Hey there newbies! It’s getting to be that time of year again where parties fill up your weekends & you see your family more than the average amount. You know what that means: Alcohol! Plus, you don’t want to walk in empty-handed, right? Good thing we have a variety of options on our menu right now. Let me walk you through 8 different holiday wines you’re sure to impress with! Don’t worry, I’ll give you the run-down on each one so you don’t walk in empty-headed either!
An annual holiday favorite, our 2020 Merrytage pairs beautifully with a variety of dishes. This vintage is exceptionally yummy with a fuller body, smooth tannins, & notes of holiday spices, cranberry, with a silky finish. Being that it’s a more complex wine, it will allude to your wine intelligence, but also allow for easy drinking (Score!). It has many characteristics that present themselves as you continue to drink, making it a great conversation starter, as well. You really can’t go wrong with this one!
Winemaker’s Notes: We create this special blend annually with the goal of appealing to a broad range of wine palates. Medium bodied, fruity, and pleasantly textured, our 2020 Merrytage will pair nicely with a wide variety of dishes at your holiday table.
Our 2018 Refugio Malbec is another beautiful red to put on your holiday table this year. Again, with velvety tannins, this wine will showcase a lot of depth while still being approachable. Nonetheless, a beautiful wine for both beginning & seasoned wine drinkers. Beginning with notes reminiscent of a freshly baked blackberry pie, this wine opens up to reveal notes of cedar & pine, while also offering notes of brown spice & chocolate covered strawberries, with supple tannins. It pairs best with hearty beef dishes & rich sauces. If you’ve got a red wine lover in the group, bring it!
Winemaker’s Notes: While our 2018 Refugio Malbec isn’t as intensely tannic as some vintages, it shines with alluring complexity. With the body, and tannin restrained, the nuances of spice and forest from the oak get more of the spotlight. Our Elk Grove and Montfort Malbec provide the support for this vintage, which is enhanced with Waxman Malbec, adding more blue fruit and black pepper notes.
There’s a reason Pinot Noir is a crowd favorite: It has something for everybody. This red wine is a favorite for even the white wine drinker. Bring it to the next function if you don’t believe me. Truly, the perfect Thanksgiving wine— Of course, it can pair with other holiday dishes, as well. Pinot Noir is often thought of as a lighter wine, & compared to our bolder reds that may be true, however this vintage presents complexity in its own way, while still promising easy drinking. Offering notes of red cherry, fig, & cinnamon bark, this Pinot Noir will have everyone doing the happy dance!
Winemaker’s Notes: The 2019 Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir making this a unique vintage that show cases the true typicity of the varietal. This wine is soft and elegant with simplicity, a delicate tannin structure highlighting the red fruit and spice from a partial stem included in fermentation.
*Also, offered in a holiday pack with our Pinot Grigio starting Nov. 16!
Buttery & delicious—Just like that turkey you’ll be having next week. This oaked chardonnay screams holiday with its elegant characteristics & authentic flavors. Even red wine drinkers will enjoy this one for its subtle complexity. Aged for 6 months in French Oak, this wine offers notes of vanilla amongst crisp apple, honey & pear. The balance of flavors pairs wonderfully with salmon, chicken marsala, & fettucine carbonara—A beautiful wine to bring to the party.
Winemaker’s Notes: Our Chardonnay is unique in that we age on oak, while suppressing the secondary fermentation. This allows us to accentuate the natural flavors in the wine with oak, rather than the buttery notes present in a “ML” chardonnay. The French oak used lends some creamy vanilla notes, that balance nicely against crisp, green apple notes, making our Chardonnay a little lighter bodied than most California Chardonnays, while retaining good typicity.
A white with a bit of a bite… Of minerality that is. Our 2020 Pinot Grigio is a wine with a variety of characteristics. Notes of lemongrass, nectarine, & pear explode on your tastebuds, with a crisp acidity on the finish. This wine gives you a great wine to pair with your appetizers! Adding charcuterie boards, white fish & shellfish, will make you the savior of cocktail hour. Naturally, it can pair well with the main course, as well. Regardless of when you drink it, rest assured: Your palate will thank you.
Winemaker’s Notes: Our Pinot Grigio is crafted as an homage to its home country, Italy. We harvest early, when there is still plenty of acidity in the grape, to produce a wine with lower alcohol, and crisp acidity. We ferment in stainless steel at low temperatures to bring out the delicate fruit, and mineral notes. Finally, we bottle soon after fermentation to make sure we capture those flavors and aromas before they “flash off”.
