Each day from December 12 through December 24 we’ll be highlighting a wine that ties into the classic Christmas carol we all know and love. Along with tasting notes, a cool story, and some tips, tricks, and recipes, you’ll get a chance to win a pretty awesome prize – a $150 gift certificate to Wine.com!!
Here’s how it works:
- Visit this page or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see the daily posts.
- Starting on Christmas Eve, head to the contest app on our Facebook page and submit your entry form with your email address and the names of all 12 of our featured wines.
- Share the contest on social media for extra entries!
The winner will be picked randomly from all qualified entries and announced on January 1st.
Good luck, and thank you for a wonderful year!
Happy Holidays, from all of us at Wine Geographic.
(P.S. – Click the pictures to flip and read!)
It’s hard to be different in the wine world. To try a new planting technique or color outside the lines of vinification is often met with scorn, derision, or at the very least a good amount of doubt – it’s not quite Gallileo excommunication territory, but it sure ain’t easy. Producing wine in “lesser” regions is similarly stressful. People put down the Ohio vineyards despite never having tasted anything from, say, Debonne, whose Vidal Blanc Ice Wine took down 136 other competitors at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
It’s not that assumptions about wine are not understandable, or even that they’re always wrong – it’s just that they don’t lead anywhere good. Worst of all, preconceived notions about a particular wine, winemaker, winery, or region may well guarantee you lose out. And it’s a bit of “the emperor’s new clothes” when it comes to tasting, too; if you go in for a sip sure that a wine is going to stink, you’re probably going to swallow thinking it stunk.
Approach wine with as a clear a mind as possible, and don’t be afraid of trying something new. March to the beat of your own drummer. Chances are you’ll like the rhythm.
Speaking of which – this Arizona Stronghold Dala Chardonnay already has a pseudo-strike against it simply because of the Arizona thing. Expect snobby noses to stick even further up in the air once they hear that winemaker Eric Glomski’s partner in this desert endeavor is non other than Maynard Keenan, who is probably better known for his work in a little (massive) band called Tool. As they put it, their wines are “uniquely Arizona” and that, “the wines express, first and foremost, Arizona, and secondarily the grapes and hands of the vignerons involved.”
Let it be what is. That’s all.
Bonus bite: Why not pair outside the box, since we’re drinking something a little different as well? Try this fun twist on a classic: Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza.
The holiday season is all about tradition. Whether you’re forging new customs on your own or with friends (what we like to call “chosen family”) or carrying on long-set family traditions that are perhaps wonderful more for reasons of nostalgia versus any highfalutin sense of grandeur or magazine-guided refinement… feeling “Christmassy” shouldn’t be about expert opinions or perfection, it’s just making you and yours happy and enjoying the togetherness and spirit that the season tends to evoke.
For wine lovers, few things bolster a celebration quite like a bottle of bubbly. While Champagne long since lost the publicly perceived monopoly on all things fizzy, the region’s prestige still looms large. All that considered, the Brut Cuvee from Piper-Heidsieck gives us a way to enjoy the magic of tradition at a price that won’t destroy the joy.
Bonus bite: You can pair almost anything with Champagne, but for the purposes of this series we can’t help but offer up a family tradition: Christmas morning bubbly (or mimosas, for those who absolutely need to remember every moment of the revelry) with Eggs Benedict (for people with patience or who take joy in the process as much as the result) or custardy Baked French Toast (perfect for crowds or those no-fuss/no-muss mornings).
Stag’s Leap Winery was one of the earliest estates in the state of California. It’s nestled on the eastern side of Napa Valley in an even smaller valley called Stag’s Leap, a special place with a unique microclimate and an almost Secret Garden-esque sense of magic and specialness. The land is much grander than a secret garden, of course, but the grounds of Stag’s Leap Winery itself do include an Apothecary Garden that allows visitors to wander amongst plants that correspond with the aromas found in the estate’s wines.
