12 Days of WINE - The Best Libations for Your Seasonal Celebrations
The holiday season without wine is like Santa without his reindeer — it just won't fly. So our team at Muscardini Cellars has composed a list of holiday wines filled with selections that are sure to make your celebrations shine. We've chosen a variety of wines perfect for gifts, get-togethers, long days of cooking, and holiday feasts.
The theme of winter seasonal vegetables and roasted foods are common. So what are the best wines for the holidays? After a long day of cooking—and, oh, a few family dynamics—it's easy to be thankful for any wine. But if you want a standout that will work with every course of your feast, dessert included, you need selections like ours below. Read on for seasonal pairings, unique blends, and some of our favorites for the holiday season!
DAY 1 ~ 2012 TESORO
Proprietary Blend, Sonoma Valley, $52
To kick off our 12 Days of WINE we are excited to announce the new release of our flagship blend, our 2012 Tesoro. This vintage consists of 51% Sangiovese, 25% Syrah, and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon all from the Sonoma Valley AVA. We refer to our Tesoro red blend as a “Super-Tuscan” style blend. “Super-Tuscan” is a term that was created to describe red wines from Tuscany that included non-indigenous grapes, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The creation of Super-Tuscan wines was during the 1970’s when winemakers began mixing ‘unsanctioned’ wine varieties into their blends to make higher quality wines. Today, Michael creates his Super-Tuscan wine using premium Sonoma Valley fruit and calls it Tesoro. Michael’s mother came up with the name for this blend; Tesoro is the Latin word for “treasure” - and we can all agree that this wine is certainly a treasure to drink!
Our 2012 Tesoro easily complements any small bite, vegetarian option, or meaty main dish but we like to think regionally for a way to pair this wine with food. Tuscan food is notorious for its rich, hearty dishes like pasta and braised meats. Tomatoes are heavily featured in Tuscan cuisine, and their acidity is ideal for balancing super Tuscans’ bold flavors. While chicken couldn’t normally stand up to a Super-Tuscan on its own, regional favorites like pasta and tomatoes make a dish like chicken cacciatore an ideal accompaniment. If you want a standout that will work with every course of your holiday feasts (dessert included), you need to have this Super-Tuscan style blend stocked in your cellar.
DAY 2 ~ 2012 BARBERA
Pauli Ranch Vineyards, Redwood Valley, $38
Barbera is a red Italian wine grape variety and the third most-planted red grape variety in Italy. It produces good yields and is known for deep color, low tannins and high levels of acid. We get our Barbera from Bill Pauli, a grower in Mendocino County who grows some of the best Barbera grapes in Northern California. Pauli Ranch vineyards were planted just north of Ukiah on the valley floor. This bench land vineyard lies in an old riverbed with gravely soil, which helps to produce a full flavored Barbera. Barbera is the quintessential ‘wine of the people,’ and it’s meant to be enjoyed young.
Wines and foods that are single-noted can be made whole when put together, and this is the exact case with our 2012 Barbera. To complement our 2012 Barbera, we recommend pairing rich dark meats, mushrooms, herbs, herbaceous cheeses (like blue cheese), and higher tannin foods like root vegetables & braised greens. The bright acidity in this wine will make a rich fatty or high tannin dish complete – just like it complemented your Thanksgiving Day Feast!
DAY 3 ~ 2013 SANGIOVESE
Alpicella Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, $44
Sangiovese is special for 2 reasons; it’s the number one varietal grown in Italy and is grape Michael used to make his very first wine. Michael Muscardini’s passion for wine began with his grandfather who also made Sangiovese back in the 1930s. Michael gets his Sangiovese fruit from a number of growers but some of his favorite comes from Alpicella Vineyards, vineyards that lie high above Sonoma Valley. This organically farmed, fully sustainable, and dry farmed vineyard has been lovingly hand tended by Dan Sanchez for over 22 years. It is the highest elevated Brunello Clone #6 Sangiovese in America. Our 2013 vintage of Sangiovese from Alpicella Vineyards has lovely aromas of ripe berries, fresh violet, lavender, nutmeg, licorice, and earth. The flavors expand with notes of fresh picked blackberry, blueberry, ripe raspberry, sage, clove, and hickory-smoked almonds – perfect for the holiday season.
The tannins in our 2013 Sangiovese are highlighted with dark chocolate and smoke flavors followed by hints of oregano in the aftertaste to make this wine taste savory from start to finish. A few of our favorite seasonal pairings to accompany this savory Sangiovese include a strong Tuscan pecorino cheese, game meats, or gnocchi with a sage and butter sauce. Michael’s favorite dish to pair with this savory Sangiovese is a rich steak with a black peppercorn sauce.
