Today on CTV Morning Live, CTV’s Annette Goerner, Leslie Roberts, Trisha Owens, and Sommlier Matt Steeves discussed Holiday Entertaining and Gifting, and Matt presented his top Sommelier-recommended wine picks for this holiday season. Check out Matt’s top picks below, and watch the CTV video link here .
As we enter the holiday season, there are many occasions where having a nice bottle of wine can come in handy. Whether it’s to take to one of many house gatherings over the holidays, to gift to a colleague at work, your neighbor, or tuck in a stocking for Christmas, selecting the appropriate wine(s) can make the difference between a great gift and a re-gift.
There’s no need to stress when it comes to selecting wines for gifting or entertaining. There are plenty of delicious and affordable wines that are readily available at your local LCBO and they’re guaranteed to be enjoyed.
The wines selected here are the result of scouring the aisles of the LCBO, and tasting hundreds of wines this past year, to select a short list of available wines that are perfectly suited for gifting and entertaining this holiday season. Whether you’re looking to spend under $20, or a few times that, these Sommelier-recommended wines all deliver with great quality and taste.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to spend a lot to get wines that will be enjoyed. While most people when given the chance will enjoy a $50 bottle of wine, but when it comes to entertaining, often the most suitable wines are not the most expensive. What I mean by that is you can get great value-priced wines at or below $20 which will work great for your holiday gathering, meaning you don’t need to necessarily splurge on $50 bottles when hosting your large group gatherings. If you can afford it then by all means, as everyone loves a fine Amarone or Barolo, but often an appropriately selected bottle at half that price can do the trick and resonate very well with your guests. I’ve selected a variety of wines that fit will in that camp, and a handful that are more premium (and premium priced) making them ideal for special gifts.
You do get what you pay for…so that $50 bottle of Amarone is worth it, and anyone that tastes it will love it! So when you’re looking for a special bottle for a special person in your life, consider spending a few extra dollars to get them something they may not otherwise purchased for themselves. The sentiment, memories, and emotions from enjoying a beautiful wine can last a lifetime…and that’s priceless! You’ll reap the rewards of your generosity, trust me!
The wines I’ve selected here are wines I find appeal to a wide variety of tastes – Italian Prosecco (bubbly), crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc, uber-popular California Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, storied Italian reds like the king of Italian wine (Barolo) and everyone’s favourite, Amarone, and another one of my favourites…Canadian sparkling wines, these are great examples of, generally speaking, widely appealing wines, including many that can be found at attractive prices making them great for buying in volume to serve at large holiday gatherings. Given the general likeability of these wines, they’re sure to be hits with any crowd.
Before we get into my top picks, one recommendation I like to offer for people looking to host holiday parties is to serve more sparkling wines. Sparkling wine is super festive, pairs great with practically all foods (especially hors d’oeuvres), and really steps up your hosting game when you greet your guests with a glass of bubbly upon their arrival and include a couple different options throughout the night.
There are a lot of great sparkling wines available from all around the world, two of my recommended styles are Italian Prosecco and Ontario traditional method sparkling wines. Italian Prosecco can often be found for under $20, and many traditional method sparkling wines from Ontario are half the price of Champagne but offer 100% of the quality, making them a great option when looking to serve premium bubbly without necessarily having to spend $50-$100 a bottle.
Since Prosecco tends to have a kiss of sweetness I find it’s well suited for welcoming guests to your home and serving at cocktail events, whereas a bottle of Niagara sparkling wine (although also great for cocktail parties, etc.), I find it’s perfectly suited for making that special toast with a small group, and makes a great statement when you serve it with one of the five courses in that fancy holiday meal. All that to say, incorporate more sparkling wine in your holiday entertaining and gifting plans this year and I’m sure your guests will thank-you for the festive fizz treat!
So, here is my Sommelier-recommended list of wines I’ve assembled that you can be sure will complement your holiday festivities and be appreciated by anyone that’s fortunate enough to receive one of these as a gift.
Starting out with festive fizz…
Ruffino Prosecco – $17.95
A very approachable (and value priced) Prosecco exhibiting beautiful orchard fruit and a pleasant note of fresh baked bread. Refreshing fine bubbles make this wine great on its own, yet pairs wonderfully with your favourite appetizers (and brunch!). This would make a great house-bubbly to keep on-hand (and chilled) for those impromptu celebrations, and a great choice for holiday entertaining, or to enjoy any evening! 89 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
13th Street Winery Cuvée Rosé Brut, Niagara – $26.95 ($3 off)
13th Street Winery Cuvée Rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, with a hint of Gamay Noir. Produced in the same labour intensive manner as Champagne, this traditional method sparkling wine offers great value and is a go-to for many when looking for a fine bubbly. Dry with lively acidity and a fine palate cleansing mousse, it has lovely field berries, cran-apple, strawberry shortcake/biscuit, and mineral notes. Perfect as an aperitif, or on it’s own, and made even better with smoked salmon, charcuterie plates, or fresh garden salads with strawberries. Such a versatile wine and terrific value for a traditional method sparkling wine. Enjoy now or cellar for a few extra years.
