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A Wine Guide for Sharing, Gifting, and Toasting all Holiday Season

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Nothing says holiday season like popping open a good bottle and sharing it with revelers and loved ones. Selma Ljaljicic, sommelier and Director of Food & Beverage at NeueHouse Madison Square, has curated a list of the best wines to bring along as a host gift or to serve at your own party, this week and well into the new year.


For Christmas at the Szechuan Restaurant
Hermann J Weimer ‘Flower Day’ Riesling

Riesling often gets a rap as a sweet wine, when in fact it is a grape that contains multitudes. This extremely expressive, biodynamic wine from lauded New York Producer Hermann J Weimer will turn anyone into a Riesling person. The viscosity and weight of this wine will coat your palate,  even through super spicy food.

From the winemaker: On the biodynamic calendar, there are four kinds of days: root days, flower days, fruit days, and leaf days. Each of these days has certain tasks associated with it; fruit days are meant for harvesting, leaf days for watering, root days for pruning. On flower days, the vineyard is left alone to rest—so we suggest resting and enjoying this delicious Riesling!

For your friend with Champagne Taste on your Pet Nat Budget
Stolpman ‘Combe’ Trousseau Pet Nat

No holiday is complete without bubbles and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I too live that Champs life. Pet Nat is an ancestral method of sparkling wine production that doesn’t require yeast to be added to the wine to create the co2. It’s light, pleasantly tart, and best of all, delivers the fun of sparkling wine without the Champagne price.

Combe is a partnership between Peter Stolpman and Rajat Parr, each producing some of the most sought-after wines in California. They use the Trousseau grape here along with some Mondeuse to create a bright, clean, effervescent Pet Nat special enough to ring in the New Year.

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For the Host in Brooklyn
Les Vins Pirouettes, Eros de Vincent
From a collective of biodynamic winegrowers in Alsace this orange wine is as impressive as it is gorgeous. Orange wine is red wine process applied to white grapes, the wine is fermented on the grape skins to extract some color and texture. I love oraThis ‘skin contact’ series from Les Vins Pirouettes is called Eros and winemaker Vincent’s version of Eros comes labeled with minimalist, aesthetic art that will draw oohs and aahs out of your hippest friends.

For the Francophile in Echo Park
Equinoxe Crozes Hermitage

It’s no secret that you can rely on French wine to be wonderful, after all there is more wine production in France than anywhere else in the world. French wine styles and grapes have always held a high standard of excellence. Modern winemakers, however, are moving away from stylistic consistency and toward natural techniques, new ways to celebrate the grapes native to their hometowns, and farming practices that will maintain the ability to keep the wine coming.

As far as this wine is concerned, there are few names as revered in the Northern Rhône as the name Graillot. It was in 1985 that the legendary Alain Graillot, who after working with Jacques Seysses at Domaine Dujac, came back to his home in Crozes-Hermitage to start his own domaine. Alain’s eldest son Maxime Graillot not only continued the legacy started by his father, he also blazed his own trail in winemaking excellence.

He converted the previously conventionally farmed vineyards to organics, making sure to soils were constantly ploughed (allowing the roots to dig deep into the gravel) and banned the use of herbicides. The results were incredible from the start. Compared to Alain’s wines, Maxime’s are similarly exuberant and expressive, but perhaps with a bit more fruit power behind them.

This wine is juicy, unique, and could even take to a bit of a chill. Equinoxe celebrates the richly purple, black fruited Syrah grape and even comes with a tremendously cute little grape guy on bottle design.

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An LA Winter White for your friends in Venice Beach
SOM Chardonnay

Perhaps because it is so versatile, the humble Chardonnay grape has been oft overlooked in recent years in favor of wines perceived as more interesting or unexpected. Sure, Chardonnay can be oaky and buttery, as they often are in California and Mersault. But they can also be crisp and angular, like in a Chablis. The great wine minds of SOM couldn’t agree on their favorite style so they made both and blended them together, creating an unexpected wine that is at once plush and zippy. It’s not a two buck chuck, but it’s an incredible value for the price point, sure to surprise and delight its recipients.

When Champagne is the answer
Gonet- Medeville 1er Cru Brut Tradition NV

To me, the art of winemaking is in its story: learning about the land, the weather, and the lives of the people who make it. (For that reason, I always choose grower Champagne for our by the glass at NeueHouse Madison Square). In a Champagne House, grapes are purchased from local farmers and the wine is made in the estate style. A grower Champagne, or artisan Champagne, is one that is produced by the estate that owns the vineyards where the grapes are grown.

This one from Gonet-Medeville, which is owned by a French couple both with insane winemaking pedigree. It is very dry, with beautiful minerality and an acidity that balances the uniquely creamy texture of the bubbles. Two out of three plots are Grand Cru, but the small amount of 1er cru grapes knock it down a designation, giving you all of the Grand Cru quality without the Grand Cru price. And, all of the vineyards are farmed organically (very rare for Champagne—only about 2% of bottles are organic).

Visit me in The Gallery // Bar to try a glass or a bottle, talk about wine, or just say hello!

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