Wine bar owners share their favorite pours and tasting tips.
Get festive with these fabulous pours recommended by some of our favorite wine shop owners. We love sharing these holiday recommendations that are paired with tasting and pairing tips just for you this season. Imbibe and indulge, oenophiles!
Owner and founder Cassandra Schaeg envisioned SIP as a destination to empower, inspire, and exchange knowledge while making wine and beer simple and fun and supporting women and minorities in the industry. She offers up the following favorites to indulge during the holidays:
- Kumusha Sauvignon Blanc: Created by Zimbabwe-born Tinashe Nyamudoka, who started as a waiter and wine steward in Cape Town, South Africa. Kumusha is a crisp fruit-forward wine with notes of melon, passion fruit and guava. This wine pairs with seafood, sushi, pasta, chicken and veal dishes.
- Kita Cabernet: Kita means “Our Valley Oak” in the native Chumash language. Tara Gomez, a Native American woman winemaker, turned her passion for wine to life with Kita's creation. Her 2015 vintage is fragrant and smooth with robust flavors of boysenberries, cedar and vanilla. The newly released 2016 vintage is silk and sat in oak barrels for 30 months. Pair with smoked meats, hamburgers and pizza.
- Chaos Theory: Named after the mathematical theory to explain complex systems, this red blend was created by David Brown of Brown Estate, the only Black-owned vineyard in Napa, California. Its fragrance of passionfruit, persimmon, guava, and gardenia meet a lingering finish that brings a subtle punch of flavor and balance. Pair with slow-cooked meats such as pot roast.
On the topic of wine tasting tips, she shares, “Virtual tastings are the temporary avenue to engage over wine. SIP Wine & Beer takes it up a notch by hosting acclaimed winemakers to be a part of our SIP | CONNECT | SHARE movement.”
Recent guests Donae Burston, Tara Gomez, George Walker III and André Mack have shared their journey, lessons learned, and bottled creations in an intimate setting. She adds, “Wine can be a catalyst for experiences. Use this time to study regions, try new wines, and journal your experience.”
Founded in 2019 by Sunshine Foss, Happy Cork offers a large selection of wine, spirits, and accessories created by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color ) producers and artisans. Born in Brooklyn to St. Lucian parents, Foss comes from a fashion design background, which she has used to full effect in the detail involved in her store. For her holiday wine selections, she shares the following:
- McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Riesling: One of our favorites. The perfect blend of sweet with a beautiful dry finish. Pairs well with meats, a delicious charcuterie board and a good dessert.
- Bosman Wines Nero: A beautiful expression of a Nero D’Avola, South African made using the finest of grapes. Medium body with just the right amount of richness. Pairs well with vegan or vegetarian dishes and meat. Another great dessert wine.
- La Fete Du Rosé: Another favorite we can drink all year round. La Fête’s delicious character and pairing flexibility make it the perfect choice for the holidays. Fantastic on its own but very versatile, so it pairs well with meats, fried chicken, and anything sweet.
- Cheurlin Brut Champagne: Great on its own but excellent with sweet and a good pairing for a holiday dinner.
As for wine tasting tips at home, Foss shares, “Open up your bottle a few minutes prior to tasting to allow the wine to open up too. Swirl your glass as that opens it up more. Take a nice big sniff, your nose is connected to what you’re about to experience. If you smell some notes in the glass, chances are you’re going to taste those notes when you sip. Allow the wine to hit the back of your mouth; your taste buds react differently. And if you’re drinking a white or a red, hold the glass by the stem, so you don’t warm your wine.”
Visit Happy Cork at 51 Buffalo Ave in Brooklyn and follow along on Instagram.
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At Good Wine, owner Heather Johnston, a Park Slope resident and professional chef, offers affordable wines from around the world. She is a Grand Diplome graduate of the French Culinary Institute and holds a Level 3 Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Trust of London. Here are her picks for the holidays:
- Domaine Saint Vincent Methode Champenois Brut NV: Light, crisp, with a delicate bubble, this wine is the newest project of Gruet, the vineyard that put New Mexico on the wine map. Made in the classic French-style with pinot noir and chardonnay, it offers flexibility, value and a festive label. It works great by itself, as a mixer for a spritz or with anything fried.
- Where's Linus? Sauvignon Blanc 2019: Bright and exploding with citrus, this natural-style wine aims for as little intervention and additives as possible. Unfiltered and unfined, it has a slightly cloudy appearance that only adds to the flavor. Made by African American winemaker Chris Christensen, this wine is a great match with all things goat cheese.
- The Alex Cooper Project 2014: This big, beautiful wine in an all-black bottle is made in partnership with African American vintner Rodney Alex. Designed to reflect the Italian roots of California zinfandel, the wine includes 17% petit syrah to add to the spice. On the palate, it offers juicy dark fruit and balancing tannins suitable with a roast beast fit for Dr. Seuss.
She shares a few tips for virtual wine tastings. “Make sure you allow time for shipping if your wine supplier is not local. Also, have an opaque mug on hand. If you don't like the wine, don't feel the need to finish it all. Dump it in the opaque cup,” she says. “Always ask questions, no matter how silly you may think they are. Participation makes for a much more dynamic experience.”
Visit Good Wine at 327 5th Avenue in Brooklyn and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
As the owner of the first urban winery in Davidson, North Carolina, Lindsey Williams, a lawyer turned winemaker, shares her deep appreciation for wine by bringing affordable and locally made wine options to the historic business district via wine tastings, bottling parties and more. Her holiday wine recommendations include:
- 2017 Stewart Ranch Pinot Noir Hill Family Estate: This wine tastes like the holidays in a glass. With notes of spicy cherry and dark roses, it is fruit forward with flavors of clove and spice. Would pair beautifully with fish or roasted chicken.
- 2018 Abbey Creek Vineyard Rose de Pinot: I'm a believer that you can drink rosé year-round. This one has unique notes of cranberries, citrus and floral. Any variation of a charcuterie board with soft cheeses would pair well with this crisp wine.
- Davidson Wine Co. Almond Sparkling Wine: You cannot celebrate the holidays without bubbles. Our version has a unique natural almond flavor that provides a fun, festive wine. Pair a glass with a decadent lobster dish or dessert—also a great mixer for your favorite cocktail.
When it comes to tasting room tips, she says to plan ahead. “Due to the current pandemic, many tasting rooms have had to modify the guest experience. Make a reservation when possible (especially if you want a coveted patio seat) and understand the current restrictions in place. At Davidson Wine Co., we are still focused on providing a great urban winery experience. It just looks a little different these days.”
She also recommends an open mind. “I cannot tell you how many folks have preconceived notions of which wines they will like. Going to a winery should be an experience where you try something different and expand your palate. There are so many different varietals and styles of wine—you never know what you may discover.”
Visit Davidson Wine Co. at 121 Depot Street and follow along on Instagram.
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So, which of these wines are you pouring for the holidays? Suggested selections are available at each wine shop. Be sure to call for ordering and shipping details and tag us with #whatsinyourglass on social media with your holiday picks.