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By Erin Russell | December 2, 2016 | People
'Tis the season for indulgence and merriment, and who better to guide you through the festivities than some of Austin’s most beloved sommeliers? Providing holiday cheer in the form of silky reds and effervescent sparkles, here’s what the pros are drinking.
"Chartogne-Taillet, 'Sainte-Anne' Brut N.V. from Merfy, Champagne: A hearty, and rustic, full bodied style of champagne, perfect for the cooler weather—pairs perfect with nearly everything; Benoît Ente, Puligny-Montrachet 2014 (Chardonnay): Beautiful, precise example of Chardonnay from Burgundy, France inside the commune of Puligny-Montrachet, [with] laser-like focus, a flint, lemon preserve, and yellow delicious apple component. It pairs beautifully with fish, game birds, and some beef; Piedrasassi 'Sebastiano Vineyard' Santa Ynez Valley, California Syrah 2013: Strong, bold, yet balanced. This is one of my favorite wines to come out of California—it has deep black and red fruits, smoked meat, pepper, and a nice velvety finish—it pairs beautifully with game or beef."
"I would suggest Pierre-Marie Chermette, Dom. du Vissoux, Fleurie, from Beaujolais, France. Cru Beaujolais from the town of Fleurie, this wine draws me in every time with its seductive aromatics. A noble restraint and silky texture follow on the palate packing an incredible value. Bold enough for the rich holiday dishes, light enough to not overpower the poultry, and delicious enough to finish on its own in the glass."
"One of my favorite wines to drink around the holidays is Brunello di Montalcino, Italy’s premier appellation for Sangiovese—and in the last decade, some of the most thrilling interpretations of the grape have come from the young winemaker Stella di Campalto. Her vineyards in the village of Castelnuovo dell'Abate in southern Tuscany are lovingly nurtured according to biodynamic principles, and she works with as little intervention as possible in the winery to produce an elegant, perfumed Brunello with flavors of morello cherry, sweet flowers, tobacco, and minerals. I recommend Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino 2008—this medium-bodied red is suffused with bright acidity and supple tannins, and it makes a sensational pairing with hearty winter fare like grilled lamb, prime rib, wild game, and osso buco."
"I always make sure to have a few chilled bottles of Champagne in the refrigerator for the holidays. Champagne is a great drink for breakfast or any other time of the day, and it pairs well with everything. It also makes everyone happy when you pop the cork. My go-to bottle right now is the Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée."
"My favorite holiday wine is French Syrah. We have an entire page of producers on our new Reserve Wine List that I am crazy about. One of my favorites is Grange des Pères from the Languedoc: It's silky and plush with notes of violets, blackberries, bacon jam, and pepper, and it has the perfect amount of tannin and acidity to work well with lamb, duck, steak, or any hearty, braised dish—basically everything I want to eat in the colder months. At June's, I recommend it with our bone marrow bolognaise and lamb couscous."
"This time of year, my choices in wine turn to my very favorites, plenty of sparkling wine. Champagne and Crémant de Bourgogne; Champagne Le Mesnil Brut Blanc de Blancs, Pol Roger Brut Extra Cuvée de Réserve, and Louis Picamelot Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Cuvée Jeanne Thomas are a few of faves. Then, maybe a bit of Lambrusco like Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena or Enrico Cialdini. German Riesling is my favorite Christmas Day cooking wine (that is, wine to drink while cooking), preferably a middle Mosel wine like Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Treppchen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, or Spätlese from favorite producers Merkelbach, Christoffel, Dr. Loosen, or Meulenhof. Christmas dinner will almost always call for a nice Chambolle-Musigny, Volnay, or Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge… But, truth be told, I'm still mostly enjoying my favorite house wines: the 2012 Dow Vale do Bomfim Douro and the 2015 Palazzone Orvieto Classico Superiore Terre Vineate."
"For the holidays, I like to drink big, spicy, red wines. One of my favorites is Hendry's Napa Valley red blend. It's a great, full-bodied red wine with strong spice and green bell pepper notes, which goes perfectly with the holidays. Also, if you can get your hands on the Neal Family Vineyard 2005 'One Lane Bridge' Cabernet Sauvignon, you will not be disappointed—it costs about $100 a bottle, but it is well worth the money. The Neal Family also makes an excellent Zinfandel for about $20 a bottle.
If you're not into big reds, bubbles never go out of style. There are so many great Champagne producers around right now that aren't necessarily going to break the bank. One of those producers that I have recently had the pleasure of trying is Demiere-Ansiot. It may be hard to find as they do not produce a lot, but it is a laser-focused Champagne. The acidity is powerful and the limestone/chalky minerality really makes this wine shine! If you like rosé, look no further than the Billecart-Salmon Rose. We carry it at Sophia's and it has become one of my absolute favorite sparkling pink wines."
Of course, I am going to recommend some Texas wines for the holidays! With so many people planning Texas-inspired dishes, what better way to complete the meal than with a Texas wine. This is an exciting time in the Texas wine industry as growers and winemakers turn to grape varieties well-suited for the Texas climate. Here are several of my favorites: Duchman Family Winery 2015 Vermentino—a lively white wine with citrus and floral notes to enjoy as an aperitif with cheeses or with a turkey dinner; Brennan Vineyards 2015 Dry Rosé of Mourvèdre—I am a #RoséAllDay gal so you will always find rosé wines in my fridge. This rosé has notes of strawberry and raspberries, with a bright, refreshing finish; Pedernales Cellars 2014 Texas Tempranillo—Texas makes great Tempranillos, and this is one of the best with cherry, raspberries, cocoa, and spice notes. It’s the perfect choice for those who might eschew a traditional holiday meal and opt for barbecue; Spicewood Vineyards 2013 Good Guy (blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Graciano)—this is a big wine, perfect for prime rib and steaks, round and lush with black cherry, cocoa, and graphite notes; Bending Branch 2012 Tannat—another big wine and a grape that loves the Texas heat, [this] is your tannin powerhouse with black cherry, sweet tobacco, and smoky notes, another meat wine!
photography courtesy of rae wilson & texas wine lover; justin griffin (scott); vanessa Escobedo Barba (collins); Annie Whitehead (zayyat); John Roenigk; sophia's (nathan); neil burger (mcfall)