BY RICK RIOZZA

A Merry Christmas toast to you all!  As promised, here are some last-minute ideas to add to your wine wonderland:

This season, one of the best wine suggestions for parties, gifting, stocking stuffers, Christmas displays, or simply on hand to greet you when opening the fridge:  Martini & Rossi 4-pack Sparkler Minis:  Bubblies are always welcomed this time of year and these 4-packs of the #1 Italian sparkling wine brings its drier-than-ever style to the party.  Their crisp, fruity, and toast-worthy bubbles are fun little sippers convenient and easy to share.

We’ve covered the quality of the Martini & Rossi brand these past couple of years and are aware that the company is surging with world-class sparklers.  Lately, I’ve gone overboard purchasing these babies; each little bottle is elegantly formed and robed in Italian chic design, as one would expect—ma certo!

This year, the convenient 4-pack splits (187 ml) are comprised of either a dry Rosé or Prosecco.  The sparkling Rosé wine is crafted from premium Moscato Bianco, Malvasia, and Brachetto grapes grown in Northern Italy.  The tasting notes state,  “Light, crisp and aromatic with hints of citrus, elderflower and soft peach.”  The inclusion of the Brachetto grape—that’s grown right off the river near the hills of Asti, brings the color and really adds a nice mild complexity to keep the rosé interesting and refreshing.

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The Prosecco—now the number one sparkler coming out of Europe, carries the comments, “This lightly sparkling delight is a refreshing and crisp white wine with hints of apple, peach, and vanilla.”  Keep in mind that this Prosecco is Extra Dry meaning that there is a touch more sweetness than a brut style—a festive bravura, shall we say.

One can actually buy individual bottles separately for around $3. The 4-pack goes for around $12 to$15.

And for the pour, I’ve always been on board with the quality and the effectiveness of the Riedel Wine Glass Portfolio.  Riedel (rhymes with “needle”) glass technology is designed to enhance the flavor component specifically for different wine styles and individual varietal wines; add to that, vessels for spirits, beer, and even for different types of drinking water!  Most wine enthusiasts find the number of glass designs to be overwhelming, but none-the-less, are amazed by glassware’s efficacy.

One of the latest designs is the Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine Glass ($69/ set of 2). Certainly, it’s a new shape for Champagne—as I know it. For a while now, I’ve given up using skinny flutes for a quality quaff of bubbly; I’ll tend to use a Chardonnay glass. Now, Riedel seems to go further as their design somewhat appears like a tapered Red Bordeaux glass. 

The company’s language offers:  “The larger rim diameter enables the aromas of the Champagne to be released in a way which is not possible with a narrow flute. The glass also includes a point mousse, or ”sparkling point” – a tiny groove in the base of the bowl – to aid the formation of the Champagne bubbles, effervescence being an important part of the Champagne experience.  This allows the wide range of aromas of the Champagne to unfold.”

Okay—so I’m experimenting right now with a Mailly Grand Cru NV Brut Réserve $38, which is brut blend of Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.  I pour into both a standard flute and the new Veritas Champagne glass:  No Kiddling Around!  There is a significant difference in the effervescence, the smell, and the taste. Much more volume and complexity—I may use this glass for everything!

Check their vast portfolio: www.riedel.com/collections/glass-collections

And now, a few more holiday wine recommendations:

What can we say?  The Kim Crawford brand is well and alive and will provide a fresh overture to a full and comforting meal.  The #1 Sauvignon Blanc, $15, in the country, it offers bright tangy acidity, crisp and lively with gooseberry and cut grass that cleanses between courses and cuts through the heavier dishes on the table.

For guests who prefer a lighter red to start the meal, the Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2016, $16, is an easy-drinking, lighter style with notes of dark cherries and undertones of spicy oak. The wine pairs well with all roasted game birds, honey-baked hams, and most side dishes on the table.  New Zealand pinots are becoming the rage, if you haven’t tasted one yet, you’re in for a treat.

As we know, California wildfires tore through Sonoma and Napa wine country, and our friend, Tom Gore, grape farmer and winemaker suffered personal losses and major property damage. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been impacted by this year’s devastating disasters. We will cover his story and recovery efforts next month.  In the meantime, it would be great to support him and the community by considering his delicious ripe fruit & toasted oak 2015 Tom Gore Chardonnay, $12, and his tasty fruit forward supple mouthfeel medium-bodied 2014 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon at only $14.

Next on the list are full-bodied red wines for prime roasts, steaks and lamb, and the BV boys are back in town with Beaulieu Vineyards2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and the 2014 Reserve Tapestry.  The red wines from this famous and venerable winery always deliver with both history and voluptuousness in a glass. 

The BV Napa Valley Cab reflects the superb vintage with its deep, saturated blackberry, black cherry and ripe plum aromas and plush, saturated flavors. Hints of violet, toast and mocha add complexity.  I enjoyed this at Thanksgiving and I may do so again for Christmas!  It’s the holiday deal at only $30.

The 2014 BV Tapestry Reserve Red Wine, $65, is handcrafted from the finest grapes of the vintage blending the five Bordeaux-heritage grape varieties which provide layers and layers of complexities exhibiting a generous core of juicy black currant, dark cherry, cassis, plum, blackberry, violet, dried herbs and graphite.  Definitely the treat of the year!  Cheers!

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