There’s an Arthur Miller quote that goes “Glamour, that trans-human aura or power to attract imitation, is a kind of vessel into which dreams are poured, and some vessels are simply worthier than others.” To the wine and spirits rep, that vessel is often a 750ml bottle; many have been wooed by the idealized history of the liquid within, the romance and allure that is fine wine and craft spirits. Oh, the glamour of it all! So we find ourselves hawking our sexy wares, dreaming of esoteric case-stacks & the day when Merlot is no longer a dirty word – Cheval Blanc IS Merlot, dammit.
And so…We drive. We pour. We schlep.
We dip our toes into the shallow end of high society and slake the indiscriminate thirst of the hapless. When a nation lifts its empty glass to swill, we swirl.
When we emerge from the vapors of dreamy notions, we find that the job is more Willy Loman than Marilyn Monroe – or perhaps some strange mash-up of the two. But we can’t resist the charm of a good story in a bottle, so we end here with another Arthur Miller quote:
“Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.”
It’s the eclectic little no-name wines and spirits that keep a lot of us in this game; if we can make a buck or two at it, fantastic. In the meantime, we’ll drink like the 1% and live like the 99.
Here are some boozy holiday suggestions from members of the tribe:
Howard Mahady, Wine Wizards:
A couple of great bottles for the table, or as gifts…
Lioco Chardonnay Russian River 2010 Approximate retail $33
Lioco is a small “virtual” winery owned by Matt Licklider (a wine industry veteran in California) and Kevin O’Connor (former wine director at Spago Beverly Hills). One of their core beliefs is the idea that careful vineyard selection along with minimal wine making intervention will produce wines with a true sense of place. They tend to favor minimal use of oak and make wines that display grace and balance versus sheer power. Their 2010 Russian River Chardonnay is from a selection of vineyards that are located 8-10 miles from the coast in relatively cool climate sites. This proximity to the Pacific Ocean necessitates an extended growing season, which helps to intensify the wines concentration and flavor. This wine is subtle and balanced with citrus and stone fruit aromatics, high toned acidity and a clean mineral tinged finish. With a modest alcohol level of 12.3% it is more reminiscent of Premiere Cru Chablis than the flabby, overworked Chardonnay typically encountered on our Rhode Island store shelves.
Vallana Spanna Colline Novaresi 2008 Approximate retail $20
The Vallana estate was founded in 1937 in an area situated in the Alto Piemonte, more than 100 miles north of Barolo. Its cool climate is not only conducive to growing Spanna (the local name for Nebbiolo) but also provides the perfect natural humidity and temperature for cellaring wine. Made from high-altitude vines planted in the 1960’s, it is a sensational value that combines earth, crisp red fruit notes, tar and spice with great concentration and length. Perfect with any roast meats and hearty cheeses. Fans of old school Nebbiolo will love this!
For a gift or a real treat…
Monteverdi “Nocino della Cristina” Walnut Liqueur Approximate retail $35
Nocino della Christina is produced by Monteverdi Spirits, a small company in Napa Valley. Nocino is a traditional Italian walnut liqueur made from unripe walnuts, alcohol (typically brandy) and an infusion of whole natural spices. Dark molasses in color, it is richly flavored with aromas of green walnuts, spice and ripe berry notes. Too stuffed for dessert? This delicious digestivo will not only serve to calm your stomach down but can also be a sophisticated coda to your holiday meal. As a bonus it is naturally made without the use of artificial colors, flavors or stabilizers.
Sally Donahue, Best Beverage:
Medici Ermete Lambrusco Approximate retail $13
The holidays are the time of year when we get together, entertain & splurge on eating and drinking. For me, my edible splurges are with salty foods…hard cheeses, olives & crusty bread. What do I want to drink alongside these? LAMBRUSCO…true Lambrusco, nothing like Riunite. Lambrusco is a red fizzy wine from Emilia Romagna, Italy. It can range from off-dry to bone-dry. I prefer dry but if you have a sweet tooth then seek out an off-dry version such as Medici Ermete Bocciolo Grasparossa (yummy). My top pick for value & taste is Medici Ermete Quercioli Lambrusco. It has beautiful dark purple/black color with flavors of pomegranate, currants, cranberry and just a touch of earthiness. It is perfect with salty foods and especially an antipasto platter with cured meats as well.
Borgo Salcetino Chainti Classico Approximate retail $16
Now for a gift idea…if your special someone loves “true, old-school” Chianti, then Borgo Salcetino Chainti Classico is a slam-dunk! This bottle screams Italy with its concentrated cherry fruit, zippy acids and a streak of earth. Red gravy and pasta + Borgo Salcetino Chianti = MAGIC!
Meara O’Connell, 2FlyRI:
Haute Cabriere’s Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Belle Rose (NV) Approximate retail $30
Haute Cabriere’s Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Belle Rose from Franschoek, South Africa is a great way to start your holiday meal. A beautiful salmon-pink color, this 100% Pinot Noir is produced using Method Cap Classique, a traditional method with a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This method provides soft bubbles that send the aroma of red berries through your nose. The wine has a delicate fresh strawberry flavor with a beautifully creamy texture. This makes for a great hostess gift or a perfect pair with shellfish appetizers.
Botanica Chenin Blanc, 2009 Approximate retail $23
The maiden voyage of Massachusetts native Ginny Povall, this Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, South Africa has something for everyone! Fermented both in French oak and in stainless steel tanks, the wine has a beautifully rich palate, with flavors of green apples, apricot and honey. This is a mouth filling wine with a firm acidity, making it great on its own or paired with roasted turkey or oven baked ham.
Big Flower Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Approximate retail $17
This is another great wine by winemaker Ginny Povall. She tends to her grapes by hand to ensure the best possible wine. This Cabernet is light bodied, but with big flavor – Cassis, anise spice, black berry, black berry and earth. It finishes strong with bright tannins balanced by soft acidity. This wine is screaming for some lean flank steak or spicy sausage.
More on schlepping from Rhode Palate: Schlepping for Champagne