Sommelier selections: Expert advice for New Year’s Eve

Find La Prima Donna at Va La Vineyards in Avondale.
Find La Prima Donna at Va La Vineyards in Avondale. Photo courtesy of Va La Vineyards
Gruet Brut, a highly rated sparkling wine, hails from New Mexico.
Gruet Brut, a highly rated sparkling wine, hails from New Mexico. Photo by Emily Ryan

The countdown’s on. Bid farewell to 2017 and celebrate the New Year in style with reds, whites and bubblies for every budget, starting with pétillant naturel, a natural sparkler dubbed pét-nat for short.

“It’s trendy. It’s an up-and-coming sparkling wine. It’s the oldest style of sparkling wine, so it’s not new. People just forgot about it,” said sommelier Zach Morris, owner of Haverford’s Green Engine Coffee Co. and former education director at the Wine School of Philadelphia.

Another plus: “Most of them have an interesting name or label, so it makes more of a conversation piece.”

Wine specialist Robert Peters of Fine Wine & Good Spirits in Ardmore enjoys American sparklers with French roots like Gruet, made in New Mexico.

Advertisement

“Who would think you’d have sparkling wine from New Mexico?” he asked. “Everyone knows the big French names, but nobody knows these smaller producers.”

Also try Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut or Domaine Carneros Brut by Tattinger — both from California.

When it comes to champagne, “you can’t go wrong with Veuve Clicquot, Piper-Heidsieck, or Moët & Chandon,” described Ben de Saint Etienne, purchasing manager at Normandy Farm in Blue Bell.

Prefer a bottle of red or white?

“For the holidays and the colder weather, I really like bigger and bolder wines,” he added. “California cabs are always going to be the guest’s first choice, but I like steer them toward Oregon pinot noirs, California red blends (Conundrum Red Blend is currently my favorite wine), Syrahs and Malbecs.”

Pinot noir scores points with Peters too because “it’s a red that’s pretty universal.” His picks: Decoy, Rodney Strong Russian River Valley or Domaine Carneros.

For whites, “any kind of inexpensive white Burgundy is a great choice” like Louis Jadot or Georges Duboeuf. “It’s versatile with foods. It’s versatile with appetizers, easy on the wallet,” he said.

One last word of advice: Explore area wineries.

“More and more if I’m asked for a suggestion, I’ll point people to local wines, as in mid-Atlantic,” Morris explained. At Va La Vineyards in Avondale, “I love their orange wine, La Prima Donna” — a white blend that “picks up copper flecks” from (grape) skin contact.

In the Lehigh Valley, Galen Glen Winery produces “stunning wines,” he said. “Their specialty is definitely whites.”

And Heritage Vineyards in New Jersey “has an incredible Bordeaux-style wine, BDX.”

Cheers!

Mistletoe Punch

Ingredients

1 1/2 bottles Piper-Heidsieck Brut, chilled

1 (2-liter) bottle ginger ale

2 packages frozen strawberries

Fresh rosemary sprigs

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl; stir and serve. Garnish with rosemary.

Bourbon Sparkler

Ingredients

1 ounce Evan Williams Bourbon, chilled

2 tablespoons vanilla bean syrup (recipe below)

Enza Prosecco, chilled

Instructions

Add bourbon and vanilla bean syrup to a chilled champagne glass and top with prosecco.

Vanilla bean syrup: Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped. Bring to a boil in a small pot over medium heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature and discard the vanilla bean pod.

Auld Lang Syne

Ingredients

2 ounces Beefeater Gin

1 ounce sloe gin

2 ounces apple juice

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces sparkling wine

Instructions

Add the first five ingredients to a highball glass and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top with sparkling wine.

RECIPES COURTESY OF FINE WINE & GOOD SPIRITS