So whether you need to repay a kindness or just want something a little easier on the wallet this holiday season here are some recommended wines from some of the folks at our local wine shops.
At Arthur's at Belk in SouthPark, Balsley recommends some good deals. First up is the McManis Family Vineyards 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon for $11.99. This California wine was awarded a double gold medal this summer at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Another "great food" wine for the holidays is the Italian Varaldo Dolcetto d'Alba 2000 for $12.99. Dolcetto, an early ripener, is a low-acid red grape that is grown in Italy's Piedmont region. Of the seven Dolcetto DOCs in the Piedmont, Alba is thought to produce the best quality grapes. For New Year's Eve, a Champagne Balsley recommends is the elegant Trouillard Brut Rose for $34.99. The house of Trouillard, founded in 1879 in Epernay, is a small Champagne winery producing only 20,000 cases per year. Arthur's is located on the ground floor of Belk in SouthPark. Call 704-366-8610.
Chuck Richards at Reid's Seventh Street Station recommends a bottle of Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2001. This wine was developed as the house wine for California chef/restaurateur/entrepreneur Wolfgang Puck. Says Richards, "This is a great wine for this time of year since it goes well with ham or turkey." Plus it's only $10.99. If remembering names is a problem for you, Richards suggests Just Red for $11.99. This California North Coast wine is a blend of grapes, including zinfandel, which Richard says offers "a slight hint of spiciness." The cost is $11.99.
For white wines, Richards recommends the 2000 Grand Archer Chardonnay from Sonoma for $14.99. This is the second label of Arrowwood Vineyards & Winery of Glen Ellen. The majority of the grapes for the 2000 Chardonnay came from the Dutton Mill Station and Oak Meadows vineyards in Russian River Valley and is described by the winemaker as having "nuances of tropical and orchard fruit flavors ... and spiciness." Arrowwood and Grand Archer were bought by the Robert Mondavi family of wines in 2000.
Another white recommendation is Napa's Luna Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2001 for $20.99. Says Richards, "This is the wine that Robert Parker said "show me a better Pinot Grigio in the New World and I'll drink it.'" Wine Spectator gave this wine 91 points. Richard also noted that winemaker John Kongsgaard, who worked for Newton before Luna, was the first winemaker to come to Charlotte for the first Charlotte Wine and Food Weekend in 1988. Luna Vineyards is known for their Italian inspired wines. Their Pinot Grigio goes well with New Year's Eve oysters, or anytime shrimp, goat cheese, and rich tasting fish such as salmon, sea bass, and swordfish.
The Champagnes Richards cites include Billecart Salmon non-vintage brut rose for $89.99. This wine is also known as Billy Rose. "This Champagne will exceed your expectations," says Richards. "It's soft, smooth and will bubble all over you." He also notes that Mike Gminski, sports commentator, former NBA player, and frequent host of charity dinners, uses this as his house Champagne. Reid's Fine Foods is located in Seventh Street Station downtown. Call 704-377-1312.
At The Wine Shop on Park Road, Martha Faulkner likes Elsa 1999 Malbec from San Rafael, Argentina. "At $6.99, this bottle is a great buy," she says. Malbec, a black grape once commonly grown in Bordeaux, is the "star" grape of Argentina. Varietal Argentine Malbecs can be ripe and lush.
Faulkner also likes Napa Valley's 1999 Newlan Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay for $14.99. For sparking wines she recommends Champagne from the small family firm of Domaine Jacques Selosee. She likes their non-vintage, Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blanc for $59.99 for its aromatic character, and rich and creamy flavor. The Wine Shop is located at 2442 Park Road. Call 704-377-5373.
Some of the area's Harris Teeter stores have wine consultants stationed in their wine areas. Jamie Lambert works in the Cotswold Harris Teeter. Her current favorite wine bargain is the smooth 1999 Simi Winery Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for $19.99. Simi's winemaker Nick Goldschmidt says his wine "reflects the best of Alexander Valley's bright fruit characters and elegance." Wine Spectator gave this wine a 90 rating. Lambert also likes the Frei Brothers Reserve 2000 Russian River Valley Chardonnay for $14.99. This medium bodied 100 percent Chardonnay has some pear and apple notes.
Also on the shelves at Harris Teeter is a personal favorite wonderful for holiday drinking: the rich, dark berried, seductively spicy Rosemont McLaren Vale Balmoral Syrah 1999 ($49.99). Actually this is a great in front of the fire, stand on its own wine.
One of the most popular, under $10, sparkling wines for New Year's Eve is Washington State's Domaine Ste. Michele Blanc de Blanc, a medium dry wine from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley. This wine is widely available and competitively priced. Total Wine has this wine at $7.99. This is also a good wine if you are planning a sparkling wine punch or sparkling wine cocktails.
Do you have a restaurant tip, compliment, complaint? Do you know of a restaurant which has opened, closed, or should be reviewed? Does your restaurant or shop have news, menu changes, new additions to staff or building, upcoming cuisine or wine events? You can fax this information, at least 12 days in advance of event date, to Eaters' Digest: 704-944-3605, or leave voice mail: 704-522-8334, ext. 136.