IMG model Grace Mahary not only has a major modeling career, she’s also a certified sommelier with the International Culinary Center in New York. Who better to turn to for the ultimate wine and champagne selections for the holiday season? Here she tells us what to check out and why!
Henri Billiot Fils Cuvée Julie Brut Champagne
If you want to flex on your holiday Zoom or spoil yourself after a long and challenging year, this grand cru bubbly is for you! A complex nose of apricot, brioche, toasted macadamia, and cream, with medium bodied mousse that fills your palette with each sip, all balanced by a crisp saline finish. It pairs phenomenally with crab, lobster, poultry, cheese and desserts!
Raventos i Blanc de Nit Cava Rosé
Cava is the sparkling wine of Spain, made in the same traditional way that Champagne is. Raventos has a long history of winemaking and the family estate creates phenomenal and affordable wines biodynamically. The Blanc de Nit is one of my favorites: a classic beauty with fine bubbles and a splash of Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) providing a touch of red fruit and florals. I would break this out everyday during the holidays because it’s lean, easy to sip, and… why not?
Aslina Chardonnay 2019
Not your average Chardonnay! Striking minerality, ripe yellow fruit, and a clean finish. The wine has this vibrancy that reminds me of Burgundy and keeps me wanting another sip after sip. Ntsiki Biyela is the first Black female winemaker in South Africa! I’m blown away by all of her wines and encourage you to try her Sauvignon Blanc and reds as
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Chateau Simone Palette Blanc 2012
Wow—imagine Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay had a baby in the Rhône. Except that perfect balance of body, lift, aromas and stone is derived from a blend of several grapes in Provence, a region mostly known for its rosé. Chateau Simone Palette Blanc is a Clairette leading blend which is unusual but allows for this pulsing note of limestone. Even being eight-years-old, there’s still this power and nuttiness reminiscent of Bordeaux Blanc with a twist. Grenache Blanc gives body while Muscat and Ugni Blanc aromatics shine through as it warms in the glass. This is a stunning wine on its own and is versatile enough to handle most appetizers and mains.
Manuel Cantalapiedra Mondo Verdejo 2018
Verdejo fermented with its skins for 31 days in open vats, then the wine spends some time on the lees in French oak barrels. All worth mentioning because this is natural AF, low intervention winemaking that’s indicative of how “orange wine”* is not a trend as it has always been around. The 2018 Mondo has light floral and fruit notes with a zestiness that’s fuzzy and holiday appropriate. It pairs well with seafood, poultry, and any paella or major rice dishes you’re preparing. Skin contact also gives the wine the depth to take on charred foods.
Anne et Jean-Francois Ganevat Le Zaune a Dédée 2015
The Jura is a wild and adventurous place! This wine in particular is a blend of grapes from around France, vinified and bottled in the Jura. In contrast to the previous wine, this orange vino is rich with an array of tropical fruits and florals, including tangerine, pineapple, peach, ginger, rose, and jasmine. Even cloves and cardamom are in the mix. Le Zaune a Dédée has a lot of personality, body and aromas. It’s a heavenly match with Indian and spicy foods.
George Descombes Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 2018
This is a magical, flirty, floral, and delicately fruited wine–aka a show stopper! Of all the grand crus in Beaujolais, I’m partial to Fleurie as the wines tend to show all of these characteristics elegantly. It’s 100% Gamay, so by default it’s besties with holiday foods: turkey, stuffing, roasted ham, cranberry, glazed duck, baked fish, you name it! The lift and playful energy of this wine makes it a treat on its own.
COS Pithos Rosso 2018
COS is the love and dedicated labor of three epic winemakers in Sicily; their initials making up the winery’s name. You may know of Nero d’Avola as a very trendy grape of Sicily, but blended with Frappato and fermented in amphorae pots, you must rethink everything here. Dark cherry, earth and herbal qualities, and a body that sings as it smoothly kisses your palette. Splash decant this if you like: the tannins are there but worked into the juiciness of this vino. This wine is fantastic with pastas, red sauce dishes, braised lamb, or beef.
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2018
Okay, okay, I had to throw in a classic! Chateaunuef-du-Pape is known as the big, bold southern Rhône wines. Vieux Telegraphe is just that with a switched on elegance and silkiness. Traditionally a Grenache dominant blend, you taste the spice, hot soil, red fruits, and rustic tannins. They say CDP is a wine for your grandparents, but I feel all kinds of youth in this vintage (or maybe my inner grandma is kicking in). Pair it with grilled vegetables and meats, BBQ, seared salmon, and ribeye steak.
Brown Estate Chaos Theory 2019
Brown Estate is the first Black-owned vineyard in Napa! Their hit wine Chaos Theory is indicative of their skills with Zinfandel blends; each vintage a unique version. The 2019 is led by friends Petite Sirah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a brambly array of ripe red and blue fruits, plum and spice coupled with a plump body, smooth tannins, and silk finish. There’s enough of everything you love in this wine making it complimentary to many foods, mashed potatoes, mama’s chili, ribs, lasagna, and more. The 2019 may not be available to the public yet, but try any vintage of Chaos Theory— you’ll be surprised at how fast and easily it goes.
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BONUS: MCBRIDE SISTERS CENTRAL COAST CALIFORNIA RED BLEND 2018
In case you’ve somehow missed out on the epic story of the McBride sisters—check out their interview on Guy Raz’s How I Built This podcast—definitely grab a bottle of their Cali finessed red blend. It’s smooth and huggable, the kind of wine you want to sip on the regular and even more so with your family and friends. Look out for their Black Girl Magic series as well!