Seven Wines to pair with the Feast of Seven Fishes

The holiday shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come and gone, and everyone is probably a little lighter in the wallets because of it. So now that most of the materialistic aspects of Christmas are in our rearview mirror, its time to focus on what is truly important this season…family and friends coming together to celebrate this most joyous holiday. My family partakes in the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve, and it is always one of the most memorable meals of the year. I generally have the honor (and the pressure) of selecting the wines to go with the meal…talk about stress!

The traditional fishes that are served in the Feast are Calamari, Scungilli, Baccala, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and some type of big fish (usually a snapper, sea trout, tuna or large shellfish like lobster or crab). However over the years the rules on what fish to serve have really loosened up, so these are by no means set in stone. What’s really fun about this meal is the fish can be prepared in so many different ways that it leaves your wine options wide open

Most of our dishes are prepared in a red marinara sauce (even the lobster tails and crab legs!) so I usually load up on reds for the main course, with some whites for the apps. But I know many families do the complete opposite and use a lot of white wine and cream sauces that lend themselves to a night of whites. Although if there are any old school Italian men attending your Christmas Eve dinner, I would highly recommend having some reds on hand…otherwise you may be sleeping with the seven fishes!

So below I have compiled a list of seven wines that are no brainer pairings for your Christmas Eve Fish Fest. There are literally hundreds of wines that will compliment this meal, but these seven wines are what I believe to be the best options based on various varietals, style and budget.

WHITES

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina Sannio 2009 ($13-20)  –  Forget about Pinot Grigio! This is hands down my favorite white wine to pair with shellfish. Intense fruit and crisp acidity that is accentuated by just about any chilled seafood.

Dynamite Chardonnay North Coast 2008 ($7-10)  –  Tremendous value and one of the better seafood Chards out there, very fruit forward with just hints of oak and butter.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier California 2009 ($10-15)  –  Loaded with citrus and lemon lime flavors, perfect for those white wine clam sauce dishes.

REDS

Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2007 ($18-25)  – The Wine Enthusiast #1 Wine of the Year…and quite affordable. Perfect for those Fra Diavolo sauces, just be sure to let it breathe for about an hour before serving…makes a big difference for this wine.

Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($20-30)  –  WWG #1 Wine of the Year! This wine drinks like a Sonoma/Napa Cab twice the price. Pair it up with any of your heavy seafood or meat dishes for the night if you forego the whole seven fishes theme.

Tormaresca Neprica, IGT Puglia 2008 ($8-12)  –  This is a bright red wine with lots of spicy red fruit and floral aromas. If you’re looking for that solid $10 bottle of red, this is it.

Taz Pinot Noir Santa Barbara 2008 ($20-25) – A Pinot with some balls! Cherry and berry fruit but with a real solid backbone to it. Great for the apps but can stand up to the heartier dishes as well.

BONUS WINES

Gaja 2007 Magari, Ca’ Macanda, Toscana IGT ($80-90) & Gaja 2007 Promis, Ca’ Macanda, Toscana IGT ($50-60)

Angelo Gaja is infamous for his Barolo and Barbaresco wines that usually fetch about $200-400 a bottle. These two Super Tuscans give you a chance to sample some of his outstanding juice at a relative value. Granted $50-90 is still a good chunk of change to spend on a bottle, but these are both pretty special wines that are sure to enhance your Christmas Feast.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas filled with family, fun, love and good fortune. Next post will be in 2012, hope to see you all here in the New Year!

Check out WWG in the Latest Wall Street Journal Article!

Check out this very cool article by Lettie Teague from the Wall Street Journal with some insight and quotes from the Westchester Wine Guy (aka Marshall Tilden III)! While wine and wine storage are always the top priorities, during the holiday season the wine accessory business is huge, especially for the industry giant that is Wine Enthusiast. So if you are looking for some gift ideas for the holidays, or just a good read, click on the link below. Cheers!

http://on.wsj.com/rIczm7

Duckhorn offers something for everyone’s taste and budget!

While the movie Sideways rejuvenated the wine world about 7 years ago, there was one mild casualty…Merlot. It suffered a damaging blow that it may never fully recover from in the US. Miles’s drunken and aggressive proclamation that he will not drink any f*&#in’ Merlot was heard around the country and taken to heart. However the sentiment has started to change over the last few years and Americans are beginning to embrace one of the more prolific grapes utilized in almost all the US wine producing regions. Of all the Merlot that is out there, no one does it consistently better vintage after vintage than Duckhorn Vineyards.

While Duckhorn is most recognizable for its Merlot, it’s their Cabernet Sauvignon that has been gaining some stature over the past several vintages, and for good reason. The 2005 Estate Napa Cab was one of my favorite wines from that entire vintage and the 2007 Napa Cab just received 95 points from Wine Enthusiast. Not that professional ratings mean everything… but that is a big freakin’ score! Even more impressive to me was the 2008 vintage I just had the pleasure of sampling. Truly a well rounded and wonderful wine to drink now, or to lay down in your cellar to age for a few years.

Granted, these Duckhorn Cabs and Merlots are not cheap. So if you are looking to enjoy some of their juice on a more affordable level, then the Decoy line of wines may be up your alley. These are a little bit more approachable (meaning they are ready to drink without aging and are typically fruit forward) and are available in Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel and the original Decoy Red Blend (my personal favorite). All of these Decoy wines will be around $20 or less and offer tremendous value as they are made in a similar style as Duckhorn’s higher end wines.

For the Pinot lovers, Duckhorn’s Goldeneye Vineyards are producing some of the best Pinots to come out of the Anderson Valley. Goldeneye Pinot comes from four different vineyards and offers premium wines with the quality, accolades and unfortunately the price tag to back it up. And for all the ZinHeads, don’t overlook the Paraduxx Red Blend.  This big and spicy Zin based Napa blend has a healthy dose of Cab added and is a cult favorite in certain circles. For a moderately priced Napa red, this wine can hold up to some of the top tier Zins that cost twice the price…and makes for a great steakhouse wine!

Here’s the bottom line: when you have a hankering for some quality CA juice and are looking to spend $20, $100 or somewhere in between, Duckhorn has all the bases covered. Their style is consistent and recognizable throughout their various vineyards and vintages, which allows Duckhorn fans to purchase these wines with a high degree of confidence that they will be pleased with their selection. Lastly, Duckhorn has always been, and continues to be, a high class organization and a staple in the Napa Valley. So if you find yourself in that neck of the woods, be sure to head over there for a visit and tasting… just tell ‘em the Westchester Wine Guy sent ya ;)