There’s something Old World-ish about the manor house, too. Well over a century old, the stone manse has a tower and even a reputed ghost for good measure. You could see a lord of some sort assembling his hunting party out front, but the real fun would only begin when they traipsed back across the lush green hills to toast the chase of the day with a little something special.
Bonus bite: You don’t have to hunt for your own deer for this Venison Medallions with Blackberry-Sage Sauce recipe but you can totally call yourself “Lord” if you really, really want.
“Wine and women make wise men dote and forsake God’s law and do wrong.”
Wine and women have always been linked, if not in the most positive of lights. Women are either intoxicating as wine and therefore causing men to do naughty things or they’re too delicate to be involved with wine at all. Apparently for several centuries women were about as welcome in vineyards as they were on boats – as in not very much at all.
Wine is often talked about in terms of masculine versus feminine, with more “feminine” wines being softer, silkier, less “in your face.” The neighboring appellations of Napa and Sonoma are sometimes referred as to as male and female in regards to how the wines (in particular Cabernet Suavignon) produced in each place size up; Napa Cabs are bigger and bolder, while Sonoma Cabs are softer… very generally speaking, of course. Women dining in restaurants who ask for wine recommendations are too often shuttled towards the whites – for some reason Riesling is a particularly popular suggestion – as if reds are simply too complicated for the tender and underdeveloped female palate.
It has taken women a little longer to assert their rightful place in the wine industry, but there are female winery owners, winemakers, writers, educators, and so on that are not just existing in the industry but rather changing it and shaping its future. Sommeliers like Élyse Lambert, Heidi Turzyn, Madeline Triffon, Juliette Pope, and Alpana Singh are proving over and over and over again that if the collective palate of womankind isn’t on par with that of men, it’s only because it’s better.
There are parallels between the journey of women in wine and the taste profile – and perhaps even the vinification process – of Amarone. There may even be some links between this very distinct wine and women in general. We’ll leave you to mull all that over with a glass of your very own.
Try wines from these incredible winemakers (who just happen to be women):
- Heidi Barrett
- Merry Edwards
- Lalou Bize-Leroy
- Nadine Gublin
- Sally Johnson-Blum
- Celia Welch
- Susana Balbo
- Maria Larrea
- Elena Adell
- Katia Alvarez
…and SO many more!
Cows have been a part of farming practices for a very long time. The cows eat the grass, the grass nourishes them so they can make milk, what doesn’t go to milk making is pooed out, the poo fertilizes the soil to help grow more grass, and onward marches time. Biodynamic agriculture works in a similarly cyclical way. Though the principles of biodynamic farming are centuries – if not thousands of years – old, it has seen a resurgence of late as viticulturists seek to undo the damage mechanical farming and chemical pesticides have caused.
Vineyards who adhere to biodynamic methods swear off chemicals in favor of natural treatments made from cow manure, quartz, and plants. These treatments are sprayed on or buried in the soil at certain times of the day or according to seasons or the cycle of the moon. It’s all very complicated and very interesting and very much beyond our scope today, but the bottom line is that biodynamic winemaking honors the land and turns waste into wine. Maybe it’s best to just focus on the wine…
Philippe Armenier and his sister Sophie Estevenin began converting Domaine de Marcoux over to biodynamic practices in 1990. Their goal is to bring the vineyard back into balance which they believe ultimate leads to more efficient photosynthesis and more even grape ripening. Judging simply on their product’s quality, it seems to be working just fine.
Bonus bite: Is it too weird to say steak?
Once upon a time, according to Greek mythology, a beautiful woman named Leda set out for the Eurotas River for a nice little bath. Leda was wife to King Tyndareus of Sparta and the daughter of the Kind of Aetolia, so by the standards of the day she was a pretty important lady. Anyways, as she went about her ablutions, lovely Leda was unwittingly under the close observation of Zeus, aka King of all Gods, who happened to be flitting about disguised as a swan. Anyone with even a passing interest in Greek mythology knows that Zeus was pretty much the ultimate horn dog, and it’s therefore no surprise that Swan Zeus decided to seduce the half-bathed Leda right then and there.
