Wine for the holidays

For best results, shop local

A few months back I was up way past my bedtime, doom-scrolling through social media, when an ad for a wine subscription service popped up on my feed. Seduced by the promise of new and interesting wines at rock- bottom prices delivered right to my door, I took the bait and clicked. Not long after, a box appeared at my door, and I must admit it was kind of exciting. Inside were six bottles of wine, each accompanied by big, glossy tasting cards. That evening I eagerly opened a bottle and poured myself a glass of what turned out to be a rather banal merlot. In the end only two of the six bottles were to my liking, the rest eventually making their way into various risottos and stews. I canceled the subscription and sheepishly vowed never again to stray from supporting local wine shops. Undoubtedly there are some good quality online subscription programs out there, but why bother when curated, thoughtful wine selections are waiting right around the corner?

Since the start of the pandemic, I've sadly opted out of leisurely visits to the wine shop and I've missed taking the time to slowly peruse the racks, wine glass in hand. However, I've had almost as much fun calling up The Corkscrew on Chatham Road in Springfield to chat with the owner about what I'm after, and let them choose for me. Each time I bring home a box filled with old favorites and new surprises for a better value than I would get from an online subscription program or the grocery store. Their website is also well laid out, making it easy to peruse the inventory from the safety of your couch.

There can be certain advantages to joining a wine club, advises Nancy Sweet, owner of It's All About Wine in Springfield. "We have a wine club that offers curated selections and discounts on wines that we have here in the shop. In normal times we have a little party for wine club members whenever we do a pick-up. In addition to tasting notes, we come up with recipes to pair with each wine and offer some of those dishes to sample that night along with the wines." Whether you are a seasoned wine drinker or a novice, these sorts of programs are an excellent way to broaden your horizons. "Some people have a tendency find something they like and keep buying it over and over," Sweet points out, "and our wine club provides a great excuse to try new things." IAAW has recently partnered with Luminary Kitchen and Provisions, the newest project from chefs Jordan and Aurora Coffey, to offer wine pairings to complement Luminary's exciting cuisine. More information and details are available at www.itsallaboutwine.net.

Both IAAW and the Corkscrew have online ordering available on their websites, making safe shopping (and gift giving) a breeze. The world is a little crazy right now, so why not try something new? Here are a few fun selections, perfect for celebrating the season.

Desperada Sackcloth and Ashes $49.99

"I've recently fallen in love with wines from the Paso Robles region (California)," said Sweet. "They're just so approachable and delicious, and Desperada is a producer that I've been in love with since discovering this area. Female-owned, all-female staff and the wines are just amazing. The winemaker does a lot with Italian varietals that you don't often see in California, as well as Rhone-style blends." Sackcloth and Ashes is a powerhouse Bordeaux blend filled with aromas of black fruits and earth, and would be perfect paired alongside a well marbled slice of prime rib.

Chateau La Gabarre Bordeaux Blanc $16.99

A blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, this is a quintessential example of white wine from the Bordeaux region of France. The nose is full of fresh cut melon and herbs, followed by a bracing minerality and full, rounded mouthfeel.

Jaffers Viognier $32.99

Aromas of tropical fruit and white flowers lead the way to juicy finish on the palate of this rich viognier from Santa Barbara. Aged in a blend of neutral oak and stainless steel, it offers layers of opulent favor and a spicy, lingering finish.

90 Plus Côtes du Rhône $9.99

This grenache-syrah blend from the Rhone Valley in Southern France is a superb value and right at home alongside comfort foods like pot roast and pizza. Berry hues give way to tart cherries on the nose and a medium-bodied, juicy wine with a cocoa finish.

Vollereaux Champagne $44.99

A perfect to wine to help ring in the New Year, this delightful French sparkler has a light golden hue, fine bubbles and delightful stone fruit flavors. Blended from all three champagne grape varieties (chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir), it was aged on the lees (residual yeast) for four years, yielding appealing aromas of brioche and honey.

Recipes online for food with your wine

Jacob Thornton works for the State Board of Education by day and part- time at It’s All About Wine, guiding folks to their favorite bottle. He was kind enough to give us his recipe for crispy latkes, as well as his top 15 ways to whip up simple yet glamorous nibbles at home. 

Ashley Meyer studied winemaking and marketing at Lincoln University on the South Island of New Zealand. While New Zealand is widely known for its fruity sauvignon blanc, they produce a range of excellent styles, including world-class gewürztraminer riesling, pinot noir and syrah.

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