The Best Seasonal Wine Pairings: Picks from Jersey City Aficionados
The holidays wouldn’t be complete without picking up a bottle of wine to bring to every family and friend party happening this month. For those of us who don’t know what to look for in the local bottle shop, finding the perfect wine is a daunting, near-impossible task that often ends in a mediocre, uninformed decision on our own. This time of year, people are willing to spend more money on something they consider special or unique, but you don’t have to break the bank for the sake of bringing something fancy to the table.
For some recommendations on what to look for when buying wine for the holidays, we turned to our friendly neighborhood wine experts around Jersey City to help find your next favorite in their stores. Wines that fit any budget ($12-$60) and that will score you major points as the coolest person in the room when brought to the holiday dinner table.
When shopping for wine pairings during the holidays, whether it’s white, red, or sparkling, the experts agree that it’s less important to look for flavor notes on a bottle such as “berry,” “grapefruit,” “oak,” etc., and more about texture, body, and heaviness or lightness. If the family meal is a big, juicy Christmas ham or a heavy meal with plenty of potatoes and pasta, you wouldn’t want to pair that with a heavy, thick wine that will only stand to make everyone more full. It’s less about sticking to a narrow type, like a merlot or riesling, and more about picking the right wine to fit the seasonal mood.
Finding Light and Warming Reds
“This is the time of year where people think less about white wines and start thinking about reds because you’re looking for something with a little more structure and feels a little bit warmer,” said Phil Cerrito, director of wine of CoolVines and General Manager of CoolVines on Grove. “In high-altitude, cooler climate that’s super dry, grapes take on a light, fresh quality that can be good for red wines around the holiday time because you’re eating a lot of foods and you want something a little bit lighter.”
- Lauren Marchetti, Owner Riverview Wine and Spirits in The Heights: Domaine de Saint Pierre, shiraz pinot
- Steve Egge, Manager, Buyer for Madame Claude Wine in Hamilton Park: Domaine Coillot, red Burgundy
- CoolVines: Alfio Mozzi – Sassella Nebbiolo
- Riverview: anything from producer Strekov from Slovakia, whose wines are “beautiful, obscure, indigineous, fruity, elegant, and refined.”
- Madame Claude: Domaine du Cagueloup, Bandol rouge
- Greg Levine, Wine Buyer at Jersey Wine and Spirits in Downtown: Castello Di Verduno Nebbiolo
- Jersey Wine & Spirits: Niepoort Nat Cool Baga
Introducing Winter Whites
While white wine feels more like a drink for warmer-weather, there are plenty of options that fit in perfectly with the colder months.
“There’s something about Burgundy and winter that go well together,” said Steve Egge, Manager, Buyer for Madame Claude Wines.
When shopping for white wine, look for those that have a little more body and richness with a “round quality,” which means veering away from something with a really sharp acidic taste, like a Sauvignon Blanc. Look for white wines produced in Northern Italy, which offers white wine that tend to have a lighter quality and low acidity that fit with the typical meals people serve for the holidays.
- Tony Vo, Owner of Waterfront Wine & Liquor in Paulus Hook: J Vineyards chardonnays
- CoolVines: Grosjean – Petite Arvine 2015
- CoolVines: Specogna – Pinot Grigio
- Riverview: try orange wines, including Calcarius OrangePuglia, “perfect for winter with a unique style”
- Madame Claude: Domaine Hamelin, chablis white burgundy
- Jersey Wine & Spirits: Terpin “Quinto Quarto” Ribolla Gialla
- Jersey Wine & Spirits: Oinoz Verdejo
Sparkling and Dessert Wines for the After-Party
New Year’s Eve is coming, which means breaking out the Champagne, right? Not necessarily. This year the category of sparkling wine is more robust than ever. So skip the Veuve and Moet for something a little different, like a sparkling rose or Cava, which are no less extravagant.
“Sparkling is a very exciting category,” said Cerrito. “It really goes beyond Champagne and uses a range of grapes that people know less about than what is thought of as the traditional bottles to buy for New Year’s Eve.”
As for dessert wines, bringing a heavier, juicer cordial, like a port or sweet wine, in lieu of a dessert is a delicious way to cap off a holiday night. Thanks to the high sugar content that helps preserve the wine and keeps it fresh longer, dessert wines have a longer life after opening, stretching the value of your purchase further.
- Waterfront: Bartenura Sparkling Moscato Rose
- CoolVines: Gramona Gran Cuvee 2012, sparkling
- CoolVines: Vinedos de los Vientos – Alcyone, sweet dessert
- Riverview: Casa Belfi sparkling wines
- Jersey Wine & Spirits: Castellroig Cava Brut Reserva
- Jersey Wine & Spirits: Casa Caterina Brut Nature
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed about what to look for when shopping for wine during the holidays and beyond, just stop into your local wine shop and ask for help to get recommendations live from the sources who know their wines best.
Where to Drink Amazing Wine Around JC
If you’re staying close to home this season, check out Cerrito’s recommendations below of where you’re guaranteed to find an amazing glass (or bottle) of wine while out feeling the holiday spirit around town.
Named after the owners’ chihuahua, near Downtown on Grove Street, is an Australian restaurant specializing in natural, little-known and special wines, like orange wine – a type of white wine produced like a red wine, with an extensive list categorized by texture, structure, fullness, etc.
For great vegetarian eats and live music, Pet Shop in Downtown is a must on a night out, but following the arrow down the stairs inside into the gently lit basement brings you to the hidden PS Wine Bar below the bustling main bar upstairs. There you’ll find a small but refined selection of specialty wines, generously poured and always worth having another glass of two.
Harry’s Daughter, the Caribbean-inspired restaurant in Bergen-Lafayette, has been landing on a ton of “best bars in Jersey City” lists this year and for good reason. Among the delicious menu of craft cocktails and traditional Caribbean dishes with a twist, the refined selection of wines ensures any wine drinker to be happy with any glass brought to them.
The Archer on Newark Ave is well-known for its inventive cocktails, but Cerrito promises their wine list is not to be overlooked. With dark wood, romantic lighting, and tall, cushioned booths, it’s the perfect winter stop to get cozy and try something new, like a sparkling Shiraz, from their interesting wine list.
In addition to the Madame Claude Wine store, visit the tucked away, speakeasy-esque Madame Claude in Hamilton Square to enjoy a jewel of the Jersey City wine community hidden behind White Eagle Hall. This romantic Parisian bistro serves authentic French dishes and pours authentic French wines, making it a must-visit place for any JC Francophile.
What are you picking up for your next holiday party? Show us with #everythingjerseycity and tag us with @everythingjerseycity on Instagram.