Wine and spirits play such an important part of this season, but the task of pairing wines with meals or choosing varieties for holiday parties can be a daunting task for some. I would like to take this opportunity to share my recommendations for some wines that lend themselves well to the season.
The holiday season is celebrated often with cocktail parties, and this type of wine is an excellent aperitif. Fume Blanc is fresh, crispy, festive, and comparable to Champagne and sparkling wine. It is a very food-friendly wine. In the winter season when seafood is abundant and oysters are a ritual, Fume Blanc is the star. It also goes well with certain Asian foods because of the delicate aromatics—floral, orange blossom, lemon verbena, and citrus.
I find all vintages of Robert Mondavi Fume Blancs to be fascinating. I am not able to choose a particular year to recommend; I like each of our vintages because of the memories I have of making it. I like to “read” a vintage and adapt the winemaking to its profile. Winter and spring rainfall determines the viticultural practices that are needed in the vineyard. It is always a total involvement between viticulturalists and winemakers to nurture the vineyards all the way up to harvest.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both wonderful varieties to pair with a turkey dinner. The spices and sweetness of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and yam complement each other, just as the rich turkey sauce blends well with the creamy Chardonnay. It is a wonderful variety to bring to the table at Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir has light fruitiness, and its delicate, velvety texture enhances a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner. It also is a perfect complement for many cheeses.
For a Christmas dinner, I would bring a nice Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon with nice broad tannin, bold flavors, infused with blackberry and black plum, which pairs well with braised beef short ribs. The harmony of the flavors between the wine and the food are superb and will bring your senses to heaven.
Moscato D’Oro is made with Muscat Canelli grapes. The fragrance has a strong varietal character—very refreshing with a crisp, lingering finish. The wine is fresh and fruity, light in the mouth with nice bubbles. It pairs wonderfully with light pastries, fresh fruit, pistachio, and is a great wine to indulge yourself with at the end of the meal.
When people taste wines, they experience different emotions that come from various memories associated with personal histories. Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon have such different characteristics, evoking different pleasures. If you are hosting a holiday gathering, I recommend serving both of these varieties, keeping in mind that they are best shared with emotion and passion with a group of friends.
One may prefer a Pinot Noir because of the delicious flavors reminiscent of sweet cherries, plum, or earthy flavor. While it is a difficult variety to grow, it is an easy variety to pair with food.
Cabernet Sauvignon has a strong texture and strong personality, naturally resulting in a strong impact on your palate. When pairing with a meal or hors d’oeuvres, keep in mind that the dish must be more assertive and precise than with the Pinot Noir, which is more delicate and evocative.
Giving the Gift of Robert Mondavi Wines
The winery offers so many different varieties that would be incredible gifts. We all make the wine with care and dedication using the philosophy of Mr. Mondavi. Each variety can be paired with different foods, so it’s always a joy to offer any of them. If I know my friend’s preference, I will try to offer a variety I know that they would enjoy. If they are a collector, I would give Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.
The Ultimate Gift
For any ardent oenophile, I would give a bottle of the Robert Mondavi Winery To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($250 per bottle), or the 2000 Cheval Blanc from St. Emilion (roughly $1,000 per bottle). Both of these wines are the epitome of luxury. To Kalon comes from exquisite 35-years-old vineyards, and of course I have an emotional attachment to this wine, which is made in our most exquisite cellar. Chateau Cheval Blanc, located in Bordeaux, France, is known for its particular terroir and wonderful pedigree. Both wines have a rich and opulent mouth-feel with a powerful body. The tannins are silky, soft, and elegant with a never-ending finish.