We've got all the wine tips, suggestions and selections so you can imbibe with spirit and give the best gifts this holiday season

Brace yourself, liver… the holidays are rapidly approaching so most of us will be clinking wine glasses with alarming regularity from now until the New Year. As ever, this column is all about drinking local so here’s a festive special to help you navigate the season like a B.C. wine pro.

1. Ask a Somm: Essential holiday drinking

jillWine Director Jill Spoor is one of my favourite somms in town over at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, here’s her recommendations for holiday wines to please everyone.

“The festive season is a perfect excuse to indulge in wines which are rich and opulent, not that any of us need an excuse for that!

For all your holiday hosting or for gift giving ideas, choosing a fuller bodied sparkling wine will immediately get everyone in the festive spirit. Tantalus Blanc de Noir is perfectly suited, made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes, this Sparkling Rosé not only sparkles, but shines. The Sperling Vineyards Brut Rosé, is another B.C. beauty.

When preparing for Christmas dinner, stock your shelves with white wines that are equally as rich as the many dishes prepared with butter. Meyer McLean Creek Vineyard Chardonnay is the answer to all things creamy. Checkmate and Anarchist wineries also produce beautiful examples of a similar oaked style wine.

With colder weather, there’s nothing more inviting than settling in by the fire with a big glass of red wine. La Stella Maestoso proves that Merlot is truly majestic with velvety layers of black fruit. My most recent obsession is Bottega Merlot from the certified organic vineyard, Kozier, located on the Naramata Bench.

Port style wines are desserts unto themselves but who can resist pairing with chocolate and Christmas cake? Quails’ Gate Fortified Vintage Foch is my local favourite.” 

2. Give the gift of booze

wineThere’s something quite magical about giving wine as a gift; it can either say to a loved one ‘I totally get you; here’s something you’d adore’ or it can cover a multitude of ‘I have to get you a gift and I’ve no idea what you’d like’ situations too.

This may be pretty spendy, but it’s also completely brilliant: Road 13 Platinum Pack with a 2009 Sparkling Chenin Blanc, 2011 Syrah Malbec, 2013 Syrah Malbec, 2013 GSM, 2014 Syrah Mourvedre, and 2014 Similikameen Collective GSM. These wines are only available in the pack and all of the wines have received a Platinum Medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada. It’s $599 plus tax and comes in a fancy-ass box.

I adore Bella wines, and their wine club has a cool entry level ‘Pétillant’ for $190 which gives treats all year: You’ll receive two bottles of rosé and an Ancestrale method sparkling wine in spring and then two bottles of brut and a reserve wine in the fall. 

Nothing is more wonderful than wine with cheese, so sign up to the ‘curds and corks’ club at Upper Bench Winery and Creamery to bag six bottles of wine and three perfectly paired cheeses, along with a raft of extra goodies including free wine and cheese tastings, 15 per cent off purchases and an invite to their annual party. It’s $180 each quarter plus shipping.

Behold! The perfect stocking stuffer and pre-party sharpener, a 275ml bottle of Haywire’s sparkling ‘Baby Bub’ rosé is just $19.90 including tax. A heavenly whoosh of strawberries and fizz for under $20.

3. Wine Shop 101: Ace the Christmas booze-buying experience

Wine proJak's

Most of us will be buying substantially more wine than usual throughout December, so to save any in-aisle confusion, I asked Lindsay Kaisaris from Jak's Beer Wine and Spirits at Cherry Lane how to shop like a pro. Oh, and my recommendation? Go to a specialist wine store, the people there know their products and want you to have an amazing experience.

 “When you arrive at the wine store, try to show up knowing the answers to three easy questions because there’s a lot of wine out there and no store has it all. First: what is the occasion. Tell us why you want to buy the wine: a holiday party or a special dinner? Maybe it’s just a bottle of bubbly to drink by the fire. Next, what’s your budget. Don’t be embarrassed if you want something cheap; we drink cheap wine too sometimes! It’s just that we know the good ones and like to share that information. Finally, who’s it for? Is it for you? For your colleagues who usually drink beer? This really helps product consultants and we can go ahead and find you two or three great options from this information.”

