For this appetite-laden gal, the holidays mean quality time with family, delicious home-cooked treats and lots of chances to toast with loved ones. And, this year, it is my goal to up the ante on those toasts. How? By breaking free of my staple drinks and seeking some fresh potent potables to serve and give as gifts.
In my eating life, I'll try fried chicken feet, squeaky frog legs and even larva from Mono Lake (don't ask). But, when it comes to stocking up on adult beverages, often I stick with my old reliables—a familiar cab, a bubbly prosecco and the same tired beer variety pack.
But not this time. This year, I've sought out some professional and inspirational advice about what to purchase at my favorite package stores in the neighborhood. 2010 will go down in history at my house with a variety of varietals.
My first stop was , to talk with P.J. Zavada, the spirits buyer and his brother, wine guru Mitch. They've helped Dan Campo, the son of the founder, to build the place into an award-winning liquor store.
P.J. offered up some great and affordable seasonal beer ideas, the first being a Christmas Ale by Great Lakes Brewing Company. "This holiday ale brewed with honey and spices is a great dessert on its own," he advised and also suggested two selections that pair well with hearty winter meals —Twelve Days, an English ale from Hook Norton Brewery and Saison Dupont, "a simple bright ale with hints of citrus and spice."
He also put forth some compelling spirit choices, like Hangar One's Spiced Pear Vodka. Although not a big vodka fan, P.J. felt this was, "Perfect served neat from the freezer." Or for the more traditionally-inclined, a bottle of Drumgray Highland Cream or Bache Gabrielson VSOP Cognac might be more appropriate. The first is a creamy alternative to Bailey's made with single malt whisky and the second, a brandy that PJ called, "A fantastic value!"
His brother Mitch added two versatile wine recommendations that go with just about any meal. The 2008 Bruno Clair Marsannay "Les Longeroies" from Burgundy is a match for slow-roasted meats, while the more affordable 2006 Casa Ferreirinha Esteva Douro from Portugal at just $11.99 is, "inviting, with bright fresh berry fruits and floral aromas, and dang if it doesn't feel good."
Next, I checked in with John Glas, a Twin Cities wine reviewer who runs public and private wine tasting events and has been featured in City Pages and other local press. He had a wealth of delectable vino options for me all of which were available at Linden Hill's , also a family-owned local venture.
"Bubbles are always nice at holiday parties," Glas opined, and listed the Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV Champagne and 2006 Domaine Carneros as a few of his favorites. Glas also suggested a 2009 St. Urbans-Hof Riesling as, "a nice way to start an event," because it goes well with fresh fruit, cheeses and seafoods. And, he understands that many folks aren't well-acquainted with Rieslings (I'm one of those people).
For more meaty pairings, Glas selected the reasonably-priced 2007 Duxoup Syrah Dry Creek Valley with roast beef and the 2005 Meek Family Estate Syrah, which he called, "one of the top Syrah wines under $30 in the world," with barbeque, meatballs or ribs.
And as for non-American red choices from France 44's shelves, Glas liked the Chilean 2007 Finca Decero Cabernet Remolinos Vineyards, to "Try with a meat dish or aged cheddar," as well as the 2005 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva, a Spanish pour with, "raspberries, spice, wood, floral," that is, "drinking really well right now," according to Glas, who's known for his popular wine clubs.
These guys have put a spring in my event planning step, as I head to the liquor store armed with new ideas. Now, I'm prepared to impress even my fanciest friends with the appropriate tipple regardless of meal or occasion. Feel free to enjoy my list -- and its professional roots. Or follow up at these locations in the neighborhood to find the perfect bottle (i.e. buying for the in-laws) for your holiday festivities.
The Purveyors of Goods and Knowledge:
- 5300 Lyndale Ave S., 612-827-5811
- 4351 France Ave S., 612-925-3252
John Glas - for private and public tastings, wine education and more information
Beer, Spirit and Wine Recommendations
From South Lyndale Liquors:
Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company - $11.99 six pack
Twelve Days from Hook Norton Brewery - $5.99 pint
Saison Dupont from Brasserie Dupont - $10.99 750 ml bottle
Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka - $29.99 750 ml bottle
Drumgray Highland Cream - $23.99 750 ml bottle
Bache Gabrielson VSOP Cognac - $34.99 750 ml bottle
2008 Bruno Clair Marsannay "Les Longeroies" - $38.99 (on sale)
2006 Casa Ferreirinha Esteva Douro - $11.99
From France 44 Wine & Spirits:
Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV Champagne - $49.99
2006 Domaine Carneros (Taittinger) - $26.99
2009 St. Urban-Hof Riesling QbA - $16.99
2007 Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon Remolinos Vineyard - $19.99
2007 Duxoup Syrah Dry Creek Valley - $14.99
2005 Meek Family Estate Syrah - $24.99
2005 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva - $29.99