When the holidays roll around, I invariably become the default Dear Abby for friends and family in search of good wines for festivities. Everyone expects the obligatory bottle of bubbly or “safe” wines—Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—at holiday gatherings, but this year, I would like to suggest adding a little local flare to the occasion.
When it comes to finding food-friendly wines for both white and red lovers, Texans should look to a couple of different grapes. Blanc du Bois is an American hybrid grape that offers with citrusy lemon zest, ripe pear, and yellow flowers on the nose, and a broad palate with bright acidity and a dry finish. Try the Flat Creek Estate 2014 Blanc Du Bois (~$15).
For reds, you’re not likely to find much Texas Pinot Noir, but you’ll find an excellent substitute for a fruity, well-structured, and mildly tannic red wine with Mourvèdre. This French Rhone varietal plays a major role in the Bandol region of Southern France and is making headway in Texas as a star performer. Try the 4.0 Cellars Mourvèdre by Brennan Vineyards (~$26). With rich raspberry and blackberries, charcuterie, and root beer on the nose, this opulent yet earthy wine is a holiday pairing all of your guests will love.
We’ve all fallen prey to the endless broadcasts of A Christmas Story airing in marathon sequence on various cable channels in the days leading up to Christmas. But this year, you can saturate your childhood desires for that old Red Rider BB Gun and nurse your own nostalgic holiday family memories with a tasty brew in your hand, namely the Yule Shoot Your Eye Out spiced beer by Houston’s Karback Brewing Company. Malty with hints of allspice, ginger, cocoa nibs, and fresh orange peel, this beer is thick and heady—and perfect for holiday cheer.
A year-round favorite from Austin’s 512 Brewing Company, the Pecan Porter is well suited for holiday fare, particularly if you’re saving it for a dessert course. Serve this XXX brew alongside a slice of pecan pie, or ditch the root beer and add this to a few scoops of vanilla ice cream in a glass for an adult-themed float.
A fruity way to break out the bubbles, this Ruby Sparkler adds a little depth to the average glass of champagne. You can use any Ruby-style port, but for a Texas angle, I like the Messina Hof Barrel Reserve Port (~$18) with a dry sparkling wine such as Messina Hof Blanc Du Bois Sparkling Brut (~$25).
1 part Messina Hof Barrel Reserve Port
2 parts Messina Hof 2014 Blanc Du Bois Sparkling Brut (well chilled)
Raspberries or blackberries for garnish
Pour port into well-chilled Champagne flute and top with brut sparkling wine. Garnish with a blackberry or raspberry and serve.
Antique Old Fashioned
There’s nothing quite as soothing as an old fashioned. For a holiday twist, try switching out the rye or bourbon with barrel-aged gin. Treaty Oak Distilling in the Hill Country makes this unique style of gin that reveals enticing aromas of cinnamon and allspice, as well as toffee and rich nuttiness on the palate. Add orange oil and liqueur, and you have yourself a quick and easy riff on an old classic.
2 oz. Treaty Oak Waterloo Antique Gin=
1 oz. Orange liqueur such as Paula’s Texas Orange
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange peel to garnish
Add ice to a rocks glass and pour gin, orange liqueur, and bitters. Stir gently. Rim the glass with orange peel to release the oils. Drop the peel into the glass and serve.