“Think about learning to describe what you like; perhaps you want a Merlot, but there’s a lot of Merlot out there and a Californian wine is going to be very different from a B.C. wine. There’s no need to be a nerd about it but think about what you do like in a wine: is it full bodied, jammy and fruity or do you maybe like something like a Riesling because it’s sweet but not sickly?”

“Understanding how to describe acidity is helpful too; maybe you like something with a zippy acidity, say like Lock and Worth’s Sauvignon Blanc which is bracing like a lemon soda, or perhaps you prefer something a bit more voluptuous such as a Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc, that’s soft and round.”

“When you drink a wine that you like, take a photo of the label with your phone! Tell us what you liked about it, that is always so helpful. And finally don’t be embarrassed about what you want. I remember helping a customer with a very confusing request, I kept asking questions, she had no answers and—20 minutes later—it turned out that she really just wanted a specific kind of bottle to make a Pinterest craft! Just ask; we’re on hand to have an excellent array of wine for all occasions and budgets!”

4. My top 10 to take you through the holidays

wine

  1. Stoneboat Rosé Brut: Have this chilled and ready to go for Christmas morning. It’s perfect for toasting in the day, while dressed in your brand new PJs and robe. Packed with citrus and raspberry notes and fizzing with fine bubbles, this is best paired with clementines and the tearing off of gift wrap. 
  2. Quails Gate Connemara 2015, $59.99: Pricey, but my gosh, this luscious blend of Bordeaux varieties is definitely the wine to wow with if your holiday plans include any fancy dinners at home. Decant for an hour or so, then pair with red meat or aged hard cheeses, and swoon over its blueberry and lush spicy notes. 
  3. TH Wine Cabernet Franc, $29.99: Say hello to your new favourite turkey wine; this gloriously juicy Beaujolais-style red is silky with zero tannins. Chill off in the fridge and serve with a smile. 
  4. Sperling 2013 Pinot Blanc Icewine, $49.99: Luscious is the only word for this divine Icewine made from 100 per cent Pinot Blanc grapes: sweet, delicious, decadent; just right for a Boxing Day movie and cheese marathon. 
  5. Sperling Market Red 2016, $20: I know, two from one winery - but this is just great; juicy and fresh, with bright red cherries and a balanced spicy end. Total crowd pleaser. The wine to bring to dinner with your friends who usually drink beer. 
  6. Bench 1775 2014 Spirit, $24.90: This wine club-exclusive is basically a reason for joining right now; 100 per cent Petit Verdot done in a port-style, it’s the perfect pairing with pâté and cheese. Break it out Christmas night and let the good times roll. 
  7. Indigenous World Wine Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Single vineyard, $32.99: Take a break from fussy fancy foods and pair this voluptuous, silky treat with blackcurrants and spice with a juicy steak. I guarantee instant happiness. 
  8. Mission Hill Pinot Blanc Reserve 2016, $16.59: You know what shouldn’t work with this? Christmas cookies. But they TOTALLY DO! This is a yummy well-balanced workhouse of a wine: great price, total crowd pleaser, lemons, a little oak and spice and seems to go great with almost anything.
  9. Calliope Sauvignon Blanc 2016, $17: Insanely crushable day-drinking wine to pair with your favourite cousins/drinky aunt. Crisp, dry and super refreshing, this has a lovely pebbly mineral note with bags of grapefruit, lime and passion fruit. Dangerously drinkable.
  10. Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2015, $24.98: Give this baby a little air (decant and swirl!) to blow off any funk and then revel in its velvety blackcurrants and dash of green pepper. Fab representation of a B.C. wine from Lillooet, great price, and exactly the thing to bring out to impress out-of-province visitors.