Winding down the year, we find that wine remains wickedly wonderful; the beer boom is back, and the cocktail culture rocks! It’s a thirsty world my friend—dive in!

And here in the desert we are especially thirsty—so vino venues, burgeoning breweries, and merry mixologists have sway with us and light up the holiday festivities.

On the wine side of things, tout le monde—we all had a beau-jolicious time enjoying the 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau at Clementine Market Place & Café, Miramonte Resort & Spa, and The Viceroy Palm Springs enjoying the first wine of this season’s French harvest.

At Clementine’s, Chef Gräbe prepared a few unique and traditional small Lyonaisse dishes to pair with the 2013 Nouveau and owners Christophe and Jennifer brought out Cru Beaujolais as well (the more serious stuff that can age): a tasty 2011 Regnie, a sturdy and excellent 2010 Morgon, and the star of the show—the fleshy and spicy Juliénasfrom the stellar 2009 vintage. My favorite bite was the La Quenelle de Brochet Sauce Nantua—Fresh Pike Dumpling with Crawfish Sauce and Basmati Rice. Fabuleux!

Miramonte’s celebration party—well, was a party for sure, with crooner Steve Di Tullio and others belting out Sinatra and Dean Martin tunes for a lively group enjoying all the Nouveau one desired, scrumptious substantial hors d’oeuvres of meats, cheeses, fruit and bread, along with raffle prizes from wine to spa treatments! Partie Copieux!Laissez le bon temps rouler!
And at The Viceroy, things really appeared French. Under the purple-gray skies above, the light-falling rain drizzled upon a black stallion drawing a carriage containing a large wooden cask of the Nouveau that came down Belardo Road and up to the hotel’s entrance. Quel Voyant! A bit later the cask wine was poured into the glasses of the happy crowd at the Citron Restaurant Lounge already munching on Chef’s inventive gastronomic appetizers. Magnifique!

France’s Beaujolais region is filled with the Gamay grape and not the usual Pinot Noir that a red Burgundy is known for. It was traditionally what vineyard workers and winemakers drank as both a celebration of the end of the backbreaking harvest and as way to gauge the quality of the vintage.

This easy drinking youthful bright grapey purple-colored wine turns out to be a really versatile red for the holiday table: It’s fun to drink—fruity with light complexities to stay out of the way of the meal, and it’s lower in alcohol content. This 2013 Nouveau is richer and fuller than most years with big strawberry and blackberry aromas.

I think it’s a great gift wine for the holiday meals and parties as well. Wine newbies will appreciate your enlightening, and, wine enthusiasts—some who consider nouveau a little passé and/or a diminutive wine, will be impressed that you knew this 2013 vintage was delightful—“How’d you know that?!”

Cut to Miramonte Resort & Spa where on Friday, December 13th, patrons will enjoy the intricate balance of flavors of a delectable five-course dinner prepared by the innovative Executive Chef Adam Votaw to be paired with wines from Napa’s Franciscan Estate. At this one-of-a-kind event, representatives from the vineyard will guide you through blending your own custom wine!–A must for the wine lover! $75 per person. Space is limited and reservations are required. Guests can RSVP for Franciscan Wine Dinner directly to 760-837-2327 between 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday – Friday

Now onto festive Italian cuisine which seems to be the vogue these days on all the cooking shows and with all you foodies scurrying about to get the freshest ingredients from our local organic produce places—and that’s a good thing! So if you wish to play Italian this holiday season, you’ll want to continue to literally experience the land and fruit of Italia by enjoying its vino.

If you’re doing the traditional Feast of Seven Fishes—Mario Batali’s version is on-line, then look to the Umbrian Scacciadiavoli’s Grechetto [greh-KET-toh] dell’Umbria This dry white wine is the current rage in Italy with a range of vivacious scents of fruit and floral in aroma and taste with cleansing acidity. Chill it well and as it warms in the glass—it explodes!

Umbria—half way between Toscana and Roma, has an ancient wine tradition which is now producing first-class wine. And the traditional Christmas fare includes cappelletti—little hats, which are small meat-filled tortellini, along with fresh pastas, mortadella, cheeses, walnuts and porchetta—that delicious roasted pig. A great recommendation here is the Tenuta Castelbuono Rosso di Montefalco, a blend of Sangiovese—with its cherry, earth, herbs, plums and leather notes, and the Sagrantino—black cherries, smoke, nutmeg, chocolate and tobacco. What think?

And for you Italian wine enthusiasts who enjoy full flavor reds with tannins and grit, the unique Umbrian red wine from Montefalco is Sagrantino. It has unique characteristics that bear no similarities with any other grape variety in Italy.

The skins of the grapes are extremely thick and the wine produced has a very strong structure and an extremely high concentration of polyphenols—very suitable for long aging. I’ll be writing more about this wine because it’s perfect for winter meals. Full-bodied yet elegant and balanced.

Currently, the 2007 Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco from Arnaldo Caprai is available; Caprai was named “2012 European Winery of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. This wine can pair with aged cheeses, beef, duck, lamb, pasta, pizza, sausages, stews, black truffles, and wild boar. Buon Appetito!!

Call Costa Nichols at Desert Wine & Spirits (760) 327-7701 in Palm Springs, or 3rd Corner Wine Shop (760) 837-9600 in Palm Desert to request these wines.

Rick is our sommelier-about-town looking out for vino venues. Contact