Welcome winter! Welcome light! Happy holidays! Happy Hanukkah, Happy Omisoka, Happy Jul, Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Merry Saturnalia, and everything else to you all!
How better to celebrate all of these special moments with friends and family than with some bubbles… and a really great Cabernet Sauvignon? And while a “Holiday Cabernet” just might pair well with the relatives, what are some other pairing ideas?
Thinking beyond turkey and ham (for which I usually go for zinfandel and here are some recommendations from Lodi), Sue and I took to the task the other day by putting together charcuterie and other appetizers, and tasting three festive wines that have holiday wrappings. Reviews and recipes below.
For a simple charcuterie plate, I bought a brie en crout with cranberries and apple on top, which we baked. Warm brie pairs well with both red and white wines, and it works for breakfast, brunch, lunch, appetizers, or even dinner. You can buy a wedge or a small wheel and wrap in a pie crust or phyllo dough, but true the easiest thing is to buy it already prepared, baked it, and then add additional preserves. There’s nothing like warm creamy brie on a cold, wintry day! Note: there were two starving teenagers and one hungry husband afoot and the plate was a bit decimated before I got the bottles opened!
We also had a wedge of triple cream brie to go on fresh-baked sour dough bread — I bought a loaf of par-baked bread and we finished it off in the hot oven. The smell of fresh bread makes the house smell so homey! We also put the brie on crackers from Trader Joes with dried pomegranates and mangos, and for the final touch, slices of ripe pear. For a third cheese, we went with a festive white Stilton with cranberries, then we had a blueberry cheddar, plus three Cheddar from Snowdonia: Amber Mist (with whiskey), Ginger Spice, and Smoked Cheddar. We love these Cheddar!! Finally, we had two kinds of organic salami; I just love these little twisted bites and they were excellent alone or with the brie.
Stella Rosa Moscato D’ Asti – 2015 – 5.5% alcohol – $10
Are you ready to “StellaBrate”? This inexpensive, low alcohol, lightly effervescent and somewhat sweet wine in a special holiday paper wrapper is great for an appetizer, a cocktail party, or a business lunch with Asian style food. It paired wonderfully well with the lobster won tons and spicy dipping sauce; recipe below.
At first, Sue rolled her eyes about this wine in its festive packaging, and she was dismissive. But when she tasted it with the lobster won tons and with the seared ahi salad, she changed her tune!
Low alcohol, big fun: the 5% alcohol will help keep you in the game or the party. For an inexpensive wine, it doesn’t have any off flavors or tastes, no metallic on the tongue: it’s simple but well made and satisfying.
This went well with both the seared ahi tuna and the opah on salad greens. Seared ahi or opah bites or lobster wonton would be fun and festive way to kick off your celebrations or bring to a party. It was also delicious with the Ginger Spice cheddar.
This wine was a sample for our review consideration.
Chandon – Limited Edition Blanc De Noirs – 13% alcohol – $20
A friend gave this to me last holiday season — someone had given it to her and she’s not a sparkling wine fan but she knew I’d appreciate it. And we did — and so will you. Chandon does not disappoint: they offer a consistently lovely sparkling wine for a holiday party or gathering at a reasonable price, and this is not an exception.
This special bottling makes for an even more festive presentation than usual, but hey, sparkling wine is festive in and of itself! As they say, as soon as you pop the cork, this bottle makes the after party!
The Chandon Limited Edition Blanc De Noirs is a nice clean crisp sparkling wine that went particularly well with our brie encroute as well as the brie and pear. It fought with the sauce on the wontons and it was not that great with the salami but awesome with the seared ahi tuna. (Go here to read what we LOVE with seared ahi!)
Flora Springs – Holiday Kisses – 2013 – 14.2% alcohol – $57
When Marshall came home on a recent Friday night with a beautiful porterhouse steak and our son went to a birthday party, I knew it was finally the day to open the Flora Springs “Holiday Kisses” 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon in the festive bottle decorated with a colorful sprig of green mistletoe with white berries tied in a red ribbon.
Yes, that’s mistletoe. And what’s mistletoe all about? Holiday kisses!
Honestly, Marshall usually prefers his craft beers; he’ll have one as he’s prepping the meat and on the grill, then he might have another with dinner. Sometimes he’ll waggle his fingers and ask for a taste. This time I knew he’d want some. And when he tasted it, he exclaimed, “Wow this is really good!” He then discounted his claim saying he knows nothing about wine and I countered with “But you know what you like and you like this!” When I pressed him for why, he insisted that it was because it tasted really good. I told him it should, it’s a $57 bottle of wine, and at that price, you expect something special.
And this wine delivers something special.
Like a good kiss, it is deeply satisfying, offering up an abundance of bright cherry fruit on the nose and palate as well as in the color of the glass. Blueberry and blackberry fruit envelope the palate. Oaky vanilla and spice is present but not overpowering. In body it has substance but it is not overbearing. An earthy cigar box finish lingers, with dark chocolate and anise.
This is the wine you want to pair with your prime rib dinner. But oh was it good with the Amber Mist and Smoked Cheddar cheese and salami!
I saved a glass of this for Sue to taste, but she wasn’t able to come by for a few days. By then it was still lovely, but the fruit had faded which leads me to think that this wine is made to be enjoyed this holiday or one in the next five years. This would make a special gift for a loved one or as a hostess gift. If 2013 has a special connotation for you, consider getting a bottle and opening it on the five year anniversary in 2018.
Each year, Flora Springs offers etched and hand-painted unique, limited-edition Holiday Bottles to wine club and mailing list members. The 2013 Holiday Cabernet Sauvignon blends Cabernet Sauvignon from estate vineyards in Napa Valley that was aged in a combination of new and seasoned barrels.
Because this is a special wine and a special bottling, and you can only get it from the winery or online, so keep it in mind for next year! This wine was a wonderful surprise gift from the winery. We wrote about Flora Springs Halloween special bottling here. This is a winery that is into celebrating the holidays!
Happy holidays from the Wine Predators!
Lobster Won Tons: pictured with Stella
recipe adapted by Que Syrah Sue
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1T Peanut oil
1 pkg imitation lobster or 1lb cooked chopped lobster
2 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
1 t chili oil
1 T cornstarch mixed with 1 or 2T water
1 pkg won ton skins
Saute carrot and celery in peanut oil. Add lobster and cook through until warm. Add Soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil; saute for about 2 min. Add cornstarch/water mix and stir till thickened.
Place about 1t mixture in the middle of won ton skin, dampen edges with water, fold skin in half and seal. These can be made ahead and frozen. When ready to serve, fry in oil till golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Best warm. Serve with dipping sauce.
1/4 cup catsup
1T soy sauce
1 to 2 t shiracha
stir all ingredients in a small bowl
Also great with a dollop of hot mustard