Zeus got Leda pregnant, and some months later (not sure what the gestation period is for a swan/queen hybrid) Leda found herself laying a couple of eggs (because swan…). One of those egg hatched twin sisters Clytemnestra and Helen, who would become the rather troublesome Helen of Troy, and the other hatched twin brothers Castor and Pollux, also known as the Gemini. It’s all very complicated.
Short story long (the myth is actually quite fascinating, but as Greek myths tend to go one story leads very swiftly to another – there is no real end), the legend of Leda and the Swan has served as inspiration for creative types for centuries, including such luminaries as one Leonardo di Vinci, the ornery Oscar Wilde, and Aldous Huxley. It’s also the name of an award-winning vineyard in the Duero Valley called, you guessed it, Bodegas Leda.
Bonus bite: Turn leftover day-after-Christmas ham into these salty ooey-gooey Ham Croquettes from Michael Symon. It’s a fairly easy yet impressive snack, and the wow factor will increase exponentially when you serve them with a glass of Tempranillo.
A while back I read a fascinating article by Mary Gorman-McAdams for The Kitchn about the Irish influence on the wine industry. Ireland is well-known for the production and exporting of its fine whiskey and beer, but it has sadly also seen the departure of literally millions of its citizens who left home – often forever – in order to escape war, famine, and oppression. In the last three hundred years something like 10 million people have emigrated to places near, like England, and far, like the United States, and they brought with them music, poetry, dance, delicious (yes, really delicious) recipes and all-around ingenuity that has had an enormously influence on cultures around the globe.
One of the groups seeking a new life far away from the strife at home were the Wild Geese. Though their story is far too complicated and historically significant to be done justice here (but please, do read more here), the basic gist is that the Wild Geese were Irish soldiers who left home to join armies on the Continent, to find new lives after being dispossessed by conquering forces at home, or perhaps both. This migration became known as “The Flight of the Wild Geese,” and as it turns out many of the soldiers who left laid down roots in areas that would become some of the most renowned wine-producing regions in the world.
Thus emerged the “Wine Geese,” and their names are as recognizable as their numbers are many. From the Barry family (Jim Barry) and Horgan family (Leewin Estate) in Australia to the Barrett family (of Château Montelena, possibly the most historically influential vineyard in California) to Hamilton Russell in South Africa, the Irish have made a notable and long-lasting imprint on viticulture and wine culture in general around the globe.
Château Leoville Barton, our featured wine for this sixth day of our 12 Wines of Christmas Giveaway, and the Barton family who started it are just one representative of how wine and the Irish Diaspora intertwine.
Bonus bite: Honor the French-Irish connection by pairing your Bordeaux with a recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon – himself a popular Irish export who lives in Country Wexford but has designed menus for a number of foreign institutions including Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant (part of Disneyworld, believe it or not). His Roasted Garlic Cottage Pie is pretty stellar.
Rumor has it the entire 12 Days of Christmas ditty is basically just an ode to birds, and Day 5’s gold rings are no exception. Rather than glitzy jewelry, this verse is actually inspired by the yellow rings around a pheasant’s neck. Supposedly. But what fun is that?
Go roast a game bird, if you like, but we’ll be over here celebrating the season with a glass or two of the Royal Tokaji (pronounced toke-eye) 5 Puttonyos. This is a fortified dessert wine from the Tokaj region of Hungary. The grapes used to make Tokaji are afflicted with botrytis, aka “noble rot”, which is basically a fungus that causes the fruit to shrivel and juice contained within to concentrate. The resulting flavor is intense, complex, and insanely sweet without being at all cloying, and the wines have a very luxurious mouthfeel.
The sweetness of Tokaji is measured in units called Puttonyos. This version from Royal Tokaji has 5 Puttonyos (out of a possible 3 to 6), which is pretty sweet but that honeyed deliciousness is so well integrated you won’t get sugar shock at all, we promise!
So yes, you could use this fifth day of Christmas to celebrate pheasant, or you could salute the gold rings by raising a glass of this beautiful, gold-hued, 5 Puttonyos dessert wine. We know which one we’d prefer.
