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December 9, 2023

Wine etiquette for the holidays

Now that the holidays are upon us and social gatherings are on
the schedule, it’s a good time to go over some common sense wine
Now that the holidays are upon us and social gatherings are on the schedule, it’s a good time to go over some common sense wine etiquette.

Never top off one wine with a different wine. Just because it’s the same color – red for instance – does not mean that it is the same taste or same quality of wine. If you bring wine to a party, plan to share. If you happen to spill a glass of red wine, do your best to help sop it up and offer to pay for dry-cleaning. Note to hosts everywhere: skip the stress and use a dark colored tablecloth whenever possible.

I found two affordable red wines for this column: a Merlot and a Zinfandel. The Merlot is the Laurier Alexander Valley Merlot (2007) which caused a buzz at a recent wine distributor’s event. This Merlot has a deep ruby color and a complexity that is similar to a Cabernet, with hints of herbs, plums, vanilla and a nice, long finish. Find it at Windmill Market (San Juan Bautista) and in San Jose at South Gate Liquors and Maplewood Liquors for $6.99.

The Ravenswood Vintner Blend Zinfandel (2009) is a great value. A solid, fruit-forward Zinfandel, it’s nice with pasta marinara or even your weeknight roast chicken. At Safeway, Nob Hill and CVS for $7.

As a splurge for the holidays, one of the best crowd-pleasers around is the Rombauer Zinfandel. It’s the kind of wine that people swoon over and ask where to buy it. Even Susan, my dental hygienist, said it was her favorite. This is a rich, “jammy” wine with flavors of sweet berries and plum. Great alone, or pair it with a rib-eye steak or Italian sausage. It’s at Rocca’s Market for $25.99; at Bevmo and Nob Hill for $27.99.

Local winery buzz

Travel down an incredibly scenic country road, where wild turkeys and deer amble across the way, and in a few short miles you will arrive at Martin Ranch Winery in Gilroy. Martin Ranch Winery is a favorite of local oenophiles because of its consistency in making great wines.

Owners Dan and Therese Martin share a love story that started 28 years ago when they met in the grocery business. In 1993, a year after they married, they planted vines on 11 of their 17 acres. Dan and Therese collaborate closely on every aspect of their business, from which varietals to produce to their innovative wine-making methods.

With Dan being recognized as a “super-taster” and Therese’s keen sense of smell, they produce rich, lush wines. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is their flagship wine – winning numerous medals. They produce 14 different varietals including Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sangiovese.

Martin Ranch produces wines under two labels. J.D. Hurley, named for Dan’s great uncle, reflects Dan’s palate for New World wine that is fruit-forward with less “wood” and lots of blends. Therese Vineyards wines are made with Therese’s preference for traditional Old World wine, which is a bit drier, with more oak and using specific varietals. Therese Vineyards’ recent Malbec won Best Varietal in the 2011 San Francisco International Competition, the 3rd largest wine competition in the world.

What makes Martin Ranch Winery so special is the personal attention that Dan and Therese provide to guests. As many as 500 visitors flock to their wine-tasting weekends where Dan gives informal, educational talks in the barrel room while Therese, along with other staff members, pours wine for the crowds.

Bring a picnic to this family-friendly winery offering a playground for children and self-guided tours that take you to the rose garden and up to a beautiful pond where the popular annual Fishing Derby is held.

Martin Ranch Winery is open Dec. 10 and 11 and Dec. 17 and 18 during the holidays. And a great gift idea: give a gift certificate from a local winery!

Slice the papery film off two 8-ounce rounds of brie. Placecheese inside a hollowed-out round loaf of bread.  Spoon pepperjelly on top. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour oruntil cheese is melted. Serve with sliced baguette.

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