December 9, 2015 – Ottawa, ON
Today on CTV Morning Live, CTV’s host, Lianne Laing, and Sommelier Matt Steeves discussed top wine picks for entertaining this holiday season.
People often ask me for suggestions on tasty ($10-$20) wines they could consider for their holiday parties and for gifting to hosts. With so many wines out there it can be overwhelming to start looking for suitable options but it’s actually not that hard to find great wines in that price range. With just a few tidbits of information about your party or your host’s preferences, any Sommelier or LCBO product consultant can easily recommend a few great wine picks that will fit within your budget and work wonderfully for you this holiday season.
When it comes to picking wines for entertaining, it’s important to consider things like: (1) how many guests (5 versus 25 can make a big difference on how much you may be willing to spend per bottle or how many different wines you want to serve with your meal); (2) what kinds of foods you’ll be serving your guests (assorted hors d’oeuvres or a 5 course meal with salad, soup, mains and dessert); and (3) what wine preferences your guests may have (some people refuse to drink anything but white wine (like Pinot Grigio), while others won’t drink anything but red wine so it’s generally a good idea to have white and red wines on hand.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to spend a lot to get great wines. In fact, when it comes to entertaining often the best wines are some of the least expensive, and these wines tend to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. California red blends, California Chardonnay, or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are great examples of generally speaking very widely appealing wines. I call these wines ‘crowd pleasers‘ or ‘consumer friendly‘ as they’re affordable and most wine lovers find them super tasty. Wine critics may not always write in length about $10 or $15 wines but these are the wines that people buy by the case, year round, and they love them! Many wine critics drink these wines as their go-to wines and they love them! What more could you ask for than affordable wines that people love!? Seems like a winning combination for any gathering.
I’ve selected some great value-priced entertaining and host gifting wines below that are guaranteed to be well received and enjoyed by many this holiday season. Before we get to that though, here are some of my wine tips for successful hosting this holiday season:
Tip #1. When guests arrive, offer them a glass of sparkling wine – nothing welcomes a guest like a glass of bubbly to celebrate their arrival.
- Sparkling wine is super festive and there are terrific value priced sparkling wines out there, especially Prosecco and Cava. Canada
produces world-class traditional method (aka Champagne) sparkling wines too. Check out Benjamin Bridge, Blue Mountain, Jackson Triggs, 13th Street to name a few.
- Prosecco, which is a sparkling wine made in Italy, or Cava from Spain, can be purchased for as cheap as $12 a bottle in Canada, and since Prosecco tends to be slightly sweet it’s well suited for welcoming guests to your home, whereas a $50 Champagne may be best for that special toast or to enjoy with one of the 5 courses in that fancy meal. Offering a glass of $50 Champagne to everyone gets pretty expensive though, but a $12 bottle of Cava runs you about $2.50 a glass which is similar to the cost of a bottle of beer yet at the right time and place can mean so much more.
Tip #2. Have both red and white wines on hand regardless of the food your serving. Despite how well a Cabernet Sauvignon can pair with a roast beef dish, some really enjoy Pinot Grigio with whatever is on their plate so make sure you have options on hand. Certain whites and reds are super versatile and will work quite well with just about any food.
- Recommended (super popular) white wines:
- Sauvignon Blanc (such as Kim Crawford, Oyster Bay, Villa Maria, Riverlore, Creekside Estate, Frog’s Leap)
- Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio (such as 13th Street Pinot Gris, Grange of Prince Edward County, Poplar Grove, Luna Nuda, or any Alsatian Pinot Gris).
- Chardonnay (Oyster Bay, Beringer, Wolf Blass, Rutherford, Morgan Bay, Dreaming Tree, The Lane Vineyard)
- Recommended (super popular) red wines:
- Pinot Noir (Oyster Bay, Niche Wine Co, Meiomi, Inniskillin, Quails’ Gate)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (Montgras ($11.95!!!), Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Sterling, Rutherford, Domaine Boyar, Angels Gate)
Tip #3. Do some math when planning your party to ensure you don’t run out of wine…that’s pretty much the worst thing ever when hosting a party!
