An Insider’s Top Tips for Holiday Wine Shopping in Calaveras

Ironstone holiday gift basketWith the holidays looming, Sara Teeter of the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance, has put together a few tips on how to shop for wine with any sort of holiday function in mind: The holiday potluck, Thanksgiving, or the big deal holiday party with friends and co-workers.

Follow a producer. Calaveras provides the unique opportunity to get to know the winemakers, their business and their staff. If you have a winery in mind that you know you enjoy, then I encourage you to stay loyal to them. It’s really a lot of fun to watch these wineries grow, get familiar with their winemaking style and geek out on comparing vintages from the past with the new offerings they produce. You won’t get that without really patronizing a brand.

Big case production for less dollars. Before you cringe at the idea of bulk or boxed wine, let me explain. Most wineries in Calaveras County have two or three wines that they make a large quantity of, and these are going to be your safe bet for purchasing a low cost bottle with great flavor. A casual weeknight potluck would be a good example for this type of purchase. Try Ironstone Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – a $10 wine that will impress you with bold dark cherry and toasted oak aromas, and juicy black currant, raspberry and dark cherry flavors. This luscious, well-balanced wine has a sweet middle palate that finishes with a lovely toasty oak component. Guess what? It won Best of Show at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Competition and it goes with just about anything. From pasta to cocktail meatballs to the cheese platter (Sharp Cheddar, Aged Gouda, Danish Bleu, or a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano), your bottle will be the first one to go.

Sparkling wine is fancy. This is the safest bet for that dressy holiday party, and will always impress. The pop of the cork is festive, and sparklers go with every type of cuisine. It’s truly a celebration wine. Frog’s Tooth Vineyards produces a sparkling wine in the $25 range that will be released in mid-November.

(CVB Insider Tip – Don’t miss these other Calaveras sparklers: Allegorie Wine’s Petite Couquette, Stevenot Winery’s Cuvée or Milliaire Winery’s great-priced sparkling wine too!)

Look for magnums. Large format bottles are conversation starters.  Not only do they look amazing on a buffet table, but they provide the ability to pour the same wine for a large group, like at Thanksgiving. Go for the 1.5-liter versions you’ve liked in standard-size bottles. La Folia Winery bottles Sangiovese, Barbera and Zinfandel in a magnum and Hatcher Winery has the largest selection of 1.5 and 3L bottles in the county. If you are looking to pour wine for 28 of your closest friends then Lavender Ridge Vineyards will be happy to help you select one of their wines in a 5L bottle. Whatever you decide, call the tasting room ahead of time to make sure they’ll have your bottle in stock.


This post originally appeared on the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance Website.

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