The trees are lit, the menorahs are set and with all the celebrations happening the Wine Enthusiast editors and staff are stopping by their local wine shops or liquor stores more than usual. We went around the #WEHQ and asked what bottles our staff will be sharing with friends and family at holiday parties and get-togethers this season. Spoiler alert for anyone who knows us.
Lauren Buzzeo, Managing Editor
Call me cheesy, but I love a good holiday-themed beer to spread good cheer. Bonus: If you bring it chilled, chances are the recipient will be so excited to try it, they’ll pop it then and there and share it with you! Some of my faves to gift include anything from The Bruery’s Twelve Days of Christmas series, Hardywood Park’s Kentucky Christmas Morning or Shmaltz Brewing’s Hanukkah Beer.
Layla Schlack, Senior Editor
I like to gift wines with a story, so the recipient feels a connection and doesn’t think I’m handing off something that’s been kicking around in my cellar. Aphros Phaunus Pet Nat from Vinho Verde is a good one. Made completely without electricity, it’s produced from biodynamic grapes by Vasco Croft, who’s been dubbed the Richard Gere of Portugal due to a physical resemblance. In addition to having a good story, the wine is absolutely delicious, fun, trendy, festive and around $20/bottle—not exactly cheap, but affordable enough that I’m comfortable giving it away to people I like.
Alexander Peartree, Tasting Director
What can be a better option to bring to a holiday party than a magnum with delicious, bubbly juice inside? When I want to impress with a large format but also push the boundaries of my adventurous, wine-loving friends, I go for Eden’s Imperial 11° Rosé cider. A steal of a deal coming in around $30 a pop, this sparkling cider from biodynamic orchards in Vermont is blended with red currant juice to add color and the producer’s award-winning ice cider for a hint of sweetness. The result is a succulent yet crisp pour that is almost too easy to guzzle–thankfully with the big bottle size, the end won’t come too quickly.
Fiona Adams, Assistant Tasting Director
Sparkling wine is my holiday life preserver, perfect for those who are hard to shop for or when faced with the horror of receiving a gift and not having one to give in return. Fruity pét-nat like the Delinquente Weeping Juan Pink Pet Nat from Australia is perfect for year-round sipping and pairs well with most holiday fare. Pét-nats are not only delicious and unique but can be generally found at affordable prices. I like to pick up a case at the start of the season to cross some names off my list and be party ready.
Carrie Dykes, Tasting Coordinator
I enjoy forcing my affinity for offbeat wines on friends and family whenever possible. Living in the Hudson Valley and being an advocate of the region’s embracement of agriculture, I was excited to learn of a small biodynamic farm, winery and cidery in my area. Wild Arc Farms describes themselves as “an experiment in biodynamic permaculture and viticulture in the Hudson Valley.” The specific bottling I will be urging upon my loved ones is the Luca. It’s a skin contact Traminette that’s full of body and intrigue. A perfect winter white, it has the complexity to hold up to heavy, cold-weather dishes. Additionally, Traminette is a grape bred and developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station grape breeding program at Cornell University, (although first cultivated in Illinois) so there is a lot of NY hybrid pride behind it as well.
Craig Chamberlain, Assistant Tasting Coordinator
Approachable Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky has wonderful characteristics of vanilla and honey, but without much of the smokiness associated with most other bottles from Scotland. It’s a blended Scotch, which means you won’t get hit with a single malt price, and still packs a mighty punch of flavor for just around $35 a bottle.
Kristen Richard, Assistant Digital Editor
I had never been a rosé fan. But when a snowstorm hit New York, and I was unable to get home, I found myself eating a pizza in my friend’s kitchen and drinking a glass of Toi Toi Sara’s Marlborough Rosé 2018 from New Zealand, and my mind was changed. This pale pink wine is budget-friendly at $15 a bottle and fruity yet not too sweet, making this rosé an easy-sipper. I will definitely be bringing a bottle to share (or not to share) for my family’s Christmas party.
As for beer, I always have Yonkers Brewing 914 Vienna Lager in my fridge. This lager is crisp and food-friendly, so it’s the perfect beer for all the get-togethers and impromptu visits that happen this time of year.
Evan Spadaccini, Junior Social Media Coordinator
This year, I have a number of bottles on my list. Our spirits editor, Kara Newman, suggested High West Bourye to me and her advice is usually golden. I’ll be gifting that bottle to my oldest cousin Johnny, who loves anything High West makes and has been trying to snag a bottle. After trying FEW Rye Whiskey at HogsHead Tavern and thinking it was absolutely amazing, I’ll be giving bottles to my friends so they can enjoy it for themselves. They might get that with a few bottles from Fifty Fifty Brewing, specifically the Donner Party Porter, the Eclipse Imperial Stout and Storm Chaser.
But my 2018 surprise was Privateer True American Amber Rum. I tasted it earlier this year and it completely changed what my expectations of rum were. It’ll also been given to as many of my friends as possible to change their perspectives.
Siobhan Wallace, Senior Digital Editor
During one of the many summer heat waves, I picked up a bottle of Corvezzo Terre di Marca Sur lie Frizzante Prosecco for some refreshing bubbles and instantly became a fan. Made with organic grapes planted in limestone soil, this pale yellow Italian sparkling is full of light lemon and tart green apple notes with just a touch of honey, like the best lemonade I’ve ever had. Every bottle since has reminded me of warm sunshine and long days, the perfect antidote to dark cold winter nights. But it’s the under $20 price tag for this hand-harvested and bottle-fermented Prosecco that make it the perfect host gift for all my holidays dinners.