Chard, Pinot and Cab: Classic Varieties for Your Holiday Table

Note: the following review is based on samples from Palm Bay International. The wines reviewed can be found at many major beverage retailers, such as Total Wine, BevMo and similar.

The line-up. Photo by Gabriel Manzo.

The line-up. Photo by Gabriel Manzo.

Greetings wine lovers! How many of you have holidays on the brain? It is about that time. With fall squash abundance and the recent re-setting of the clocks bringing darkness earlier in the day, I am feeling cozy and ready for comfort foods, which means accompanying wines. What are some of the best known go-to’s? Easy. For white, Chardonnay. For a lighter body red that pairs with most meals, Pinot Noir. For a bolder red to hold up to heavy dishes, Cabernet Sauvignon. Let’s look at a few!


Notice the imagery?

Notice the imagery?

Au contraire mon frère.

Literally translates to: On the contrary, my brother. How many of you loved to say this as a know-it-all teenager the moment you learned to speak a little French? A la "Bart Simpson"? Au Contraire the brand has crafted some approachable and food-friendly wines. Au Contraire wines are sourced from vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Carneros and the Sonoma Coast.  

"Au Contraire wines are crafted for those who aim to live life to the fullest, who revel in turning the every day ordinary into something extraordinary. Our wines celebrate the spirit of taking on any challenge in life, no matter how insurmountable it may seem. This irresistible joie de vivre is artfully embodied on each Au Contraire label with a playful illustration that turns expectations on their heads."

“Just another California brand?  Au Contraire!”
Loading up on Omega-3's! Photo by Gabriel Manzo

Loading up on Omega-3's! Photo by Gabriel Manzo

2016 Au Contraire Chardonnay

Region: Russian River Valley, Sonoma County California 

Grape: 100% Chardonnay 

ABV: 13.8%       Retail: $22-

This creamy chardonnay has plenty of pear and apple crispness to complement rich dishes. The aromas are citrus and floral, jasmine to be precise, with rich lemon curd finish. The area the grapes come from is The Russian River Valley, pushing to the western edges of Green Valley which borders The Sonoma Coast. The ideal climate with foggy times and cool nights, resulting in an extended growing season and grapes that maintain their natural acidity. This wine is flexible. Have it with some cheese, crackers & crudités or buttery seafood dishes that welcome the acidity. We went with a baked salmon, covered in garlic, lemon and dill. A tremendous pairing! 


2014 Au Contraire Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Region: Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County California 

Grape: 100% Pinot Noir 

ABV: 13.8%       Retail: $30-

This ruby hued wine offers aromas of cherry, plum and raspberry sprinkled with a scosh of cinnamon, smacking of fall flavors. On the palate the fruits continue to burst and then even out with a tart, clean finish. The wine spends 12 months aging on French Oak (35% new). Great on its own or paired with grilled foods, lighter sauces or delicate cheeses. We embraced the season and had it with roasted butternut squash over a dried cranberry, sage and walnut wild rice medley. Tis the season! 

Photo by Gabriel Manzo

Photo by Gabriel Manzo

Cab Time.

Now for the grand finale, the biggest, baddest wine of them all, The Napa Cab. This label, Heritance, is a blending of the words for "heritage" and "inheritance" to indicate the start of a new tradition and likely an enduring legacy.  The winery represents the best sites in St. Helena, Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford including Cabernet Sauvignon from the renowned Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard. 

2014 Heritance Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Napa Valley, California 

Grapes: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot 

ABV: 14.3%       Retail: $35-

This valiant wine offers a cacophony of dark fruits on the nose, including blackberry, plum and cassis. The oak is noticeable with a charred barrel finish. It is aged for 18 months in 100% French oak (60% new), imparting some vanilla and coffee roasting likeness. This one can age for a few years, or drink now. You will want to match this with something that can withstand the body and the tannin, such as meats or hearty stews. We went with some aged hard cheeses. 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

What are you eating and drinking for the holidays?