Tasted March 2015, January 2016, April 2017, and August 2019. A consistent 91 points each tasting. Matt Steeves – www.quercusvino.ca
Featherstone Premium Cuvée Joy, Niagara – $34.95 (Dec 7th)
Featherstone’s 2013 Premium Cuvée Joy is a great example of an award winning Niagara traditional method sparkling wine. The fruit for this Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) was sourced from the Featherstone Vineyard along the Twenty Mile Bench. Handpicked mid-September, aged on its lees, disgorged two years later, and bottle-aged since Septemer 2016, the wine has retained its fresh orchard fruit and mineral characteristics with the added complexity of nutty and toasty notes. A beautiful palate cleansing mousse that leaves you thirsting for that next sip. Very limited production, this makes a great gift for any wine collector to enjoy now and over the next 5 years. Look for it this holiday season at LCBO. Tasted November 2019. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Combining the best of Ontario traditional method sparking wine and iconic Niagara Icewine, adds a kiss of sweetness to this festive holiday perfect wine. Great with appetizers, desserts, and to serve when hosting a casual holiday gathering. A must try for anyone that appreicates fine bubbly with a touch of sweentess on the finish.
Kim Crawford Holiday Edition Sauvignon Blanc – $16.95 ($3 off)
Kim Crawford continues to be one of the most appreciated Sauvignon Blanc expressions around the world. The 2018 vintage shows the characteristics of Marlborough that the world has grown so fond of. Expressive passion fruit, guava, and grapefruit interlaced with sweet herbal tones. Mouthwatering citrus and lemongrass on the long crisp fruit finish. Year after year, Kim Crawford manages to produce quality wines at a great price making them a top selling brand around the world. Enjoy with seafood, lightly spiced Asian cuisine, salads, and fish tacos, and why not serve this with your holiday entertaining as Sauvignon Blanc is a terrific party wine! 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc – $19.95
This value-priced Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County, California, is chalked full of tropical and exotic fruits with a refreshing hint of herbal notes, making it a true crowd pleaser and a great wine to pair with a wide range of dishes from fish tacos, salads, seafood pasta, or simply with a friend and good conversation.
Produced in a very approachable style, with delicoius fruit on the palate and just a hint of herbal notes, makes it a great option for a go-to house white, given its versatality and easy-going style. If you know a Charlotte, that loves white wine, look no further than Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc. Tasted November 2019. 88 points. Matt Steeves – www.quercusvino.ca
This Californian Pinot is uber popular and ideally suited for holiday entertaining with its warm and inviting style…
Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, California – $27.95
Russian River Valley is among the world’s finest areas outside Burgundy for growing Pinot Noir. This wine is intense, with plum, cherry, beet, smoke and spice flavours. Pair with thick grilled pork chops, rotisserie chicken or grilled tuna steaks.
Enrico Serafino Barbaresco 2015, Piedmont, Italy – $29.95 (Dec 7th)
Barbaresco’s offer great value in a complex yet very approachable style even at a young age thanks to softer tannins and earlier drinking windows than many Barolos – the King of Italian wines and the neighbour of the impressive Barbaresco wines that are all produced with the Nebbiolo grape, yet show-up in a different style. Think of Barbaresco as the wine you enjoy the first decade while your Barolo is cellaring to start enjoying in the second decade of its life.
Enrico Serafino was founded in 1878, now 141 years later they’re going strong producing exceptional wines with their 2015 Barbaresco being a fine example! Cherry, spice cake, rose, leather, tar, and anise on the nose and palate. Great structure, the fresh acidity and soft integrated tannins make this wine perfect for enjoing with rich pasta dishes with aromatic truffles, soft cheese, or fireside with good company. An outstanding Barbaresco that’s ready to enjoy now yet will show beautifully over the next decade. Tasted December 2019. 93 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Barolo La Pieve, Piedmont, Italy – $38.95 (Dec 7th release)
Fantastic and very accessible Barolo that’s ready for enjoyment now, there’s no need to wait two decades to enjoy this one! Immediately upon opening you’re greeted by its complex bouquet of dark fruits, spicy and rustic notes – plum, sweet spices, floral, tobacco, tar, leather, and a hint of balsam. This value-priced Barolo is well balanced with fresh dark fruit, ample rounded tannis, and a refreshing finish making it a great wine to enjoy with roast beef, firm cheeses, and one of my favourites – wild mushrooms and truffle tagliatelle. Tasted December 2019. 92+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Farina Amarone della Valpolicella, Verona, Italy – $42.95
A robust and full-bodied Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico made from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara, Oseleta and Turchetta red wine grapes. Rich and weighty and elegant on the palate with dried fig, raisin, ripe strawberry, cake spice and savoury herb flavours on the palate. Pair with rich meat pasta and tomato sauce dishes. Drink: 2019-2023. Score – 93. (Natalie MacLean, nataliemaclean.com, May 25, 2019)
This large format (3L, double magnum) of a Veneto classic will make an eye-catching centrepiece at your family gathering. Elegant, smooth and balanced, it expresses tradition, terroir and passion with a luxurious decadence.