*Also, offered in a holiday pack with our Pinot Noir starting Nov. 16!
Floral on the nose & strawberry on the palate— Another wine that pairs well with your meal before the meal. A lighter choice to begin with, but that’s how it should be anyways, right? Barbera is the perfect fruit to make a rosé with because of its bright acidity, making this crisp wine a great pairing with margherita pizza or light seafood. Bringing this to the pre-party will make both a wine drinker & a wine hater happy—Trust.
Winemaker’s Notes: Barbera makes an excellent candidate for rosé, as it retains its acidity better than any other red variety in our warm Temecula climate. This gives the finished rose a crisp, refreshing finish that pairs nicely with our warmer days.
Could it BE any more obvious? I don’t really need to convince you, do I? The perfect sparkling wine for any occasion, but especially the holidays. The beauty of this wine is its ability to pair with any time of day. Have it with appetizers, the main course, or even after with dessert! Either way, your fellow guests will love you for it.
Winemaker’s Notes: Amour De L’Orange Sparkling Wine is an ambrosial delight for those of you who enjoy Champagne with a fun twist. Starting with the finest Chardonnay cuvee loaded with fruity aromas including pear, coconut, and pineapple, our winemaker added just a hint of natural orange flavoring. If you love mimosas, our Amour De L’Orange is sure to be a hit at your party, wedding, or Sunday brunch!
Alright, I know I put two in one here, but choosing one of these really has everything to do with your desserts, so it’s unlikely you’ll bring both. Each are excellent choices at the end of the night. White Port pairs well with desserts like apple pie & cheesecake, & our Ruby Port complements rich chocolate dishes. Sounds delicious, right? It is! If you haven’t tried a port before, be warned: It is a distilled wine with much more alcohol than your typical table wine. Nevertheless, exploding with flavor & a great addition to any dessert. Highly recommend.
Winemaker’s Notes: The 2020 batch of White Port brings back an old familiar classic. Blending classic and aromatic varietals aged in light toast barrels for a wine that is a pleasant night cap.
Winemaker’s Notes: Our Ruby Port is a blend of vintages, aged to allow the fresh red fruit notes to be tempered by nutty, caramel flavors and aromas brought forth by extended aging. Enjoy our Ruby Port with any rich chocolate desserts or as a decadent stand-alone digestif.
So, there they are! A variety of choices for your next dinner party this holiday season, straight off our tasting menu. I know I said you can’t go wrong with the Merrytage (still true), but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Each one would bring a little something special to your holiday evening in their own unique way, guaranteed. That’s the beauty of wine! It can be a drink, a conversation, a memory, the start to a friendship—& Especially during the holidays.
Let’s raise a glass to what it can create this season! Cheers!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/Gift Shop
Alright, choosing wine for yourself can be a lot of work, but choosing & entertaining for other people, too? Fa-getta-bout-it! Just kidding 😊 I can (try to) help. Wine can elevate the menu at a dinner party, start a conversation between strangers, & also create lasting connections in terms of taste (& I don’t just mean with flavor either). Learning how to create an experience with it should be fun, not stressful. So, let’s learn a few ways to do that together!
I’ll be honest, I’m not quite to the “picking wine for others” stage yet, & frankly, I’m not sure if I ever will be (people go to school for that stuff guys). BUT what I can do is help us with some etiquette tips & serving techniques that will make us look like we actually know what we’re doing in front of our party guests. It’s all about creating an experience, right?
Here they are. The next time you’re hosting, remember:
Temperature is key.
This is the big one. How many times have you heard to serve your red wines at room temperature? I’m sure too many to count. The truth is, room temperature (usually around 70°F) is often too warm to be serving any wine. Not far off though, depending on what you keep your thermostat at, I guess. Even red wines are more properly served when below that 70°F mark. You wouldn’t want to drink a warm soda, right? The same rule applies. Don’t quote me on this, but from my research, a variety of experts say red wine should be served between 55-69°F; Light red wines to be served on the colder end of the spectrum & bolder reds to be served warmer. White wines should be served anywhere from 45-55°F; Again, lighter whites to be served colder & oaked whites warmer. More affordable sparkling wines to be served from 40-45°F & higher quality champagne closer to white wine temperatures. Of course, these are estimates from a variety of sources I’ve encountered, so nothing is set in stone! When in doubt, go with your gut. What temperature do you think that wine tastes best at? That’s really what it’s all about. Also, if you don’t want to spend all that time preparing for it, at least stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. Just know that warm is wrong.
Pro Tip: If you forget to chill your wine, wrap it in a wet dishtowel & put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. The water escalates the chilling process.
