Departments Quick Sips — 06 December 2019
The sommeliers suggest for the holidays

By Peg San Felippo

City & Shore Magazine

Our panel of South Florida sommeliers share some great wines for the holidays – and ideas to ensure everyone (including you) has a good time at the party:

Laura DePasquele, Master Sommelier (MS), VP/GM Artisanal Fine Wines, SGWS, Florida

Great wines under $30

Tiberio Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2017. When you need a little break from holiday excess and want to eat a little cleaner, pair this wine with a vegetable bowl of farro, wilted kale, goat cheese and sautéed wild mushrooms.

Bruja des Rozes Garnacha 2016. One of the most notable up-and-coming winemakers from rediscovered old-vine vineyards outside of Madrid. It’s great with cider-braised pork shoulder and caramelized onions.

Favorite wine over $100

Azienda San Giuseppe Stella di Campalto 2013. I’ve fallen back in love with Brunello di Montalcino, and this is my current favorite.

Entertaining tips

Order a Porchetta (pork roast), cut and spiced from a butcher. It’s super festive and delicious and all you have to do is pop it in the oven, bake, slice and serve. It makes outstanding leftovers, for porchetta sandwiches for late-night snacks or lunch the next day for house guests.

Take advantage of the Dollar Store for table decorations. You can find inexpensive candles, votives or small vessels to put outdoor greenery from your yard to brighten up the table and make small individual plant arrangements.

Holiday Memories and Traditions

I grew up in an Italian family of very modest means. One Thanksgiving my father brought home a bottle of French wine to celebrate the holiday and a new promotion, pronouncing this fancy wine as the one ‘rich people’ drank, Chateauneuf du Pape. He spent the entire meal repeating the name over and over. Chateauneuf du Pape, Chateauneuf du Pape ….

Ironically, all these years later, we celebrate Thanksgiving with long-time Miami friends and serious wine collectors with a large format bottle or two of … Chateauneuf du Pape. My father knew a good wine to pair with turkey when he heard it.

Cassandra Felix, Advanced Sommelier, Flagler Steak House, Palm Beach

Great wines under $30

Elk Cove Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2016. This wine is smooth yet lively, with notes of fresh bing cherries, pomegranate and ripe cranberries with silky tannins and flavors of strawberry, red plum and cola.

Bodegas Reyes Teófilo Reyes “Crianza”, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2016. This 100 percent Tempranillo wine, with notes of dried raspberry, strawberry and red plum, is balanced by hints of cedar on the palate.

Both wines are elegant and medium-bodied. The Elk Cove Pinot Noir pairs well with leaner meats, such as a duck, chicken, pork or even your holiday turkey dinner.

Spanish wines, such as the Teófilo Reyes “Crianza,” are often overlooked but can be of impeccable quality and value. The Tempranillo grape is extremely versatile at the table, pairing with a wide variety of dishes, well-suited for a cocktail reception. The underlying earthy textures of this wine are a great compliment to robustly flavored dishes, such a lamb.

Favorite wine over $100

Guigal La Landonne Côte-Rôtie, Rhône Valley, France 1989. This wine leaves me speechless. Extremely youthful despite its significant age, with aromas of truffle, dried violet and black pepper. It’s rich and robust with notes of blackberry, spiced blueberry and dark chocolate.

Entertaining Tips

Start with the “good stuff.” Although you would typically like to save the best for last, I recommend drinking your high-end wine selections at the beginning of your holiday celebration. This way your palate will be fresh to fully enjoy them.

Know your guests’ dietary restrictions and preferences as well as who would enjoy a beer instead of a Grand Cru Burgundy. Have a few special hors d’oeuvres (gluten-free/vegetarian etc.) to impress the guests that are usually unable to eat at most holiday parties because of dietary restrictions. Lastly, although the holidays are the perfect occasion to pop open and share the luxury wines in your cellar, be sure not to let “Aunt Nancy” make a spritzer on ice with your Puligny-Montrachet.

Holiday memories and traditions

Growing up, my family didn’t celebrate holidays in a traditional sense. My mom was a nurse and always worked Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I work almost all holidays as well. However, New Year’s Day — synonymous with Haitian Independence Day — has always held the most celebratory and cultural significance for us. It’s custom to believe that whatever you do or however you spend the day sets the stage for the year ahead, so it is important to surround yourself with good friends and loved ones. The most famous tradition and cultural ritual is soup joumou, the Creole term for the tasty and aromatic mix of squash, potatoes, meat, vegetables, herbs and spices.

