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Posted by Robert Whitley on November 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

Holiday Party Planning Tips

 With the holiday entertaining season just around the corner, now is the time to prepare to be the host with the most.

Assuming a selection of tasty wine is part of the plan, consider the following suggestions to enhance the experience for you and your guests.

1. Start with a good wine glass. Even the nationwide discount store Target is now selling Riedel crystal, the gold standard for everyday wine consumption. For a few pennies more than what you might pay for mediocre stemware, you can sip wine from glasses that are functional as well as elegant. A good wine glass allows for proper aeration, which enhances aromatics and softens tannins where that is an issue.

2. Use a decanter or a wine aerator to prepare bold young reds prior to serving. Many young red wines are packed with astringent tannins, which either fade away or disappear entirely over time. But for immediate consumption, the pucker factor can be reduced through decanting from the bottle into a larger glass container (it need not be fancy) that will allow the wine to breathe. With air, the tannins round out and the pleasure factor is dramatically increased.

3. Invest in a deep and wide ice bucket that will hold at least four bottles. Sparkling, rose and crisp white wines lose their snap, and much of their appeal, when left to sit out and warm up as a party or dinner drags on. Many wine shops and department stores sell inexpensive clear acrylic "party" buckets that will keep multiple wine bottles chilled at the same time.

4. Don't hesitate to put a chill on your reds as well. Serving temps for reds should be about 65-68 degrees. Warm reds often come off as unbalanced and/or flat. Cooler (assuming the room temperature is about 75 degrees) reds are easier to drink and deliver more flavor. If a bottle of red wine is warm to the touch, which is often the case if it has been stored in the kitchen, five to eight minutes in the ice bucket should do the trick. It isn't necessary to chill the red as you would a white; simply cooling it down will suffice.

Let the festivities begin!

Jeff Cohn Cellars, California (United States) “The Impostor” 2012 ($35)
I was at a ZAP symposium a few years ago where I heard Jeff Cohn say "don't worry about whether my wine is age-worthy or not.  Go ahead and drink it -- I'll make more for you."  That said, he's made an age-worthy wine with this blend.  It takes a long time in the glass to show itself, with initial raspberry, leaf and spice underneath sulphury notes, but it comes around smartly, blowing off to a garden of flowers and spice, with rhubarb and raspberry fruit.  It's fairly oaky and shows lots of dill, but comes into balance with a lot of airtime.  If you're taking Jeff's advice, decant this one for a few hours before serving with something saucy and spicy.  If you want my advice, get a few bottles to age 5 to 10 years as well.
90 Rich Cook

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This Issue's Reviews
 
Two Tactics for Wine Success on Thanksgiving
Michael Franz

Given the fact that you are reading a wine review website in the days leading up to America's premier feast day, the odds are overwhelming that you are responsible for bringing the wine for Thanksgiving. Maybe not all of the wine…but I bet you're on the hook for some of it. Perhaps you're very comfortable with the task, but more likely you're uneasy about it, since most Americans are inexperienced and intimidated when it comes to pairing wines and foods--even on their best day. Regardless of which camp you fall into--the confident or the quaking--I've got two tactics that can make you a wine-selecting star on the Big Day.
The Unlikely Miracle of Tokaji Aszú
Rebecca Murphy

Tokaji Aszú--the wine Louis XIV of France declared 'the king of wines and wine of kings' is--legendary. Its fans have included such luminaries as Pope Pius IV, the Greats - Peter, Catherine and Frederick, Thomas Jefferson and Queen Victoria. Tokaji Aszú is golden amber in color with intensely concentrated dried fruit flavors layered with such seasonings as lemon grass, dried roses, chalk, caramel, burnt orange, coffee or molasses, depending upon the age of the wine. Sweet, yes--but with focused acidity that slices through the unctuous flavors cleansing the palate and gracing it with a lingering memory of its pleasure.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Pork Schnitzel a la Holstein


In our opinion this delicious retro dish is ready for a comeback. Wiener Schnitzel traveled from Italy (think Veal Milanese) to become the national dish of Austria, but while Wiener Schnitzel is made with veal, the word 'schnitzel' simply describes a boneless piece of meat--veal, chicken, ham, pork--that's pounded into thin scallops, then breaded and fried. We have no idea why this rendition is named 'Holstein', but for us, it is the most interesting and complex of all the schnitzel dishes. It has salty/briny elements thanks to anchovies and capers, a tangy splash of lemon, and a softly fried egg that creates its own sauce as the yolk flows across the meat.
On My Table
World-Class Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon is the iconic wine of Santa Rita, one of Chile's most historic and acclaimed wineries. It is made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown on the Alta Jahuel estate situated at an altitude of 1800 feet in the Alto Maipo region, close to the Andes Mountains. Casa Real is the product of warm days and very cool nights (warmer than Bordeaux by day, but cooler at night), well-drained clay and sandy soils, and low humidity. Both the low humidity and wide diurnal temperature range slow the ripening of the grapes and result in a long growing season with full flavor development in the grapes. The vines were planted as long ago as the 1960s.