Picking holiday wine for everyone

Mike Chariton of Planet Wines in downtown Grand Junction listens to Barb Wedig of Winebow Imports explaining the finer points of her wines during a recent holiday wine show.

This is a test. And is it ever.

Thanksgiving is looming and you’re looking for the perfect holiday wine to share with friends or family. Good luck.

Your choices for a Thanksgiving wine are “pretty wide open,” said Denny Barber at Cottonwood Liquors in Grand Junction. “But the first thing we ask them is if they are wine drinkers.”

That’s not meant to be funny. Thanksgiving and Christmas might be the only holidays where people who normally don’t drink wine may decide to partake, either because they’re at someone else’s house or when a well-meaning guest brings a gift of wine.

And because there’s so much variety on and around the table, you have to steer a careful course near the wine bins.

“I think you want to stay kind of neutral,” said Barb Wedig, a regional manager for Winebow Inc., importers and distributors. “You’ll find it’s almost impossible to match everything on the table.”

First things first.

“If they only drink wine once in a while, we try to put them onto something sweet,” Barber said.

Not cloying sweet as in white zinfandel but off-dry (or semi-sweet), including rieslings and the several semi-sweet red wines produced by local winemakers, including Whitewater Hill and Carlson Vineyards.

For serious red wines, go with something lighter-bodied and fruity. Some varietals you might look for include pinot noir, tempranillo, malbec, grenache and Beaujolais.

Wedig suggests the Prunotto Barbera d’Asti ($16), with its light tannins and bright red fruits.

“You want the wine to be versatile, and Barbera is great for that,” Wedig said.

White wines, particularly those with palate-refreshing acidity, include rieslings, Gew├╝rztraminers, the Spanish varietal torrontes and sauvignon blancs.

“You don’t something too sweet; there are enough sweet things on the table,” Barber said. “Look for the off-dry riesling or sauvignon blanc.”

You might want to avoid the California-style sauvignon blanc with its grassy notes and look instead to Chil&233; (great values) or New Zealand sauvignon blancs, which highlight citrus and tropical fruits.

The Terranoble Sauvignon Blanc ($8) has bright but not overpowering acidity and flavors of citrus and grapefruit.

Wedig, who always looks for something different, also suggests the Falesco Vitiano Bianco ($10), a native Italian blend of verdicchio and vermentino.

“I like white blends like the Vitiano Bianco because they give a little more complexity and body without the sweetness,” Wedig said.

Alois Lageder from Italy’s Alto Adige also produces a crisp, fruity pinot bianco for around $13.50.

Sparkling wines are traditional holiday favorites, which brings up another point we can’t stress often enough: Don’t save the sparklers just for the holidays.

You don’t have to splurge to find a quality, delightful bubbly. There are plenty of budget-priced Italian Proseccos (Zardetto Cuvee Brut, $10) and Spanish Cavas while the New Mexico-based Gruet offers tart, well-structured bubblies in the French style.

Some Gruet favorites include the non-vintage Blanc de Noir ($11–$15), with hints of black cherries and biscuits, which might be the star of the Gruet lineup at both price and value.

The Gruet non-vintage Ros&233; ($12–$17) is drier with hints of red berries and cherries and spice, perfect for a Thanksgiving toast.

This holiday season will hold some surprises for those who haven’t been following the trends in wine sales.

One result of the recession is the many high-end wines, which in some cases might be as low as $25, languishing on the shelves. Similarly, pricey wines aren’t selling in restaurants. This means plenty of good deals for the money-wise consumer.

If you’re still in doubt, Barber has one more bit of advice.

“At Thanksgiving, things are pretty much wide open,” he said. “Really, you can serve about anything and you should be OK.”

That was easy, wasn’t it?


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