be too much.  And I really do think a little bubble and low alcohol goes a long way, so I perused my esoteric bubbly wine options instead. A lightly Sparkling Gruner called PUNKT was tempting, but I wasn't sure the fruit and tang would come through enough to stand its ground. Then my eye caught sight of this bizarre and awesome wine called La Tosa.

La Tosa has historically been the ultimate zesty, fresh white wine with  just a hint of sparkle. But last vintage the twin brothers who make it decided to go full-on in the bubble department - and the new version of its former self is killer. Still a blend of Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Ortrugo grapes, lemon-lime flavors absolutely pop on the palate and an awesome fresh herbal note adds intrigue. Lively acidity brings it all on home. I thought, what  the heck?, and grabbed a bottle to chill.

Once around the table with my pasta bowl in front of me, I dove right in to the supposed wine-killer: the artichokes. Then I saddled up to my wine glass, breathed in the fresh bouquet and took a big sip. It was delicious! Each element stood its ground in ideal harmony - the artichokes danced while the wine sang. VICTORY.

What wasn't so hot was the La Tosa with dessert: Gummi Bears. It was down right foul. I took a mental note to save that challenge for another day!

What would you pair with Gummi Bears?

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it's a crazy good time of year for some holiday cheer!

Apologies for the virtual hiatus, but Pour Favor tastings have been keeping us awfully busy this holiday season! We've traveled the world grape by grape with myriad interested parties and are coming off of our whirlwind tour just in time to plan our own holiday soiree. And that's when I realized it is quite possible we've never discussed the most important thing about The Holidays (aside from what to pour, of course) - how MUCH to have on hand! Are you in this particular predicament as Christmas looms or New Year's RSVPs flood in, too?

First things first, consider how many people in your crowd will be drinking wine with you. If you have 50 people coming but only about 30 people who you think will imbibe vinously, use that as your base number.

Next, think about how much, shall we say decorum?, is anticipated. If you have a moderate drinking crowd, figure 2.5 glasses per person. Multiply that number by your base (2.5 * 30) and achieve your total number of drinks expected (75). A healthy pour would mean 4 drinks per the standard 750ml bottle. A more moderate pour will be 5 per bottle. If you prefer to strike a middle ground, use 4.5. Carrying our example of 30 moderate drinkers forward, you are looking at nearly 17 bottles needed. It never hurts to round up, so consider buying a case and a half and you should be good to go.

The other variable we've alluded to above is whether you think all of your folks will be wine drinkers. Play with the 'formula' above to adjust accordingly (e.g. 30 wine drinkers, with 15 others more interested in beer) and make your final call on how much to have on hand. Then, put on your party shoes and fire up the iPod! It'll be time to celebrate like it's 2012 in no  time.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and happy New Year!



What to do with left over bubbly? drink it!

Did you end up with a few extra bottles of sparkling wine after New Year's this year? It seems to be the normal course of things - and many people hesitate to do the obvious thing with these wines, what with official "celebrations" behind us. But corks are meant to come out! Here's how I've gone about tackling this delicious, festive, "problem": This New Year the Prosecco of choice for my friends and I was Santome. This is one I'm sure I've blogged about in the past, because it delivers lifted, just tart green apple fruit and lemon zest flavors; it's more crisp, dry nature makes it a good one to make cocktails with if that's your bag, but it is also delicious all on its own. For $12.99 you have no guilt opening bottle after bottle - and if you stick with it all night, you're likely in a hangover free zone. But on December 31st we didn't quite make it through the full case, so I anted up for game night last weekend. Santome was the perfect accompaniment to the deviled egg appetizers I whipped up.

Next, I pulled out the bigger guns in my repertoire...

In my bubbly archives, I discovered I somehow still had one bottle of the 1999 Pierre Morlet Brut. With good friends who enjoy good wine, why not pop a cork? They are meant to come out after all, so what more of an occasion do you need? And this wine had already been in bottle for more than a decade. So as the pork tenderloin rested and the cinnamon scented butternut squash mashed potatoes cooled a little, we popped the cork on this bad boy, too. It had a lovely mousse, with just the right amount of toastiness, red and yellow apple fruits, and a lithe lemon cream texture. A wild accent of hazelnuts mid-palate made this wine a favorite among the group.

After savoring Pierre, we finished our bubbly spree with the very dry, mineral-laced Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut. Another winner, we enjoyed the texture of this wine also, with fine bubbles bringing pear and red apple fruit flavors quickly to bear. This wine was particularly memorable for the previously mentioned minerality - a clean, wet pebble/chalky essence. Delicious vin!

Remember, you don't need an official celebration or Real Occasion to enjoy sparkling wine. It is the most food friendly option available, pairing with every possible food, and delicious all on it's own. As you begin to dig your heals into 2011, I beg you to take sparkling wine with you on your travels more frequently! Why not make an easy night in with friends that much more enjoyable?

How often do you drink sparkling wine?



