Holiday Selections from the Wine Society of East Tennessee
No holiday is complete without bubbles, and if you’re looking for high quality at reasonable prices, then Spain has you covered. While cava can be white or red, it is primarily made from the three grape varietals macabeu, parellada and xarello. At $15, Castillo Perlada Cava Brut Reserva from Penedes is a crowd favorite. A blend of 40 percent macabeu, 30 percent xarello, and 30 percent parellada, it possesses a citrusy liveliness with enough body to accompany early, light fare.
Another option in a similar price space of $15, Gruet Blanc de Noirs is a domestic sparkler made from 75 percent pinot noir and 25 percent chardonnay. The wine is carefully aged for 24 months on its lees (residual yeast) resulting in a complexity typically found in far more expensive bottles. Gilbert Gruet is most famous for his Champagne from the village of Bethon in France and in the 1980s brought decades of French Champagne experience stateside to New Mexico. The pale salmon-colored wine offers a full body and creamy texture delivering aromas of red fruits, along with hints of toasted vanilla.
AXR Chardonnay, around $40, is a well-rounded, vibrant white with good acidity and minerality typical of high-quality whites from Burgundy. Jean Hoefliger’s wide-ranging experience culminates in this grayish/gold-colored wine offering a butterscotch, caramel, dried fruit, citrus, honey and slate nose. A taste confirms the nose with the addition of vanilla bean, pear and pineapple. The wine offers great flexibility regarding pairings from cheese and charcuterie boards to fish.
For sauvignon blanc fans, Hedges Family Estate CMS at just under $20 is a Washington State sauvignon blanc-dominant blend with 23 percent chardonnay and 1 percent Marsanne. With a light straw color, this wine offers citrus aromas, and the palate is met with lively acid lemon and green apple flavors. While the sauvignon blanc is delivering acidity, the unoaked chardonnay provides wonderful mouthfeel. It pairs wonderfully with lighter fare like fish and seafood or simply by itself and is best enjoyed more immediately as it will not benefit from cellaring.
Niederhausen in the Nahe region of Germany is where you will find winemaker Weingut Donnhoff. Known for his dedication to quality, Donnhoff grows primarily riesling grapes as well as a small amount of pinot blanc and pinot gris. Donnhoff’s Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese is a figurative and literal mouthful. This offering is bright with hints of white fruits and citrus peel. It is sharp on the nose with hints of minerality (slate) which carries through on the palate offering medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel. Quality is apparent in this sweeter, acidic offering at around $35. It pairs well with a broad range of foods from spicy dishes to sharp cheeses. It complements nicely high-quality meat dishes to include those with rich sauces.
For those sensitive to sulfites, Beaujolais offers wines naturally made without the addition of the headache-causing compound from the gamay varietal. Jean Foillard’s Morgon Cuvee 3.14 flies low on the radar outside of France—a little-known gem. Limited are the wines that can diver this level of freshness and complexity. The grapes are grown and harvested organically from 100-year-old vines. The 3.14 runs around $70, while the Cote du Py from Foillard is another spectacular option for the more budget-minded at around $25, a real winner with charcuterie, pate, terrines, white-rinded cheeses but well-rounded enough to pair with the whole course.
Staying in France and the Burgundy region, the Pierre Gelin estate was established in 1925. At $25, Gelin’s Fixin is a bargain which will impress even the most discerning Burgundy fans. Tart cherry and cranberry jam notes can be found on the palate along with the typical earthiness found in pinot noirs from this region. Pairs with roasted bird, duck and casseroles.
The final recommendation comes from the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a Boudreaux (right bank) blend of primarily cabernet sauvignon with merlot to include small amounts of petit verdot and cabernet franc with a $55 price tag. The wine is ruby and opaque purple. The palate offers dark blackberries, cassis, espresso and dark sugar. It is full-bodied with chalky tannins with a long, intense, mineral finish and pairs well with rich, flavorful meats like steaks, brisket, pork, turkey and heavy casseroles. It can also benefit from decanting.
The Wine Society of East Tennessee was founded in 1977 by a small group of wine aficionados in the Knoxville area. It has steadily grown over the years and currently has an average membership of about 150 memberships, 10 restaurants, six wine and spirits retail stores and five distributors. It is a not-for-profit organization controlled by a board of directors consisting of volunteer Wine Society members.