Some wine recommendations for your next family gathering.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week May 26, 2005
So, the entire family is coming into town for your simcha and that includes a dinner at your house. Besides figuring out what everyone will eat, you also want to have the right wines to serve without breaking your budget. Fortunately there are a large number of wines from around the world that your guests will enjoy that also are excellent values.
Since there are approximately 5 glasses of wine in a standard 750 ml. bottle, you should have at least a half a bottle of wine per adult for dinner. This should be increased to 1 bottle per person if there is a cocktail hour prior to the meal. When serving appetizers, it is perfectly acceptable to place the wine in an accessible location for the guests to serve themselves. White wines should be removed from the refrigerator one-half hour prior to serving while most red wines will benefit if placed in the refrigerator thirty minutes before they are poured.
While the type of wine to serve is ultimately determined by your menu, you should lean toward the “new-world” fruit-forward styles since they have the broadest appeal. These include Oregon Pinot Noir, Malbec from Argentina, Australian Shiraz and the lighter-style French wines from Rhone and Languedoc. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio remain very popular white wine choices but you should also consider Pinot Gris, Riesling and minimally oaked Chardonnay.
For those dinners that begin with a toast to the happy occasion, nothing is as festive as a sparkling wine, usually a “brut” style which also works well as an aperitif. S. Anderson Napa Valley Brut 1999 ($21) has biscuit flavors with lemon citrus notes while the value-priced Gloria Ferrer Brut Sonoma Valley NV ($18) has creamy apple and honeydew flavors. The Yarden winery in Israel makes the very good kosher Yarden Blancs de Blancs Galilee 1998 ($20) with buttery biscuit flavors. From Oregon try the vanilla and cream flavored Argyle Willamette Valley Brut 1999 ($21).
An often overlooked region for great value is Chile whose wines have been steadily improving in quality. Casa Lapostelle Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Cuvee Alexander 2003 ($17), has apple and fig notes while the excellent Montes Chardonnay Alpha 2003 ($23), is floral with pear and fig flavors with a long finish. The pineapple and pear flavored Veramonte Chardonnay Reserve 2003 ($16) has a rich creamy finish and Cousino-Macul Chardonnay Maipo Antiguas Reserve 2003 ($12) is a great value with pear, mineral and fig notes.
From New Zealand try the Jackson Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2004 ($18) that has the characteristic grassy notes with crisp guava and lime flavors or the Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Icon 2004 ($20) with grapefruit flavors and a bright finish. An interesting Israeli wine is the Binyamina Gewürztraminer Galilee Special Reserve 2003 ($20) that is spicy and floral with lychee nut flavors. Two very good Italian Pinot Grigios are the Catina Terlano Alto Adige 2003 ($21) and the Michael-Eppan Alto Adige Anger 2003 ($17) each which exhibit full-bodied fruit flavors and a long finish.
Red wines to consider include the cherry and berry flavored Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2003 ($15) which is one of the first wines to note on their label the level of the beneficial anti-oxidant resveratrol. Also from Oregon is Torii Mor Pinot Noir 2002 ($17) that has dark cherry and mint notes. Malbec shines in Argentina and the Bodegas Escorihuela Malbec Mendoza Don Miquel Gascon 2004 ($10) has the body to stand up to meat on the grill with coffee, licorice and blackberry flavors. From Spain the Campo Viejo Crianza 2001 ($10) is a light-bodied red wine with smooth cherry and berry flavors and nice balance. Produced in California, the Alexander Valley Vineyards Sangiovese 2002 ($18) has lovely cherry and berry flavors with nice balance.