At a party where people drink mostly wine, plan on 2-3 glasses per person. A standard 750ml (26oz) bottle has 5-6 glasses in it. Plan on one bottle per two people. 10 people = 5+ bottles. Buy 8 to be safe. I recommend always buying extra to have some on hand.
- Do your wine shopping as early as possible. The closer you get to December 24 the busier the wine stores will be. Go once and stock up for the holidays. You can always return unused wine at LCBO stores with no questions asked. But seriously, you won’t have unused wine…
- Safety tip and responsible hosting essential: Download the Uber app to ensure you can get your guests home safe and sound. It’s super cheap and I highly recommend it.
Tip #4. Stemware…are plastic cups ok?
- If you’re hosting a kegger then plastic cups are fine, but for any hoilday gathering (formal or informal) where you’re serving wines I highly recommend getting some wine glasses! No need for different stemware for red and white wines, but if you have them already then plan ahead and put them out on the table for your guests to use. After all, white wine is best enjoyed in glasses designed for white wine and the same goes for red wines. Don’t get too hung up on that though at a casual holiday party. Any glass or crystal wine glass will do. Half Full Glassware & Accessories in Ottawa, CA Paradis, Home Sense, and Loblaws all have affordable options available year round. So does IKEA! Half Full and CA Paradis also have some of the finest stemware available anywhere if you’re looking for a high-end wine gift.
- Those red plastic cups are a lot of fun for playing flip-cup, but wine just doesn’t taste the same in them. Keep them for your summer camping trips
Tip 5#. Keep white wines chilled by storing in a bucket of ice.
- If you’re like most of us, it’s tough enough to fit a few bottles of beer in your fridge let along 12 bottles of white wine. My solution is to fill up a bucket or two (or a cooler) with ice (or snow!) and place your white wines in these ice filled buckets to keep them chilled. Space permitting, keep those buckets on a serving table with a towel underneath them. Remember, warm white wine makes it taste flabby and unattractive so keep them chilled. Red wines are fine at room temperature, and best between 16-19C so keep them away from any heat source, and out of the ice bucket, so they’re showing best when poured.
Tip #6. Serve a dessert wine after the meal for a sweet ending.
- Canadian Icewine pairs well with any dessert given its ultra rich and refreshing characteristics. Not cheap though at roughly $30-$50+ for a half bottle, but what a treat to enjoy especially in the winter months.
- Tawny Port, Late Bottle Vintage Port or Vintage Port are all fantastic with nuts, caramels, dark chocolate and sweet baked goods.
- Remember that the wine should always be sweeter than the dessert…otherwise it may taste bitter.
Tip #7. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a great hostess gift wine.
- You can always find a great bottle of wine for under $20, whether it’s a red, white, or bubbly. The wines I’m showing below are great value priced gifting options that will complement the holiday season. Also, check out some of my other posts where I’ve highlighted terrific value priced wines.
- Just because you spend more doesn’t mean the wine will be appreciated more by your guests. Sometimes ‘fancy’ wines aren’t crowd-pleasing, but if you know your host loves Burgundy or aged Rioja and you’re willing to pay $25-$50 then go for it. That will be well appreciated.
- To customize your gift try attaching a hand written note or recipe for your favourite complementary dish. If you don’t know what would pair with Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or Brunello, then simply Google it. Chances are you’ll find some great meals to complement that wine you’ve selected. This gives the recipient an idea of what to enjoy that wine with which will help ensure they get the most enjoyment out of that special gift. Writing that note shows the recipient that you thought about that gift and didn’t just grab the first bottle of wine closest to the checkout at the store while driving to their house (not that there’s anything wrong with that if it’s a decent wine, don’t get me wrong!).
- Don’t worry too much about picking the ‘perfect’ wine for a hostess gift. A gift of pretty much any store purchased wine is a nice gesture that will be appreciated.
Start with a warm welcome!
