Ah yes, the holiday season. It overflows with extra food, extra family time and – if we’re lucky – lots of extra drink to get us through that extra family time. Of course it also brings the ubiquitous holiday party as well – thrown by your neighbor, your friends, your boss or, again, your family.
This time of year, it seems like everyone I know asks me for suggestions on what wines they should take to all of those parties.
Maybe your friends try to serve you koolaid-like white zinfandel or cheap, way-too-simple-for-the-holidays Aussie shiraz with a furry creature on the label. Heck, maybe they *gulp* try to serve you wine in a box.
Or, on the complete flip side, perhaps you’ve been invited to the home of a real wine aficionado and you don’t want to bring a crappy bottle of plonk and embarrass yourself.
I’ve been in each of these situations and trust me, there is a solution to every vinological quandary – and you can find them right on this overgrown sandbar that we call Long Island. Just follow these tips and suggestions.
First, don’t stress out. This is the holidays, a time rife with enough stress that what wine to bring to a party shouldn’t cause more. They are supposed to be fun, remember that if you remember anything.
Think food friendly and affordable. This is particularly true if you’re going to a larger, more casual shindig. Don’t spend a lot here – you never know if it’s going to be opened as soon as you walk in or who will be drinking it. Try to pick a food-friendly, versatile wine, that will go well with a wide range of foods. Macari Vineyards 2006 Early Wine ($15) or Raphael 2004 Estate Merlot ($16) are terrific options here.
Avoid embarrassing the host. Sure, the wine he is serving is terrible – but you don’t need to rub it in. Bring your own wine and dodge the plastic cup of box-wine “Burgundy” by saying “Hey, a friend of mine told me about this wine and I thought I’d open it tonight. Do you want to try it?” Nine times out of ten, you’ll be drinking the good stuff in no time.
Impress your boss. She has a cellar filled with the best Bordeaux, California Cabernet Sauvignon and White Burgundy. Of course, you don’t want to spend that kind of money – and she knows more about them than you anyway. My guess is that she doesn’t know much about Long Island wine, or if she does, she doesn’t know that there are world-class wines made here. Pick up a bottle of anything labeled “Grand Vintage” from Paumanok Vineyards, anything “Old Vines” at Lenz Winery or anything red at Roanoke Vineyards. They will cost you from $30-60, but this is your boss. She has control over your annual raise, right?
When in doubt, bring bubbly. Sparkling wine is welcome at any party. Find me a party where it’s out of place and I’ll show you a seriously lame party. Wolffer Estate, Lenz Winery, Lieb Family Cellars and Martha Clara Vineyards all have terrific sparklers. Plus, yours will be the only bottle of local bubbly at the party. Just don’t call it Champagne.
Give the gift of wine too. Wine is a terrific gift outside of parties as well, especially if it’s thoughtfully packaged or is a little different. Peconic Bay Winery makes one of my favorite local Rieslings and right now they are offering gift packs with one bottle each of their 2000, 2003 and 2004 vintages for $75. These vintages aren't available anywhere else and there are only 30 of these packs available, so get one today before they are gone. Or, if you want to get something for your favorite Long Island wine writer (it’s me, right?) feel free to buy me one. Or, their Cabernet Franc two pack or Chardonnay three pack. Osprey’s Dominion offers similar flights.