Marchesi di Barolo La Tradizione Barolo, Piedmont, Italy – $42.95
Because so many like Cabernet Sauvignon, the most popular red variety around the world, I’ve selected a few great value-priced options here…
Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, California – $27.95
Founded in 1959, Rodney Strong Vineyards has been under the stewardship of the Klein family since 1989. Vintage after vintage, this customer favourite offers up dark berry tones accented by cedar, oak spice, vanilla and smoke. This is a refined and textured wine that will work well with grilled lamb, steak or roast meats.
The Audacity of Thomas G. Bright Merlot Cabernet (Bourbon Barrel Aged), Niagara – $15.95 ($2 off over the holidays)
This value-priced Niagara Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend spent part of it’s barrel aging in Whisky barrels which enhances its flavour, texture, and crowd pleasing appeal. Look for rich dark fruit, black cherry, clove, chocolate and sweet vanilla on the finish. Enjoy with BBQ fare, spare ribs, chili, and spicy dishes all winter long. Tasted October 2019. 88 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Robert Mondavi Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon – $20.95
This limited release Private Selection label Cabernet Sauvignon from iconic Californian winery, Robert Mondavi, is one you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re a big fan of California Cab and Kentucky Bourbon! Robert Mondavi winery crafted this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown in Southern Monterey County and do they ever burst with notes of spicy dark berry compote, dark cherry, black currant, clove and sweet vanilla, each in great concentration. A portion of the wine spent an additional three months in new and used Kentucky Bourbon barrels which provides additional texture and flavour dimensions to what would have been an already very flavorful wine. A great wine to enjoy with rich autumn and winter meals, such as pasta dishes, stews, or classic BBQ fare. Available at LCBO Nov 12, 2017. Enjoy 2017-2021. Tasted October 2017. 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
Now, switchign gears into some great dessert drinks and cocktails for before and after your meals, or during your holiday party cocktail hour. Try some of these which are certain to impress your guests!
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine (great for cocktails!), Niagara – $79.95
Canada is renowned for its prized Icewine production, and Inniskillin is Canada’s original estate winery that’s become world-famous for their ultra premium Icewines. The 2014 Riesling Icewine is exceptionally rich and decadent. Equally refreshing, it’s perfectly suited for enjoyment with spicy Asian cuisine as the rich sugary texture provides the ultimate relief to the spiciest dishes. Equally incredible with the richest desserts, Icewine is so versatile it’s perfectly suited for enjoying with just about any meal you can imagine. Enjoy over the next couple decades, served chilled with good company. Tasted January 2016. 95 points. Matt Steeves – www.quercusvino.ca
Hayman’s of London, London Dry Gin, England – $35.45
Crafting spirits since 1863, Hayman’s has used the same family recipe since day one. This gin pours clear and has aromas and flavours of citrus, juniper, spice, coriander and white flower. Medium-bodied and fruity, with a refreshingly crisp finish, this is ideal to pair with smoked salmon or use it in gin-based cocktails.
Inn Fashion Cocktail (an Icewine twist on a storied Whisky cocktail)
1½ oz. Inniskillin Riesling Icewine
1½ oz. Scotch Whisky
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a rocks glass with ice. Stir to chill. Garnish with an orange twist.
Seasonality: Throughout the holidays, with New Year’s Eve being a great time to savour this fine cocktail. Ideal all winter long and also great as an after-dinner summer drink (basically there is always a great time to enjoy one of these cocktails).
Tasting Notes: A sweeter version of the age-old Old Fashioned cocktail, and just as smooth.
Snow-capped Gin Fizz: a fantastic Gin-based cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.
Try its frothy, snow-capped cocktail, the Gin Fizz. The secret to creating the perfect creaminess and froth is to shake it, shake it, shake it—and then shake it some more.
2 oz Hayman’s Gin
1 oz Fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 oz Simple syrup
1 Egg white (about 1/2 oz)
1 oz Club soda
Add the first four ingredients to a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) for about 10 seconds. Add 3 or 4 ice cubes and shake very well. Double-strain into a chilled fizz glass and top with club soda et voila! A delicious Gin-based cocktail for the holidays.
1.5 oz Gin
1 oz Dry Vermouth
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist and olive (optional).
White Lady Cocktail – Hayman’s London Dry Gin
- 35mlHayman’s London Dry Gin
- 25mlCointreau or Triple Sec
- 25mlFreshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 25mlSimple Syrup
- OneEgg White
- LemonTwist to garnish
Combine the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and dry shake
Add the ice and shake again
Fine strain into a chilled martini glass
Garnish with lemon zest twist
I hope you and yours get a chance to enjoy some of my top recommended holiday wines this season and perhaps that you find a few special bottles wrapped-up with your name on them too…