January is short change wine month

What's on my table this January? Everything good n'cheap! It's amazing what you can get your hands on after the New Year in particular, when wine buyers are particularly keen on discovering great wines for short change. Note that savvy buyers often can find wines that are in their prime but are offered by wholesalers for a reduced rate, who are busy trying to move out "old" inventory what with new vintages due in the coming few months. These professionals also appreciate that consumer's credit card bills will have been maxed out during the holiday gifting spree, but that while they still want some vinous love on a chilly night, quality should not be compromised. (Who wants to re-live their New Year's hangover?!) Of course, here in Massachusetts the liquor tax has been repealed. So as of the first of the year, we're "saving" 6.25% to boot!

Curious what am I sipping specifically?

Let's start with last weekend, when I was uber-happy to uncork the 2007 Chateau Les Tours Seguy Cotes de Bourg (Bordeaux, France). This is a wine that is chock full of French-tastic terroir (barnyard aromas and a hint of leather and checked earthy appeal on the palate) and supple blackberry, black currant and even some red fruits. It has great balance, but like most Bordeaux is better with food (game meats, hard cheeses, even pasta with meat sauce like lasagna - hell, I had it with Chicken Mushroom soup because the brussel sprouts and leeks in the dish brought savory earthy appeal to deliver a great match for the wine). We are pretty convinced this is a wine that is in it's prime right here, right now with just light, dusty tannins, good lift and integration. Even better, this is a wine that should retail in the high teens, and it is worth every penny; but because it was one of those wines cluttering up the  wholesaler's warehouse when new vintages are coming in,  it was available for a super low price, which the shop was happy to pass on to customers.  For $8.99, I'm one happy (repeat) customer!

What values are you finding out there so far this Winter?



Spain is on my table: Montsant's Magic

We're having schizophrenic weather (again) here in Beantown this late fall/early winter. Monday it was 53 degrees. Today we're capping out at 25, and it was bitterly cold last night. Someone said they heard it was "March weather" because it is all over the map. Whatever. It's Boston. It's always all over the map. But this year I can't complain, since we've had an absolutely ridiculously terrific weather year. Besides, I'm happy shopping at Wilson Farm for all the gourds and root vegetables that are prolific this time of year. Stuffed squash? Check. Pork tenderloin with Port-glazed brussel sprouts? Check. Hearty chicken soup? Check. In the wine scheme of things accordingly, it's true, I've had a good run in the Languedoc finding wines for "warmer" Fall days and that go easy on the wallet. But with the smell of winter in the air, I'm thinking more and more about Spain. It's a winemaking nation that’s impossible to synopsize because it is a country that has a great history in wine production, but today is one that looks to modern times (and palates) for guidance. As a result, it is arguably the Old World Mecca for innovation.

Ever heard of Samso? That’s ok, it’s just an alternate, local name for Carignan, which comprises the full 100% of fermented juice in a wine made by Clos de Noi. These folks are based in Montsant, one of my favorite nooks in Spain (and one I plan to visit next year). Carles Escolarhas is the winemaker behind this floral, intensely concentrated, fruit forward, teeth-sinking red. Ripe blackberry, black raspberry and bramble fruits, are accented with a touch of spice and Montsant’s increasingly sought, slatey minerality. Personally, I love the Clos de Noi all the more for its long, seductive finish.

There are plenty of places in Spain (Rioja, for example) that will warm you up this winter. But if you are a particular fan of big, bold reds with plenty of nuance - or even Priorat, Montsant's better known (pricier) neighbor - than this is an area for you to explore this winter.

What wines are you enjoying as our temps drop and we head into winter?



thanksgiving wine ideas

For Thanksgiving you often think of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris as "perfect" pairings. And in fact, those are the varietals that I almost always seek out for the big day in part because they are such a good match but also because it is an 'excuse' to spend the bigger bucks on a great red Burgundy or some incredible Alsatian PG. But Thanksgiving really is an open-ended wine pairing holiday. Like chicken, turkey offers a clean slate. It's like the tofu of the meat world; it's something that needs dressing up to have a real identity. As such, wine pairing is more about all the sides you are going to prepare - cranberry sauce, earthy root vegetables like brussel sprouts or creamed white onions, or sweet potatoes, or your mother's fruit salad (with marshmallows) that you have every year because it's "tradition". Yes, the Pinot family can take the fun on home with sides like these. But the world really is your oyster!

Here are a few other ideas to consider - and when I say consider, I mean who all is coming to dinner, what their preferences might be and how to keep everyone happy (sometimes the real objective at your holiday gathering)....

Whites  ~

White Burgundy, or the more affordable alternative, Macon Chardonnay. The thing about these wines is that Burgundy (and the surround areas where you can spend a few less dollars) offers a full, fleshy and fruit-forward experience that won't weigh you down. They are gently oaked wonders, which means that you can still bring Chardonnay (a familiar grape) to the table without bringing a bottle of buttery, wooded, BIG juice, that won't quite work with such a big meal. Clean, pure, fruit and citrus lift are a winning combination.

Albarino. Albarino is an incredibly versatile option that will pair with anything. Its low alcohol, terrific, sea-like minerality and bright acidity keep your guests, and your overindulgence, in check, and also offers a little something unique and enjoyable beyond "the usual suspects". While gaining in popularity, it is still a grape that not everyone knows. Few are likely to have a preconceived notion of what to expect - and whether they will like it or not. Chances are - they will, too.