DAY 4 ~ 2013 SYRAH
Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, $40
Unti Vineyards is a small family-owned and operating vineyard farmed to emphasize the relationship between plants and soils, without the use of pesticides or herbicides. The vineyard has been farmed organically since 2003, in an attempt to facilitate self-sustaining vines. Because Syrah grapes typically have thick skins and high tannins, it is a common practice for winemakers to cold soak Syrah grapes for days (or sometimes even weeks!). Cold soaking (aka extended maceration) increases color and fruitiness in a wine while also reducing harsh tannin and herbaceous flavors. This is the technique Michael used after harvesting the 2013 Syrah grapes from Unti Vineyards – he cold soaked the grapes for 4 days to male this a very approachable Syrah – one of our favorite wines for the winter.
Our 2013 Syrah from Unti Vineyards has a great mixture of smoky, meaty, herbal, and olive-y aromas and a firm structure that pairs excellently with red meat. This Syrah isn't so rich that it overwhelms side dishes either like some other full-bodied reds. For this reason we recommend pairing this wine with a garlic and herb rubbed beef rib roast – check out this recipe here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/herbed-rib-roast-104394
DAY 5 ~ 2014 ZINFANDEL
Los Chamizal Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, $42
These 2014 Zinfandel grapes are grown in one of the most historic vineyards in Sonoma Valley on a rocky hillside just north of the town of Sonoma. The grapes struggle to grow because of the rocky terroir and soil composition, concentrating the flavors. Before the Pinot craze hit Sonoma, there was Zinfandel. Sonoma receives more fog and cooler temperatures than Napa and other appellations, making softer and lusher Zinfandels just like our 2014 vintage from Los Chamizal Vineyards.
The concentrated flavors of the 2014 Zinfandel grapes make this wine immediately stimulate the senses. Lofty aromas of ripe berries, lavender, smoked meats, tobacco and cedar are followed by notes of fresh picked blackberries, boysenberry, juicy nectarine, cocoa, licorice and black pepper. The chewy tannins, bright acidity, and a long spicy finish of this wine make it a great complement with food. We recommend pairing our 2014 Zinfandel with lighter meats including Quail, Turkey, Ham, Lamb and Veal; hard and richly flavored cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses such as Manchego and Bandage-wrapped Cheddar; or highly flavored vegetables to bring out the fruitiness of the Zinfandel such as roasted tomato, caramelized onion, roasted squash, cranberry, and spiced apple.
DAY 6 ~ 2013 PETITE SIRAH
Trueheart Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, $48
This Petite Sirah fruit comes from a two acre vineyard only a mile from downtown Sonoma and is all head pruned. The grape clusters mature slowly in Sonoma’s Mediterranean climate, a combination of warm days and breezy nights. This rich and elegant wine is filled with big, ripe and juicy flavors of boysenberry, ripe blackberry, dried lavender, dark chocolate, herbs and fresh ground black pepper. It is one of Michael’s newest wines and has been enjoyed by many since it’s release last year. It’s received both a 90-point rating from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and took Gold at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
This full-bodied 2013 Petite Sirah has high tannins (and thus bitterness and astringency). This means you’ll want to match it up with something richer and more fatty to create synergy. With its bold fruit flavors, this Petite Sirah will match up nicely with bold exotic spices or herbs and if there is one thing to know about pairing Petite Sirah with food, it is that the wine deserves a food as big and as bold as it is. Some cheeses we love with this wine include aged Gouda, melted Swiss cheese, and fresh Mozzarella. Our meat lovers should pair roasted pork, barbecued beef Burgers or our favorite; Chicken in Mole Sauce for an epic pairing that won’t be forgotten!
DAY 7 ~ 2013 FORTUNA
BWise Vineyards, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Valley, $65
The blend is 40% Zinfandel, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah - all from the BWise Estate. Aged for 18 months in 35% new French oak, this seductive, robust red blend reaches new heights for artisan wine making (and it was snuck into this holiday case before making it’s way to the library). The grapes are all grown on BWise Vineyards in Sonoma Valley’s new AVA, Moon Mountain District. They have all been hand-tended and very well loved. We are the only winery to get BWise fruit and for that, we are very fortunate.
We have a list of Michael Muscardini’s favorite dishes that accompany a big robust blend like the 2013 Fortuna. His top picks are Roasted Pork Loin, Grilled Steak, Veal Parmesan, Fettuccine Carbonara, Mushroom Risotto, and Lamb Chops.
DAY 8 ~ 2013 RANCHO SALINA
Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Valley, $65
Rancho Salina is a hillside vineyard estate located two miles north of the historic Sonoma plaza on the western slopes of the Mayacamas mountain range at an elevation of 800+ feet above sea level. Grape grower Joe Votek and owner Dom Paino have combined their own talents to produce these ultra-premium quality grapes, which make up this outstanding wine.
The 2013 vintage is 66% Merlot and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, the first vintage that contains more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon making this a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend.
When pairing foods with any Bordeaux, you’ll want to seek out foods with umami and enough fat to counteract the tannins. A great example and complement to our Rancho Salina Bordeaux-style blend is steak frites (steak and duck fat fries). The boldness of the wine compliments the umami in the meat and the wine’s grippy tannins are smoothed out by the dish’s fat content. Beyond this, you can get creative with your pairings. Other meat pairings include black pepper steak, roast pork, filet mignon, beef brisket, pot roast, and venison. Basque Cheeses, manchego, Swiss, white cheddar, provolone, and pepper jack are all chesses that accompany this wine well. For our veggie lovers try roasted potatoes, lentils, mushrooms, or green bean casserole.
