By BARRY GOODRICH
The American poet George Sterling once wrote, “He who clinks a cup with mine, adds a glory to the wine.”
Wine has always been associated with the festive holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving and carrying through to New Year’s Day. Whether it is consumed during a family meal or imbibed at a holiday gathering of friends, wine seems to embody the spirit of the season.
“Wine should be approached with the same intensity for which it is consumed,” said Chris Oppewall, sommelier for Cru Uncorked in Moreland Hills. “Romantic, relaxing, conversational and food-enhancing, the nectar of the gods is, most importantly, enjoyed.”
For those who wonder what they should bring to a dinner or party, Oppewall has the perfect gift for any occasion. “When in doubt, bring champagne,” he said. “A surefire winner is Trudon Embleiatis, a superbly structured champagne. Prefer pink bubbles? A Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé is festive, fantastic and fabulous.”
For dinner, Oppewall suggests a light, acidic white wine and a medium-bodied red wine. “Whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and most Rosés will work well with almost any food,” he said. “When red, go Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Villages or Chianti Classico to hit the widest range of palates.”
Many wine lovers will be enjoying their favorite Pinot Noirs at the Thanksgiving dinner table and John Updyke, owner of the 1815 Tavern and Mad Jack’s Grill & Pub in Aurora, suggests a California vintage Kokomo’s 2017 Grenache Rose. “Its melon, peach and strawberry juice shows through on the palate with hints of minerality, vibrant acidity and a mouth-watering finish,” said Updyke. “The bright fruit acid in this wine makes it a perfect complement to everything on the Thanksgiving dinner table, cutting through the oils and fat of the turkey to all of the savory sauces and gravy.”
For those enjoying a meal of beef tenderloin this Christmas, Updyke suggests a pairing with the 2009 Meeker Four Kings Red Blend, the name representing four of the five noble grapes of Bourdeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. “This wine is an enjoyable complement with leather, soil and spice on the nose and palate with a bright acidity that keeps the wine tasting fresh,” he said. “There’s a hint of smoky oak and a lingering fruitiness that catches your interest and keeps you coming back for more.”
For holiday gatherings, the Illumination Sauvignon Blanc is a favorite of Ryan Livingston, sommelier of the Marble Room in downtown Cleveland. “It’s extremely elegant with wonderful floral and citrus notes,” said Livingston. “It’s a great pairing with goat cheese and crackers.”
When it comes to champagne, Livingston suggests the Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, made of 100 percent Chardonnay grapes. “It’s a great seafood/oyster pairing and better yet, one of the best bottles to usher in the New Year.” Livingston also likes Etoile brut, a sparkling wine that makes a great gift.
For those who will be dining on roast dishes for the holidays, Livingston has high regard for the Montabarioldi Barbaresco, an Italian wine. “This wine can stand up to the most bold and robust dishes out there,” he said.
Lola Sema of Luca Italian Cuisine and Luca West, has a game plan for holiday wines. “This is the time of year I look for a wine that is six to 10 years old, more complex wines with flavors that resemble more of this season such as chestnut, caramel, nutty and smoking wood,” she said.
Sema’s go-to wines for Thanksgiving are Gatinara/Travaglini a Nabbiolo from Promonte with chocolate, pomegranate and cranberry flavors and Il Roggio Catine del Notaio, a rosé from Basilicata, with intense flavors of oak, vanilla and mountain herbs.
For holiday dinner pairings, Sema suggests Rustico Prosseco by Nino Franco, with tastes of green apple and white almond. For those dining on prime rib or beef tenderloin, Corte ala Flora Super Toscana is her choice, a bold, smoky blend of cabernet, merlot and Syrah.