Today I’ve tapped into the expertise of a new friend of mine, Mark, to share some of his wine smarts. Mark is a sommelier at one of Chicago’s top restaurants, the writer of Windy City Epicurean and most recently, one of the founders of the Second City Food Wine + Social Club. After being blown away at the inaugural Second City event, I instantly knew I had to hear more about Mark’s favorites being that the holiday season is a prime time for wine (no complaints here!).
So you’re hosting a Holiday get together with your family and friends, and you need to have vino available for the season. What to choose…what to choose! Do you go with the simple and cheap Charles Shaw – “Two Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s, only to get the sneering look from your wine savvy uncle? Or do you go with the box of Franzia White Zinfandel, and get the sneering look from EVERYONE in your family? Those are some tough choices to make, especially when wine might not exactly be your forté when it comes to entertaining.
Generally speaking, there are more bad wines than good wines under the $25 price point. However, with the list below, you can purchase wines that will please just about everyone, as well as them going great with the most traditional of Holiday foods.
- 2010 Dominique Mugneret Bourgogne Haute Cotes de Nuits – $23.99 at Binny’sThis stunning 100% Pinot Noir from the famed region of Burgundy is a STEAL at this price. Known for being the greatest region in the world for Pinot Noir, this Dominique Mugneret red Burgundy is fantastic with turkey, prime rib roast, pork, and other traditional Holiday meats. The wine has notes of earth, minerality, red fruits, and is very juicy. Easy drinking and very approachable.
- 2009 Santa Ema Reserve Merlot, Chile – $11.99 at Binny’s Merlot is most popular in France and California, but this Merlot from Chile is superb and fresh. The high altitude of where the Merlot grapes are grown lends to a wine that is leaner, juicier, and lower in alcohol. This is an up and coming area for Merlot, and at the same time, is a crowd pleaser for those who enjoy a fuller-bodied wine.
- 2011 Domaine William Fevre Chablis “Champs Royaux” – $18.99 at Binny’s Chablis? Yes, Chablis! This 100% Chardonnay from the most northern part of Burgundy is famous for their mineral and chalk-driven wines. This wine is lighter-bodied for Chardonnay, which allows it to be more approachable and ready to drink at an early age. Drink this wine with cheese, cured meats, fish, and even that famous Holiday trifle.
- 2012 Alexandria Nicole Viognier, Columbia Valley, WA – $19.99 at Binny’sThe Columbia Valley in Washington is famous for its red wine production. But with this hearty Viognier from Alexandria Nicole, the valley is showing why these wines can’t be missed. This is a classic white grape that is high in aromatics and floral notes, specifically peaches, pears and violets. This wine can easily be paired with heartier foods, as well as cheese.
- Domaine des Baumard “Carte Corail” Crémant de Loire Sparkling Rosé, France – $21.99 at Binny’sThis sparkling wine from the Loire Valley is 100% Cabernet Franc. It exhibits quality that is found in sparkling wines that are much higher in price. This wine is lovely, with notes of fresh strawberries and red currants. Drink this wine to celebrate the arrival of your guests, or drink it with food that is floral – such as soft cheeses and lightly cured meats.
Thanks again to Mark for sharing his expertise and saving us all from showing up at our next party with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck! If you’re located in Chicago, I can’t recommend the Second City Food Wine + Social Club enough – I unfortunately missed out on Monday’s “Modern Winter” themed dinner and am currently suffering from major FOMO. January’s event will be announced shortly and you bet I’ll be there. Interested in joining? Let me know and I can help out.