I can’t imagine ever being disappointed to pull out a wine lover’s name in a secret Santa draw. After all, the choices — in variety, price range and label appeal — are virtually without limit.
Of course, wines that are particularly conducive to the season are always the first that come to mind. Bubbles and beautiful colours abound on the shelves. Let’s start with rosés, the most festive-looking of all wine types, with their cheery dark pinks, light reds and salmon colours. They are almost certain to look good in a glass whether the backdrop is a buffet table, sit-down meal or throng of partiers.
In Creston, we are fortunate to have two sources right here in our own backyard. Skimmerhown Winery and Vineyard 2010 Pinot rosé is a fine example, with deep pink colour and strawberry and raspberry flavours over a crisp, lingering finish. It pairs with an amazing variety of food dishes. And I’d love to recommend you taste, or give, the Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery Blanc de Noirs (rosé), but it has long been sold out, unless you are lucky enough to find a bottle or two on a retail liquor store shelf.
Here’s the thing about rosé wines — they are often overlooked as being a good turkey dinner choice. Too bad, because their acidity balances out the gravy and other creamy dishes, the flavours go nicely with cranberry and turkey meat, and they just look so darned nice on the table.
Staying with the turkey theme, my first choice of a red wine with Christmas dinner is Pinot Noir, which shouldn’t be surprising because a lot of rosés (or blancs de noir) are made from that very grape. Light enough to not overwhelm the white meat, the wine typically has a combination of fruit and earthy flavours to make it an excellent complement for the holiday meal.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another favourite turkey dinner pairing, particularly for those who, like me, favour sage and onion dressing. Near Oliver is a winery that has long been one of our favourites. Silver Sage Winery owner Anna Magnola has a Romanian heritage and she carries some of the family traditions with her when she’s in the winery. A wild sage leaf infusion gives an off-dry Gewurztraminer a wonderful, aromatic sage flavour that makes it an obvious choice to go with the stuffing. The Sage, as it’s called, is a fruit bomb, too, and I’d be in big trouble if I didn’t arrive at my sister’s holiday table without a bottle or two under my arm!
Bubbles and the holiday season go together like, uh, rum and Coke and Hawkins Cheezies. We don’t have any locally made sparkling wines yet (note to self: check with Baillie-Grohman on the status of the bubbly that was bottled two years ago), but there many good, not too expensive choices.
These days we tend to turn to the sparkling wines made in Spain by Freixenet, a large producer about an hour outside of Barcelona. BC Liquor Store shoppers will think of the matte finish on black and clear bottles, always at a reasonable price. We visited the Freixenet winery when we travelled to Europe last fall and it was a great experience. Naturally, popping the cork on one of the bottles takes us right back to that brilliant sunny day we learned that any given time there are more than 2 million bottles of bubbly of various ages on-site.
We are also partial to Moscato, the low alcohol, slightly off-dry Italian sparkler that always seems like the perfect choice for brunch. The fruity flavours go nicely with most brunch dishes and the low — usually around 10 per cent — alcohol helps one avoid an unwanted buzz that might make the rest of the day a write-off.
When that really special occasion arises, a good bottle of champagne (a name that should only be used for the sparkling wines from the namesake region in France) is hard to beat. What makes champagne so special? Extremely tiny bubbles in huge quantities, and an unsurpassed ability to age, for starters.
B.C. makes some nice bubblies, too, and Sumac Ridge is always a good choice. But consider looking into wines made at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, too. Summerhill is a world leader in organic and biodynamic practices and the sparkling wines are aged in a pyramid that has identical proportions to the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Believe in the family-owned business’s approach to making wine or not, the proof is in the pudding. The winery is racking up awards and recognition at a remarkable rate these days.
Of course, gifts for the wine lover don’t have to be restricted to wines. Glasses are always a good choice because, well, they tend to break. In fact, my beloved set of German crystal tulip-shaped 22-ounce glasses, which started out as a set of six, is now down to a single stem after another broke while I was (carefully) drying it the other night. Twenty-two ounces? For red wines, I prefer glasses that hold at least three times the volume of a quarter-bottle serving, which is 6.5 ounces. They give the liquid plenty of chance to aerate, with swirling a safe activity for helping that process along.
Wine art is an increasingly popular gift idea. In our solarium, our walls feature a number of pieces by local artists and they are among my favourite artworks, helping to create a warm ambience in our favourite room.
As a final note, we are entering something of a golden age in beer production and beer is becoming increasingly popular to pair with food. Most small communities have microbreweries and liquor stores carry good selections of domestic and international products. In Creston, shopping for the beer lover on your gift list might be a snap with a stop at Columbia Brewery’s Kokanee Beer Gear Store. It’s a fun place to shop.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.