Greet your guests with a nice sparkling wine as they arrive at your home. Once you’ve taken their coats hand them a small flute of chilled sparkling wine which is a great gesture and serves as a very warm welcome. Keep a few bottles chilled on ice and use a Champagne stopper to keep the bubbles in while waiting for your guests to arrive.
Wolf Blass’ Gold Label vintage sparkling wine is reminiscent of premium Champagne, yet sourced from the other side of the world – Adelaide Hills, Australia to be exact. This tasty bubbly is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot from iconic Australian producer Wolf Blass. Ideal when paired with rich and fatty dishes, this premium vintage Australian bubbly would also be great when toasting special moments in your life. 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
There’s no surprise that this is one of the top imported premium Chardonnay’s in Canada, it’s certainly one of mine, especially at under $20! Beautifully balanced, the winemaker has managed to produce a wine where everyone will find something to love in that bottle. Layers of orchard fruit, bread, and a hint of caramel and flinty minerality, this lightly oaked Chardonnay is creamy and refreshing and so harmoniously balanced. Pair with shellfish, creamy pasta, fish tacos, buttered popcorn (and a movie), or simply enjoy on its own. Another terrific value priced wine from Oyster Bay. Tasted December 2015. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca **Limited time offer of $2 off at the LCBO until January 3, 2016…for a steal of a deal at $16.95**
A beautifully aromatic and flavourful expression of New Zealand Pinot Noir. Cherry, wood smoke, flint, and vanilla on the nose and repeat on the palate. A very expressive wine that delivers way above its price point. For under $20 you can not find better value Pinot Noir anywhere. Highly recommend trying this wine and enjoying over the holiday season and the next two to three years. Vintages release November 14, 2015. 91 points. Matt Steeves – www.quercusvino.ca
Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Duo Gift Pack has the best of both worlds, well the white and the red worlds anyway. California produces such crowd pleasing wine and these two gems deliver both on quality and value meaning you’re sure to please with this fantastic duo. Slap a bow on it and voila, you’ve got a very thoughtful holiday gift that’s sure to be put to use over the holidays…
Beringer’s value priced Founders’ Estate Chardonnay pays tribute to Jacob Beringer, Beringer’s first winemaker in Napa, dating back to 1876. The nose shows sweet tropical and orchard fruits, butter, and vanilla. Full bodied with a creamy texture, the palate shows more apple, vanilla, with a hint of butterscotch on the long and refreshing finish. A very versatile and consumer-friendly wine that’s great all year round whether celebrating over the holidays or chilling on a patio in the summer sun. Great value and a top pick for your own house white! Tasted November 2015. 89 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Ruby red colour; forward cassis, cherry and spice in the nose that follows through to the palate; dry and medium-bodied with ripe fruit mid-palate and fruity, spicy, vanilla oak in the finish, soft tannins. Terrific entertaining wine!
Horse Heaven Hills (H3) Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington is a blend of 99% Cabernet Sauvignon with a drop of Cabernet Franc for added complexity. 2013 was an exceptionally warm vintage with favourable conditions persisting well into the fall. The result is a big and rich consumer friendly wine. Deep ruby red colour, the nose shows rich blueberry pie, dark cherry, plum, clove, vanilla, and herb roasted beets. Yum! Full bodied and very flavourful, the palate is loaded with rich black currant, blackberry, blueberry, and plum that leads to a long fruity finish. Very impressive sub $20 wine. Enjoy with braised dishes, BBQ fare, flavourful cheese platters, or tangy hors d’oeuvres. Tasted November 2015. 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Legendary Australian winemaker Wolf Blass could not have picked a more suitable name to depict this fun and exciting crowd pleasing red, well, unless he called it the “Lyndsay Lohan” I suppose! Equal parts fun and quality, this crowd pleaser is sure to be a hit when served at any gathering. Packed with stewed dark fruit, spice, and so silky smooth, it’s the perfect blend to enjoy on its own or with hors d’oeuvres such as gourmet sliders. At ~$16 across Canada, this value priced big red is highly recommended for entertaining – a crowd pleaser that delivers on all fronts. Tasted November 2015. 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Awarded the Best Eco-Friendly Chilean Red at the 2014 Eco-Friendly Wine Challenge, this value priced Cabernet Sauvignon is a great example of the value you can get with Chilean reds. It can be challenging to find Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere in the world at this price, and that’s just one of the great features of Chilean reds…great quality at unparalleled prices.