Stems are there for a reason.
I’m not trying to sound condescending with this one: Hold the stem, not the bowl. Remember that long conversation about temperature we just had? Well, it’s all going to go to you-know-what if you place your warm hands around the thin lining of glass between you & the wine. That’s something I didn’t even think about until I read it, so do yourself a favor & use the glass the way it’s intended to be. I know I will (now)!
Just smell it.
This one only applies if you’re really trying to impress your friends, or if you simply want to learn more about wine. Smell your wine when drinking! Don’t be embarrassed to do it either. So much of what we orally consume is influenced by our sense of smell. If anything, it will help you enjoy the wine more. & If you really are trying to impress your friends, it will show them you picked the wine for a reason & may even spark a conversation about it, as well.
Keep it clean.
More of an etiquette tip… or three. When drinking, drink from the same place on the glass. It will reduce the residue left on the rim of the glass & also help you enjoy the wine more. This way, you won’t be forced to smell your own remnants from the other side. When pouring, hold the bottle toward the base & be wary of drips. We’ve all had a bottle spill a few drops on us after pouring. Be patient with it & allow the stream to completely stop before moving it. If you don’t have the patience, at least hold a cloth napkin in your other hand under the longer part of the bottle. This will also promote cleanliness towards your guests. When clinking glasses, maintain eye contact with your partner. It may seem intense, but it’s actually a sign of respect. Maybe this one can even be a fun fact you share at the next dinner party. Okay, enough with the manners!
This is really just another tip to help you look like a connoisseur. Wine glasses are all made different for functionality, not just because they look pretty. Standard red wine glasses will have larger bowls to help release aromas, & longer stems for easier swirling. Standard white wine glasses have smaller bowls usually to encapsulate both the aromas & cooler temperatures. When it comes to sparkling wine, it may seem like the proper glass would be a flute, but a lot of experts actually recommend a standard white wine glass. Especially if you chose a more affordable champagne for the night, this will allow it to breathe & for the possible faults to release more quickly into the air before consumption.
Portion control is real.
If you’re trying to show style & grace, don’t fill the glass all the way or drink from the bottle, we can do that on our own time. The typical portion size for red wine is 5-6 oz., or about a quarter full. White wines can be poured about half way full. Use your own judgement, but also remember the tips above. Some lesser wines can benefit from a smaller pour.
Decanting can lead to new aromas.
Another big one. When it comes to decanting, there are several factors to consider. First though, let me explain what it is & what it does—This blog is for newbies, after all. On its own, the word decant simply means to pour liquid from one container into another. In this instance, we’re pouring wine from its original bottle into a pitcher of sorts. Of course, decanters (said pitcher) themselves are specific to wine & take odd shapes to allow for proper oxidation. Decanting our wine allows for the flavors & aromas to present themselves in ways that may not be possible in their enclosed bottle. Think of it as a dramatic way of “letting it breathe”—But it really works. With certain red wines, it’s one of the only ways to let it breathe at all. Now, any wine can be decanted, but that doesn’t mean they should. When deciding to do so, consider the age of the wine (younger wines will respond better to decanting), the notes you recognize when you open it (those with bitter, extremely oaky, or very few aromas at all should be decanted), & the acidity (overly acidic wine should be decanted, try it before determining this). If you still aren’t sure, take a look at the varietal characteristics. Bolder varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah will benefit from decanting. The truth is, no wine can be made worse by decanting it, just pay attention to how long you’re decanting it for. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the wine. Typically, it’s a rule that 30 minutes should be enough, but every wine is different. Some wines don’t even need that much time (usually lighter whites) & some need more (bolder reds & sometimes oaked whites). The good news is, you can always taste it while its aerating! That’s actually something you should do to see how it can transform from start to finish. Taste whites every few minutes & reds every 20-30 minutes to catch those flavors & aromas. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually just pouring & waiting, I promise. Plus, it can add a nice centerpiece or added aesthetic to your party! Talk about a conversation starter.
Pro Tip: Cheaper wines often have faults or sulfur-like smells when opening. Decanting helps make them more palatable & can elevate the wine itself. Some of us have to finesse on a budget, okay?
So, who feels confident enough to serve wine at a dinner party yet? Me either, but hey, the first time is never the smoothest. We’re all still learning, right? At least now I know some hacks to overshadow all the other blunders I might make. As far as the wine menu goes, don’t stress. If you like it, it’s worth sharing with friends! & If they don’t like it, keep in mind, not everyone can have your good taste 😉
Until next time, fellow newbies!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop