A simple holiday shopping list for making the most of the season
I know it's the holidays when wine samples arriving from international producers, eager for coverage, fill my foyer. You know it's the holidays by the wine sales, specials and in-store tastings offered by your grocer or wine merchant, eager for your business, filling the aisles. So, the next columns will be simple shopping lists of well-made and delicious wines, from my holidays to yours:
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, "Turckheim" Pinot Gris, 2016 (France): A white of satin fluidity, with complexity I associate with a satisfying dish rather than a mouthful of wine -- first nectarines and pears, next pepper, flint, and white licorice, then smoke and earth. The Humbrecht family has farmed Alsace vineyards since the 17th century and is now a leader in hands-off, biodynamic viticulture. Classic pairing: Choucroute garnie, a French-German delicacy of sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes. At home: Grilled sausages; roast pork tenderloin with apricot reduction sauce. Wine shops, about $30
Bila-Haut "L'Esquerda" by M. Chapoutier, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, 2017 (France): This crowd-pleasing red wraps the palate in a comfy blanket of rich, seasoned fruit, finishing with a teasing smack of tannin. The Syrah, Grenache and Carignan blend offers concentrated flavors of berries and bittersweet chocolate, with the dried herb "garrigue" accent typical of Mediterranean Basin vineyards. A consistent Best Value, make this wine your secret ingredient to season stews, soups, marinades, and sauces, with the age-old recipe, equal parts for chef and pot. Classic pairing: Cassoulet, a casserole of haricots verts, pork sausages and preserved goose. At home: Chicago-style chili; roast rosemary chicken. Widely available, about $14.
The Federalist cabernet sauvignon (USA): It was Game #160 at Wrigley, the first in a three-game battle to stop the Cards and defend our march to the pennant. It was late September, it was cold, it was wet, but myself and fellow Bleacher Bums fortified ourselves with two-pound portions of smoked bone-in short ribs, slathered in sauce with The Federalist Cab, (served in the finest stadium cup). We know how the series ended, but no need to wait 'til next year to savor these lush flavors of berries, smoke, and spice with meaty Chicago cuisine. Widely available, $16.99.
Masseria Altemura, "Rosamaro" (Italy): A shimmering rose sparkler with gentle perlage (bubbles), inviting strawberry aroma and off-dry flavors that attract at first meeting and grow in appeal throughout the meal. Zonin family vintners have owned the property since 1821, and the family now is the largest private vineyard owners in Italy. You won't see Zonin on labels though. "The wine's credibility is the region, not our name," explained Francesco Zonin during a recent luncheon at Chicago's Boka restaurant.
"Rosamaro" honors the Apulia region and its specialty, the deep red Negroamara grape, making a rich but refreshing pairing with Boka's dry aged beef tartare and roasted beef short ribs. Watch for the wine's U.S. launch in early 2019.
Zonin, prosecco "1821" (Italy): One wine that bears the Zonin name is their flagship prosecco "1821" -- clean, appealing, not bone-dry -- a step above the rest. Classic pairing: Mixed with white peach nectar as a Bellini cocktail, or with nearly every person, every dish, every occasion. At home: Same here. Under-$15.
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at food@daily herald.com.
Ross' choiceWine name: Pinot Gris "Reserve"
Region: Alsace, France
Tasting Notes: Round, not bone-dry and satisfying with fleshy, just-ripe nectarine and pear flavor and firm acidity. The crystalline purity and strength make this a perfect winter white, as an elegant cocktail and to complement a flavorful breakfast, lunch or dinner of Alsace specialties gravlax (not too far from lox and bagels), jambon en croute (ham on rye), choucroute (corned beef and cabbage) and l'oie d'Alsace (if you don't have goose, try the wine with turkey!)
Availability: At wine shops and chains, $26.99
Distributed by: The Winebow Group/ Vintage, Schiller Park