La Dolce Vita: Adding some sparkle to the season

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Not until the calendar flips over to December does my attention turn to Christmas. Gift giving and seasonal celebrations are especially easy when wine lovers are involved. I mean, really, who isn’t going to be happy to get a bottle or two of local wine, some nice glasses or a piece of art with a wine theme?

When I think of the holiday season, a few types of wine jump immediately to mind. I am a big fan of rosé wines in the summer months — they seem to be made for sitting out on the deck and enjoying the end of a warm summer’s day. But their colour is perfectly suited to match the festive decorations that make Christmas time a feast for the eyes as well as the belly.

Skimmerhorn and Baillie-Grohman wineries in Creston both make very nice rosé wines and they are distinctly different. If you are having company, think about serving both and encouraging a discussion about the characteristics of each. For a larger group, the addition of any of the rosé wines available at the government or private liquor stores can make the conversations even more interesting.

For many of us, Christmas is a time when we get together as families, and celebrations only get better when glasses of bubbly are available to toast our good fortune. The choices for sparkling wines are many and prices range from reasonable to astronomical. The real stuff, the original bubbly, comes from the Champagne region of France — even sparkling whites from outside that small region to the east of Paris can’t legally use the Champagne name. The bubbles are the result of a secondary fermentation that takes place right in the bottle. The addition of a tiny amount of yeast stimulates that fermentation and the bottles are tightly sealed to hold in carbon dioxide, a by-product when sugar is turned into alcohol. The monk Dom Perignon is responsible for this winemaking method, so a toast to the old master might be in order, too.

Most wine-producing countries produce sparkling wine, too. California has some superb ones and Spain makes Cava, reasonably priced, crisp and very pleasing to a wide audience. Italian’s produce the very fruity Asti Spumante, and Prosecco, which is one of our family favourites. Another is Moscato, a lightly carbonated, off-dry and low alcohol wine that is especially suitable for brunches.

For Christmas dinner, I always arrive (more often not we gather at my sister’s home in Calgary) with a selection of Creston wines so that there is something for every taste (although there are always some who are happier to twist of the cap from a bottle of Kokanee). My own preference for a dinner that includes turkey with sage stuffing is Pinot Noir, a remarkably versatile wine that probably goes nicely with more foods than any other wine variety. It is a lighter red than most, typically has tannins that let it stand up to the gravy, and has enough spiciness to contribute its own uniqueness to the meal.

While you aren’t likely to find it locally, there is another wine that always pleases at our family turkey dinners. Silver Sage Winery near Oliver produces The Sage, a Gewurztraminer wine infused with wild sage leaves. It is a perfect match with sage and onion stuffing. Gewurztraminer wines, sage-infused or not, also go nicely with turkey dinners.

If you are thinking about a gift of wine glasses, look for glasses with a pleasing shape and size, without any type of adornment. Forget the pottery, blue glass, painted designs or even cut crystal. Nothing, but nothing, looks nicer to a wine lover than the wine itself. Many red wines benefit from a bit of time in a decanter, where the exposure to oxygen helps bring out the wine’s flavours and aromas. Take a look around and chances are you will find some that won’t break the bank.

Art with wine themes also makes a nice gift for wine enthusiast. A number of such pieces hang in our solarium, and all were created by local painters.

In the holiday season it is a good idea, too, to think about one of the best gifts of all — health and safety. Please be a responsible host or drinker. Don’t drink and drive. The joy of the season can be wiped out in a split second.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

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