The 2013 MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep ruby red, with smoky dark berries, black currant, clove, and mocha notes. The palate is soft and inviting, round tannins make this a terrific party wine that also pairs well with braised dishes, tangy meatballs, and BBQ fare. Enjoy 2015-2017. 88 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Creekside Estate Winery’s flagship red, Laura’s Red, is a complex Bordeaux-ish blend made of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. Deep ruby red, the nose shows savoury dark berries, plum, blueberry, charcoal grilled beef, pepper, and violets. Extra dry, the palate is refreshing with tart dark berries, underbrush, and fine grained tannins that provide the perfect texture to complement grilled beef dishes such as flank steak with balsamic bbq sauce. Enjoy 2015-2018. Tasted November 2015. 90+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Robert Mondavi’s Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon has been a crowd favourite for many years making it a popular choice for entertaining any time of the year. The colour is deep ruby red, the nose shows blueberry, cherry pie, clove, vanilla, and smoke. Full bodied, the palate is round and rich, with more blueberry and dark cherry that persist on the finish. A great wine to enjoy with rich tomato based pasta, seared steak with port reduction, or braised beef dishes. Tasted November 2015. 88+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Deep garnet red; wild red berry & cassis aroma; fresh fruit flavour, balanced wine, soft tannin good quality, easy drinking. Try pairing this rich and round Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Dark Chocolate Brownies…hello yes!!
Rich ruby red, this beautiful Barbera D’Asti shows subtle prune, blackberry, plum, licorice, tar, mocha, and cured meat on the nose. Medium-full bodied, the palate displays refreshing dark berries, sour cherry, licorice with a touch of grilled herbs. At 15% abv, this is a big wine that would pair wonderfully with braised dishes, rich mushroom risotto, or wood fired pizza with spicy sausage, peppers, and mushrooms. Tasted November 2015. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Kim Crawford’s ultra popular Sauvignon Blanc is a textbook example of expressive Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is full of sweet passion fruit, guava, and citrus, all interlaced with fresh herbal notes. Mouthwatering citrus and sweet lemongrass leads to a long tart fruit finish. Year after year, Kim Crawford manages to produce some of the world’s most popular wines at the most competitive prices. Enjoy wine crisp summer salads with creamy goat cheese, asparagus risotto with seared scallops, cheese rich hors d’oeuvres, or fresh oysters on the half shell. 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Using the natural beauty of fluorite stones, these limited-edition set of 6 wine gems keep a glass of the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc chilled for up to an hour, without diluting the wine’s vibrant flavors. Just put our gems in the freezer, then drop into your favorite glass of Kim Crawford wine. Best use: keeping you and your wine cool on a hot summer’s evening!
KIM CRAWFORD WINE GEMS BY RABLABS
Kim Crawford is proud to have partnered with luxury home goods company ANNA New York by RabLabs to create the Kim Crawford Wine Gems by RabLabs – a stylish reimagining of the “whiskey stone” for wine. Using the natural beauty of fluorite stone, when frozen these limited-edition wine gems are designed to keep a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc chilled for up to an hour without diluting the wine’s vibrant flavors. Blending beauty and function, the Kim Crawford Wine Gems by RabLabs are a chic alternative to ice and transform an ordinary glass of wine into an extraordinary moment.
The Kim Crawford Wine Gems by RabLabs are available at www.rablabs.com
To learn more about Kim Crawford and the collaboration with ANNA new york by RabLabs, visit www.KimCrawfordWines.com or follow us on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/KimCrawfordWines) and Twitter (@KimCrawfordWine).