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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A Trio of Wines from Scaia Line Up Perfectly

I was sent three sample bottles from Italian winery Scaia. The first thing I want to say about them, to put on my old retailer hat, is how much I appreciate they are “line-priced.” As in the bottles all cost the same, each with a $13 suggested retail price. That’s good, because these are the kind of wines you want to stack up next to each other. Or just put on your bedroom floor in front of your bike and admire them.

I also really like the closure Scaia uses. It’s not a cork nor screw cap. It’s a glass closure. Here’s what it looks like. (Note: greens/herbs sold separately. Though a dish with those things featured would be nice with the white or rosé.)

Do you drink wine while preparing fresh #spring soup?

A post shared by Vinolok Crystal Top (@vinolok_crystal_top) on

Anyway, let’s get to the wines.

Scaia Garganega/Chardonnay Trevenezie IGT 2017

Garga…what? Garganega is the main feature of Soave (one of my favorite Italian white wines) from the Veneto in northern Italy. Chardonnay, well you know what that is. It’s 45% of this blend. This unoaked wine would be a good bet for the Chard-phobic and the Garganega makes it interesting for those who think most unoaked Chardonnay is shrill and boring. (That would be me, BTW.) What can I say, I love my oak barrels. But this is a perfect summer white wine. Speaking of perfect summer wines….

Scaia Rosato Veneto IGT 2017

I’m a sucker for weird grapes. I mean, unusual ones. Bring on the esoteric and unfamiliar. The Scaia rosato is made from Rondinella. Putting on my Troy McClure voice, you may know Rondinella from such red wines as Valpolicella and Amarone.

Of course, someone put together all of these moments in chronological order. God bless the internet.

This is a pale rosé with some intrigue. You can quaff it and think about it at the same time, which you can’t say for most rosés out there that slake thirst yet provoke no invigorating brain waves.  On the winery website, one of the suggested parings is toasted polenta with herrings. Nice to see someone giving some love to fish like herring. Did you know they are related to sardines? I did not know that. I also learned Neolithic-era Scandinavian burial grounds contain herring bones. So if a rosé can take you there, it’s definitely got something going on.

Scaia Corvina Veneto IGT 2016

Speaking of grapes that make up Valpolicella and Amarone, how about Corvina? It’s a bigger player in those two reds than Rondinella. Despite seeing no oak, its got some guts. I’d call it medium-bodied. Reading the tech sheet for the wine even made me look up “organoleptic” because Scaia explains each wine organoleptically. The word is defined as “being, affecting, or relating to qualities (such as taste, color, odor, and feel) of a substance that stimulate the sense organs.” Once again, Scaia is stimulating.

So you’ve got three wines, all under $15 bucks, with cool glass closures and made with interesting grapes. What’s not to love?

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