DAY 9 ~ 2013 MERLOT
Sangiacomo Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, $85
The Merlot is one of our highest acclaimed wines with a 96-point rating and 6 GOLD, DOUBLE GOLD, and BEST OF CLASS awards. The grapes are from the Sangiacomo Family Estate located in the Carneros region of Sonoma Valley. The Sangiacomo’s have been farming grapes in Sonoma Valley for over 88 years and are typically known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. They have a few rows of Merlot and we were fortunate to get our hands on these hand tended merlot grapes. The 2013 Merlot has attractive aromas of cherry cola, sage, licorice and fine French Oak and full-bodied flavors of raspberry, dried cranberry, milk chocolate and roasted walnuts.
Merlot wine matches with a wide variety of foods because of its position in the middle of the red wine spectrum. In general, Merlot pairs well with chicken and other light meats as well as lightly-spiced dark meats. With medium tannin and not too much acidity you’ll find Merlot pairs well with many foods. However Merlot doesn’t typically pair well with fish or leafy green vegetables unless they are braised or cooked a certain way. Spicy foods can also overwhelm Merlot’s nuanced flavors. With that in mind, we recommend pairing our 2013 Merlot with fine cheeses, roasted chicken, gourmet burgers and red meats. Our Merlot has a silky texture and a long graceful finish so some of our favorite meals include herbed Chicken en papillote, beef bourguignon, and spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and fresh roasted tomatoes.
DAY 10 ~ CASSATA RESERVE
Cassata Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, $68
This is Michael Muscardini’s newest signature blend consisting of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Malbec, 15% Zinfandel and 12% Merlot. The Cassata Vineyards are situated in beautiful Glen Ellen, California. The area is well known for its outstanding growing soils and climate. In the center of the property, a pond has been incorporated to act as a beautiful oasis for local wildlife. The pond also provides a much needed water resource. The entire property is managed bio-dynamically so that future generations can enjoy a pure and simple refuge in this isolated valley. From the moment it’s poured into the glass, this Cassata Reserve Blend is highlighted with lofty scents of ripe fruits, cured meats, dried herbs, nutmeg, tobacco, leather, and cigar box. In the glass, these aromas are complemented with deep flavors of dark cherry, huckleberry, cassis, black plums, and chocolate truffles. Drink now, or enjoy for decades to come.
Similar to our Fortuna blend, try this complex wine with richer cuisine. Blends are versatile and can therefor pair with an assortment of dishes. We recommend blue cheeses, grilled pork chops, complex stews, steaks, lamb shank, and other roasted meats.
DAY 11 ~ CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Madrone Ridge Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, $54
From the historic Valley of the Moon comes a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon! These grapes are hand tended by Bill Saunderson of Madrone Ridge Vineyards in the heart of Sonoma Valley. Cold soaked for four days and barrel aged in 30% new French oak barrels, this wine features pronounced aromas of dark berries, espresso beans, licorice, citrus peel, allspice, and cigar box followed by deep flavors of ripe blackberry, roasted plum, cherry, black olive, clove, and dark chocolate. The texture is rich with firm structure, smooth tannins and a long, rewarding finish. This wine is worthy of aging in the bottle for a decade.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the more complex and layered wines out there. It has higher tannins and a savory character often described as black pepper and tobacco. Because of those traits, look for foods high in fat and umami flavors for Cabernet Sauvignon food pairing just like we recommended for our Rancho Salina. Try our 2013 Madrone Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon with a charred Gruyere burger, a mushroom pizza with tomato sauce, marinated ribeye steak, braised short ribs, or mushroom stroganoff. The powerful umami flavors of these dishes will overcome the savory quality of Cabernet Sauvignon leaving the berry flavors out in the open to shine.
DAY 12 ~ SWEET VERMOUTH
Muscardini Mixology, $55
This is Michael Muscardini’s first ever red sweet vermouth. It’s made it by infusing our Pinot Grigio with 26 botanicals (see the list below). The botanicals give it a complex aroma and then he adds grape syrup to give it a dash of sweetness. After the botanicals are infused, Michael blends in grape brandy to bring it from 13% alcohol up to 17%. Mix it into your favorite cocktail or have it as Michael’s Mother and Grandmother did and drink it on the rocks before dinner!
Dried black figs, Dried pear strips, Crystallized ginger, Fennel fronds, Coriander seeds, Nutmeg pieces, Sage, Star anise, Vanilla, Lavender, Lemon balm, Rosemary, Cardamom pods, Chamomile flowers & fronds, Dried rosebuds, Lemon verbena, Anise hyssop, Rue, Lemon grass, Mexican tarragon, Mint, French thyme, Lemon thyme, Angelica tincture, Gentian tincture.