Reds ~

Malbec. Now this is a grape that people know and tend to have only very positive feelings about! And, it is also a grape that won't over-power the turkey and will certainly complement the earthier fare on your table. Seek out fruit forward, earthier styles (as opposed to the chocolatey, rich ones) for a real treat.

Zinfandel. Zin can be tricky because so many of them are so high in alcohol. That is dangerous both on an over-consumption level and also because it really can weigh you down. The juicy sweetness and slightly earthy nuance on offer (in great Zin) certainly pairs with the cranberry sauce. But for the Thanksgiving table that runs the 'non traditional' gamut in particular by delivering an Italian feast (and yet for folks that want a truly "American" wine to pair), this is an option to consider. My recommendation? In this case, spend the extra bucks to get a really well-made, more nuanced wine.

What will you be drinking next Thursday?



Is it all greek to you?

Greek wines get a bad rep in "mainstream" wine consumption - here in the US, at least. Did you know it was the Greeks back in 4000 BC that started cultivating grape vines? They believed that wine was a gift from the gods and worshipped Dionysus, a creature with the mind of a man and the instinct of beast. Fortunately  modern times have not only brought back a resurgence in Greek wine production, but now in the 21st Century, we have a MUCH great chance of enjoying delicious Greek wines on our shores. I'm serious. Because of my connection with Ball Square Fine Wines in Somerville I've been fortunate to have been exposed to these wines and have tasted what I believe is the best of what Greece has to offer. And the offering is ample. There are serious, well made, sometimes even "nerdy" wines on the market. Sure, you might be lulled by the new "My Big Fat Greek Wine" that has recently come to Boston. And no, I by no means think that this is a good example of fine Greek wine; (in fact, I think it is a disservice to Grecian wine making and American consumers alike that they've used such a clever marketing ploy to pimp what I find is a fairly insipid wine, regardless of origin. I'm just saying...)

So why hasn't Greek wine taken off? Well, the names are a bit of a mouthful. Greece excels at producing wines from indigenous, local varietals that you really can't pronounce. I'm still working on it, admittedly, and I've been tasting them for 4 years now! Yes, there are some wineries that are blending in "international varietals" like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah. But it is the Moscofilero-s and St.George's (aka Aghiorgitiko-s) of the world that set Greek wines apart from the rest.

Moscofilero is a white grape that gets its name from the Greek words for Mosco (meaning fragrant) and Filo (meaning leaf). It is an ancient varietal for sure, but it's aromatics are so fresh you'll be thinking of spring in an instant. It is a wine that I often suggest is akin to Sauvignon Blanc (especially from the Loire Valley, France) or even Viura or Verdejo from Spain. Earlier this week at a Greek-themed wine dinner at Bistro 5, one of the guests said the same thing.

One of my favorite red varietals at the moment (i.e. a grape I have been showing a little "favoritism" to on the home-front, yes, something that is hard to do and admit in this trade) is St. George, aka Aghiorgitiko. (Specifically, I'm enamored with the Skouras Nemea St. George, which for a mere $14.99 is a FIND as far as I'm concerned. It definitely "over delivers" - and would be perfect with your Thanksgiving feast.)  Back to the grape, Aghiorgitiko translates to St. George and is a name change that came about back in antiquity, when the wine was known as the Blood of the Lion. It got its name St. George during the conversion to Christianity - something about the parallel between Hercules killing the lion and St. George killing the dragon.... New wine name, new religion and poof! Rebecca has a new wine find to share with universe in the making. Un-oaked styles are fruit forward and lively, yet display a truly Old World earthiness in perfect moderation. I can't get enough.

Bottom line: Most consumers only seek out Greek wines after they've returned from a vacation or honeymoon in Santorini, for example. I say let your curiosity guide you home.

BSFW will be having a Greek wine tasting this Wednesday, Nov. 17. Check it out!

Are you familiar with Greek wines? Which is your favorite varietal?



What the blanc?! Part II

With August but days away, we'll be signing off for some needed R & R for a few weeks - perhaps with the occasional insight or newsflash to whet your whistle until we get back into the full swing of things after Labor Day. But we can't NOT go out with Wicked splash first! Head over to Wicked Local today to find out about two more "Blanc" varietals you won't want to miss this summer!  Giddy-up!

Which Chenin Blanc is your summer fav?



What the Blanc? (Part I)

Two summers ago I put together a case of wine for a family gathering out on Block Island. I knew my sisters prefer their wines white in the summer – and as crisp and citrusy as they come (enticing labels never hurt either). Aiming to please, the case was filled with six bottles of white, two rosé and two reds. In that mix, a few were Sauvignon Blancs (the family “fan fav”) from different parts of the world and including a White Bordeaux (a blend of mostly Sauvignon Blanc and a little Semillon) and a little Chilean number. But my goal was also to expand their wine varietal horizons, and so I threw in a Pinot Blanc and two Chenin Blancs for good measure. I figured the “Blanc” would be familiar, but different, and peak their curiosity. Discover "what the blanc?!" on Wicked Local today!