My mom would cook it in the most massive pot. I would literally hide in that pot as a 4-year-old!  Every family would share their version of the soup with other family and friends. My mom inevitably took the lead on making it but three years ago, after watching her for many years, I made the soup joumou.  She was so proud she brought it to the hospital she worked at and shared it with her colleagues and friends. They said it was best joumou they ever had! To this day, it makes me smile that they couldn’t believe a novice cook could prepare such a tasty soup!

Mariya Kovacheva, MS, Brand Manager, Wine Division, Pernod Ricard, South USA

Great wines under $30

King Estate Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2017. Pinot Gris is a cousin of the popular Pinot Grigio. It’s ideal on its own and very food friendly. Pairs well with a diversity of foods, from seafood to pork and turkey; as well as with something with a zing, such as ginger-based dishes.

Campo Viejo Rioja “Gran Reserva,” Rioja, Spain 2012. Made from Tempranillo, this versatile wine is also terrific value. It carries great concentration of berries, dark cherry and spice. With its soft acidity, velvety texture and ripe tannin, it’s a great partner for oily grilled fish, any kind of meat from lamb to turkey as well as roasted vegetable dishes.

Favorite wine over $100

Domaine George Vernay Condrieu Coteau du Vernon is the quintessential expression of Condrieu in France. I have always liked Condrieu, but this Viognier is exceptional – from the delicate aroma of acacia, to the incredible flavors of white peach, apricot and almond. It is simply unforgettable, so elegant and persistent.

Entertaining Tips

Keep it simple! (If you are not sure ask your local wine shop for some guidance.) Choose well-known grape varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. For an eclectic touch, pick blends or select your wines from up and coming regions.

For outdoor events, the Govino stemless recyclable glasses are ideal. Serve your white wines well chilled and the reds at least at room temperature. Most people, especially in the warm Florida weather, like their white wines cold. I personally like my reds with a slight chill.

Have a few spare bottles of the wines you are serving on hand. That way you don’t have to make a last-minute run in case any of the wines are faulty (corked, oxidized or maderized).

If you do not want to deal with all this and be hands free, simply call it a Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) event. Have everyone share their wines with the rest of the guests.

Holiday Memories and Traditions

I love saving the empty wine bottles from a party. Last year over the holidays we had a few friends staying over and we painted those bottles the next day. It’s the perfect time of year for such an activity because it gets everyone together and builds long-lasting, fun memories. J.C. Santana, Certified Sommelier, Beverage Director, L’Atelir de Joel Robuchon and Le Jardinier, Miami.

Great wines under $30

Thibaud Boudignon, Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley France. This wine is 100 percent Chenin Blanc from Anjou in the Loire Valley. It’s dry with lovely notes of pears, peach skin, white flowers, excellent minerality and fresh acidity which make pairing and storing this wine a treat. I would enjoy this by itself or with some shellfish.

Villalobos “Vinedo Silvestre” Carignan, Colchagua Valley (Colchagua Costa), Chile. This wine comes from a forgotten vineyard, completely grown wild and up into the trees. (So much so the harvest includes ladders!) It’s the most unique expression of Carignan I have ever tasted, with notes of cherries, blackberries, black olives, bay leaf, menthol, lavender – and that’s just the nose! The well-integrated tannins and fresh acidity makes this wine excellent for pairings. I would enjoy this by itself on an autumn evening, but it also pairs very well with a variety of meats. Think beef, pork and wild game.

Favorite wine over $100

La Spinetta, “Gallina” Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy. When I feel the occasion calls for something more, I am completely in love with this wine. It goes so well with all the usual holiday offerings, and so much more. It’s a truly luxurious treat that can be paired with everything from white truffles to rabbit, as well as pernil and turkey. It’s a wine that benefits from age in bottle, but if you have a younger bottling, just decant for a few hours before serving. You will be the star of the evening.

Entertaining Tips

A great option for a party or entertaining is a quality punch. One of my favorite recipes falls somewhere between sangria and “large format cocktail” punch. The inspiration comes from a mulled wine, but does not cook the wine. Instead I choose to make a “tea” of sorts, utilizing cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves blended with a clear rum (Don Q Cristal works for me), blood orange, lemon and top off with a full bottle of dry Lambrusco di Sorbara (Cantina della Volta is my personal favorite). The punch sings of the holidays yet is refreshing enough to beat these warm Florida winters.

Holiday Memories and Traditions

My favorite holiday events remind me of Noche Buena with the family. I am Puerto Rican and it’s always a joyous occasion filled with excellent food, great drinks, singing and dancing which leads to many great memories. It’s easily one of the best nights of the year for my family.


Peg San Felippo’s: Nothing says celebration like bubbles! So be well stocked. While champagne is great, there are some terrific sparkling wines from regions around the world at every price point. So whether you and your friends like dry or sweet, don’t hesitate to start the evening with a toast. It will always set the tone to make your party or dinner truly special.




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