Bonus bite: This is the wine we’d serve a couple hours after Christmas dinner when the food coma has worn off and the munchies are creeping in. Wow lingering guests (or just treat yourself) with a few cheeses paired with some good quality chocolate and a handful of nuts, plus a bit of the Tokaji, of course. Cheers!
On the fourth day of Christmas, or so the song goes, my love is supposed to give me four calling birds. In present day lingo that seems to translate into a pigeon, but in the past various versions had us warbling about everything from canaries to mockingbirds to collie (or “colly”) birds. The latter term is another name for a blackbird, hence our wine pick today.
What is now Blackbird Vineyards was once a walnut orchard. In 1997, the land was replanted with 5,717 Merlot vines. And what does Merlot mean in French? Why ‘little blackbird’ of course!
Bonus bite: Take four and twenty blackbirds, bake in a pie… just kidding! Living pastries that explode when presented to royalty seem a tad horrifying, so we’re opting for something a bit more humane – and a lot more delicious. Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cherry Trifle is completely bird-free, and although Merlot and dessert might not seem obvious, but trust us – this pairing is a gift.
They say that two’s company and three’s a crowd, so taking on a theme like “Three French Hens” is pretty much the perfect excuse for a party. Younger vintages of the bigger, bolder French wines need a little time to open up, so pop the corks – or unscrew the caps, as the case may be – when you’re setting up for your soiree, and if you have a decanter or three, now’s the time to use them. Wine glasses are always nice, but for these sort-of-rustic picks you can use simple tumblers for a more countrified feel; the casual glassware also makes it easier to fund enough vessels for each guest to sample all three wines. Hang some lights, fire up some food, and put on some spirited music in the background: tis the season to be jolly, and these wines should definitely help.
Bonus bites: Based on the three wines currently offered in the trio, we’d recommend a sort of potluck feast. Since you’re providing the wine, it’s only fair that you can give gentle suggestions to your guest (or, if you’re the ultimate host, prepare some goodies yourself!):
There’s a reason that the turtle doves in this classic song showed up as a duo: these birds live in bonded pairs, and over the centuries they’ve become synonymous with devotion and love. In the wine world, partnerships come in many forms, and it’s these relationships – whether bite-sized and fleeting or long-term and legendary – that make the industry such a powerful and popular thing.
Randy and Debbie Lewis are a perfect example. He was a renowned race car driver for 23 years; she played an important role managing his sponsors and marketing. When an on-track accident ended Randy’s racing career, they turned their attention to their second love: wine. They established Lewis Cellars in Napa Valley back in 1992, and their son Dennis joined the ranks in 1999. As a couple, the Lewises are known for being both down-to-earth and approachable, and their winemaking philosophy is similarly unfussy. They don’t seem to like talking about their process or product much, preferring to let the wine speak for itself. Good thing, then, that every sip speaks volumes.
Bonus bite: The Lewises have been quoted as saying they don’t believe in wine pairings, so in that spirit we recommend you simply enjoy this Cab whenever, wherever, and with whatever you choose. Salut!
Some 20 years ago Earl and Hilda Jones set out to bring the varietals of Rioja to the Pacific Northwest. They searched for land and a climate similar to that in Spain, and they found those dry summers and cool, wet winters in Umpqua Valley, Oregon. They first planted Tempranillo, eventually expanding to Syrah, Grenache, and several other key varietals, and most importantly for our Christmassy theme, Albariño. This noble Spanish white is practically synonymous with the Rias Baixas region of its home country, but it has found a comfortable if surprising home in Umpqua.
In addition to the vineyards, Abacela is home to a tree-acre orchard planted in the mid- to late-1800s. Heritage apple and pear trees flourish here under the careful watch of Hilda and her team of master gardeners, and maybe, just maybe, there’s a partridge or two nestled somewhere up in the branches.
Bonus bite: Pair your bottle of Abacela with this recipe for Partridge Escabeche. Salut!