A Merry Holiday Toast to You and Yours!

By Rick Riozza

As promised, here are some last-minute ideas to add to your wine wonderland. The theme of course is the holidays so we’re looking to some sort of festive aspect to the wine choice. And, we’ll make it really easy: all of the recommended wines below can be found at your favorite supermarket in town that has a decent wine aisle.

Before sparkling wines became so popular—when they were primarily for toasting and enjoying at the stroke of midnight, Riesling was considered a wine to have on the holiday table because it was delicious as was the German song we all sang, O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter!

Riesling wine made the scene and paired wonderfully with Thanksgiving fare, Chunukka latkes, and Christmas ham. For those folks who really knew their Riesling, there was the dry stuff, like a Rheingau Kabinett that was crisp with flavors of green apples and rose petals; the Spatlese with a little more body and round fruit flavors; and then on to the Berenasule for dessert—each wine carrying fine acidity to keep a balance and to keep the food party going.


So why not consider an homage to the folks of old and put a Riesling back on the holiday table. Actually, Riesling has met with an agreeable resurgence, especially with the young wine drinkers in the crowd—so they won’t be cringing all too much with grandpa’s old go-to quaffer.

And believe it or not, we can recommend a wonderful Riesling at the super affordable price of around $8. Now that’s “wonderful” in itself! It’s the 2021 Chateau Ste. Michele Riesling Columbia Valley. Who knew!? This Riesling is consistently a bestseller and rated highly by critics for being a very refreshing and drinkable wine. It is also super affordable given the accolades! Best of all, you can drink it all year round.

“Sleek and steely, with vibrant lime, kiwifruit, and grapefruit flavors that finish with snap.” The wine offers crisp apple aromas and flavors with subtle mineral notes. This is an “everyday Riesling” that is a pleasure to drink and easy to match with a variety of foods. Lots of steely lime, melon, green apple, and chalky rock notes emerge from the 2021 Riesling Dry, a vibrant, medium-bodied, balanced, incredibly delicious Riesling that stays clean and dry on the palate. It’s going to be as versatile as they come.”

Now if that recommendation was just too mundane, (But why?). A more pricier Riesling—at only $15, is the August Keessler’s 2019 “R” Riesling Kabinett from the famed Rheingau region. Most supermarkets don’t carry this one, so I would check at your favorite wine shop to order it.

I would call this wonderful “R” Riesling Kabinett to be considered especially lovely: it’s crisp wet-stone mineral profile shows a touch of sweetness, with a finish of round acidity—that’s not overboard on the sour. It shows fruit of pineapple and citrus with pear, honey notes, along with a touch note of licorice, for complexity. Wine enthusiasts at your holiday table will wonder how you knew to serve this wine!

Next week, we’ll be doing a prosperous Prosecco article that will showcase wonderful higher-end Italian bubbly that separate themselves from the usual market shelf brands. But for this article, our favorite Champagne recommendation for the 2022 holidays is: the 2014 Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Cristal (around $325).

Through the years, the famed Cristal has had its detractors, claiming that the wine was just for show & glitz. That a “real” champagne lover would pick a Krug or a Bollinger! Well—those are absolutely wonderful picks, but this year when the 2014 Cristal was released—baby! It’s back on top! It’s a pricey treat for certain—but perhaps, in this crazy year, you’ve been saving up for this moment!

The 2014 Cristal is produced entirely from organically farmed estate vineyards of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. At 98 points from Wine Spectator, “This vivid Champagne shows up-front and linear definition, thanks to rapier like acidity, with finely meshed flavors of ripe black cherry and mandarin orange fruit, raw almond, anise and cardamom spice as well as a touch of honeycomb, which all unfurl and expand on the fine, creamy palate. Sleek acidity continues through to the finish, with additional racy character provided by a streak of minerally saline and chalk.”

If you’re looking for a California bubby at a more modest price but worthy of a true celebration, we love the 2018 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee Green Valley of Russian River Valley ($55). The Iron Horse sparkling wine lovers of Coachella Valley are just go ga-ga over this bubbly! (yes—I remember you folks over at the Morgan in the Desert wine tasting dinner).

This bubbly is so festive!—with wonderful notes of zesty lemon and raspberry accented with spicy notes and fresh ginger and graham cracker on the finish. It’s so smooth—it’s creamy-like. Love it!

In our last column, we recommended the charming Christmas couple of luxury wines from the Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Napa Valley collection: the 2020 Chardonnay($50) and the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon($175) Ditto that again!—as we made the case that these wines will impress, and, are the perfect pairing for the holiday table.

What’s for dessert? Well—on the quick, a wonderful Port wine can be found on the market shelves stat: Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port ($18). The wine can be the dessert by itself; and/or, with its fruit-forward, rich flavor of cassis, cherries, and blackberries matches the tray of sweets. Its tannins add to a wonderful mouthfeel. Cheers!