Happy Holidays


This santa only delivers magnums.

Would you look at this young pup? Tacoma, 2013. So young. So full of Pacific Northwest frivolity rather than subway-hardened NYC grit. Those were the days.

Let me comment about the beverages in my loving embrace. Best advice for holiday drinking w/ a crowd: GET MAGNUMS. Big bottles rule. Roederer Estate, the California outpost of the famed Champagne house, makes a great Brut (dry) sparkling for about 24 bucks. That’s the price for a regular bottle or, as folks in Champagne like to say (in a mix of derisiveness and tongue firmly in cheek), a “half-magnum.”

Beer lovers, the Anchor Steam Christmas Ale is a classic. I wish I still had that poster of every label since 1975. If you love beer and trees, you are gonna be happy. Finding magnums will make you (holiday) legend.

I’m off to San Diego (weather-permitting) tomorrow. Four days in some (more) balmy weather and plenty of fish tacos. Special guest: Mom! She’s traveling from Reno. I’m going to spend a day visiting some wineries in Temecula, which is only about an hour away. Other than that I want to chill, read, and go to Balboa Park. I’m back in NYC at a reasonable hour on Christmas Day, so may hit a nice hotel resto and chill at the bar or look for some fellow wayward souls out and about.


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Choosing Holiday Wines Based on Labels with Memories (OK, Houses)

Since 2004 I’ve been talking about choosing wines for x day on the calendar, y special occasion, z oddball event. How many more arrows do I have in my dang quiver for this? What to do about holiday wines?

I was thinking about this while at Vino Volo in SeaTac, on my way to visit family in Tacoma for Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t travel with wine because checking bags is anathema to me. Frankly, I wasn’t going to bring any wine and just chug whatever was around. (I said as much in my newsletter. Subscribe! I get weirder, more off the cuff, opinionated, etc.)

Well stoping at VV and seeing an old pal from my retail days, Geoff, had me changing my tune. I picked up two bottles. Was very impressed with the selection at Vino Volo. You’ll pay a premium for retail wines. But considering I didn’t have to check a bag, retrieve it, and obsess about breakage, I call it an excellent deal.

Memory Lanes by Jenni Konrad via Flickr.

I’ll get to the dynamic duo of wines. First I want to explain choosing holiday wines by “labels with memories.” These are not some #smartlabels internally loaded with memory that can “demystify” wine and “engage” drinkers with “curated” content.

It’s rather like an old, familiar, quirky signpost whose distinctness transports you to a time, a place, a person, a table. MAYBE EVEN DOWN LOVE’S MEMORY LANE, IS THAT SO CRAZY?!?

Now these labels aren’t the slick, rad, modern graphic design-y stuff I usually dig. They have a swoon-worthy amount of ye olde* charm that completes me.

Also, I just realized both labels have houses on them. Well, calling each a house is putting it a bit simply. But I want to be shrunk to scale and transported into these tiny label houses (that are actually large) and live my tiny life drinking out of tiny cups with tiny cats. THE END. (Maybe they’re smart labels after all? Whoa.)

Anyway, the holiday wines for Turkey Day.

Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2017 (Alto Adige, IT) [$18]

Choosing Holiday Wines Based on Labels with Memories (OK, Houses)

I first wrote about this wine in 2010 and then again in 2012 so after six years, why not make it a trifecta? It’s made at a monastery in the extremely picturesque Alto Adige wine region way up in northern Italy. That should seal the deal already. Speaking of deals, average price on Wine-Searcher is $18. It’s a white wine with a very small amount of sweetness you won’t really notice cuz it’s a mountain bomb of alpine floral refreshment. Dang, this wine is so easy to drink.

I really like the script for “Kerner” and the ornate frame for the monastery painting. The latter is so charming. I stare at it and imagine leaving everything behind. (Which would be like my IKEA bed, a bike, and a coffee table plucked from the street. Easy-peasy.)

Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly** (Beaujolais, FR) [$27]

Choosing Holiday Wines Based on Labels with Memories (OK, Houses)

What can I say about Cru Beaujolais that I haven’t already said? These are wines from ten designated sites that are like uber-Beaujolais. You can age them and they also have a complexity recalling fancy Burgundy (Pinot Noir) just north of the region. (Though Cru Beaujolais is made from Gamay.) Côte de Brouilly may not be the most prestigious of the crus but go by the impeccable producer, Château Thivin. Cru Beaujolais has gone up in price over the years, but if you love elegant reds with substance please gobble up all the CB you can while it’s sub-$30.

This label. I love the color scheme. With the rusty-orange mountain and roof, green trees, and yellow-y cream, it’s a label I can spot from a mile away. It’s not a color scheme that should work but it’s absolutely perfect here. The font for “Château Thivin” really does something for me, too.

I’m also transported back to Beaujolais, where I recall a dinner with a handful of winemakers who brought large pots of assorted rib-sticking dishes and we hung out a winery over long tables. It was, in fact, a dinner at Dominique Piron’s and Claude Geoffray from Thivin was there as well. (Also Jean-Paul Brun. Wow, that was a Beaujolais geek’s dream.) So this label is extra-special and MEMORABLE and that’s how I’ll choose my holiday wines FOREVER.

*“Ye Olde” Is Fake Old English (And You’re Mispronouncing It Anyway)
**The bottle was drained and dumped before I could jot down the vintage. Prolly 2016.

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Eclectic Guide to Holiday Value Wines

Photo by James Cridland via Flickr

What happens when you poll the staff at Wine Enthusiast for holiday wine picks, all $20 or less? You get quite an assortment of bottles. Check out what eight of us, if lucky enough to be invited to your place, would bring to your festive occasion.

Here’s the breakdown:

Countries Represented

  • Australia
  • United States
  • South Africa
  • Italy (my pick, BTW)
  • Hungary
  • France
  • Portugal

Grapes Involved

  • Shiraz
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinotage
  • Kékfrankos
  • Alicante
  • Grenache
  • Chardonnay
  • Touriga Nacional

Now have a gander at the bottles that will make you a hero this season and for 2017, too:

Value Wines for Holiday Entertaining

In other news, I crossed an item off my rock wish list by stopping by the buildings gracing the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. Head to St. Mark’s Place in the East Village to gaze upon them, and think about the opening riff of “Custard Pie” and the cathartic “In the Light.”

Eclectic Guide to Holiday Value Wines

What wine pairs with Custard Pie?

Here’s a great article about the album cover which was ALSO the building where Mick Jagger was “Waiting On A Friend” (that would be Keith Richards) in the song’s immortal video.

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