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Hot Holiday Pours 2011

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Tarlant Discobitch Bubbles
Tarlant Discobitch Bubbles

Courtney Cochran, author of the Hip Tastes book and blog, says goodbye to 2011 with an extra boozy installment of The Swill.

[Photo: Sommeliers' own]

Admit it: you didn’t remember to call Ma on Mother’s Day. You were too hungover to go to Cousin Susie’s graduation and your jokes about your brother’s previous infidelities during your best man’s speech were widely considered ill-timed. Still, with the holidays upon us there remains an opportunity to get back into the good graces of your family before the new year. It’s called the winning booze move, and a handful of local somms, wine buyers and even a couple beer and booze hounds weigh in here on the best pours for the job. How does it work? Arrive at your family event with a thoughtful selection like one of these below, and your rep will be on its way to a makeover in no time.

You can always resolve to improve on the finer points of family relations in 2012. Bottoms up!
Disco Queen
AKA Chiara Shannon, K&L Wine Merchants
For families who party, bubbly expert Shannon recommends a pour with a name that may make your grandmother blush, but could also be the subversive hit of the holiday. “Champagne Tarlant, one of my favorite K&L direct import Champagne houses, has produced a small amount of Discobitch since 2009 as a tribute to the French electro-pop group” of the same name, says Shannon. At $50 the blingy bottle is hardly a steal, but Shannon assures us its pedigree is sparkling: “Not your big name Champagne house, this small, critically acclaimed grower-producer draws from reserves of their flagship ‘Cuvée Louis’ Brut (93 RP, 90 WS) for a tiny production of Discobitch.”

Clearly a fan of the grower-producer, she quipped, “Yellow Label, eat your heart out.”

Thought Leader
AKA Daniel Hyatt, The Alembic
According to booze-and-beer savant Hyatt, going to the source shows you care. Specifically, he recommends heading in to a craft brewery to pick up “a growler of the seasonal” for your holiday bash. (Growlers are glass jugs with gasket caps that keep your to-go brew fresh for up to a week.) When pressed for a seasonal beer he recommends, Hyatt praised San Francisco’s own Magnolia Brewery Winter Warmer, a “fantastic, extremely small production” selection he currently offers on tap at The Alembic. Most importantly, he points out that getting a from-the-source product proves “you didn’t stop at 7-11 on your way to the party; you thought about it.” Something your family no doubt will appreciate.

Bad Martha
AKA Joe Hargrave, Tacolicious, Mosto
With a nod to his “inner Martha,” Hargrave recommends homemade libations. “There’s something that I really like about a clear glass wine bottle with a mysteriously cool colored liquid inside, adorned by only a cork and a masking tape label.” This year he’s hitting the holiday scene with “a bottle of Pasíon—house-infused habanero tequila (we use Pueblo Viejo Blanco), lime juice, passion fruit juice and agave nectar. It’s a bright yellow drink that's boozy and sweet but also has a massive habanero kick that time and time again reminds people just how mortal they really are.”

Not sure that’s totally Martha, but we like the sound of it. Try it at Hargrave’s restaurants, where it’s served on the rocks with salted rim.

Aperitif Ace
AKA Ian Becker, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Boxing Room
Becker – who oversees the wine program at Comstock Saloon in addition to Absinthe and Boxing Room – recommends bringing something unexpected: Vergano ‘Americano’ Grignolino Chinato ($42) from Italy’s Piedmont. “This is a traditional Piemontese aperitif, so serve it over ice with equals parts sparkling water and an orange peel. Everyone will love it – from your Aunt Sally to your tattooed bartender friends,” he enthuses. Certainly not your typical holiday quaff. We like it.

Note: cocktail making is another opportunity to get back into the good graces of your family. Cousin Susie, can I make you another drink?

In the Pink
Zach Pace, Foreign Cinema
Because “nothing speaks to holidays like a blush Champagne,” Foreign Cinema’s beverage maven recommends alighting at your holiday affair with a bottle of Collet Non Vintage Brut Rosé Champagne ($54). It’s “fruity enough for your gay uncle but dry enough for your Republican father” he explains. Touting Champagne’s unusual method for making world-class pink wine (good rosé typically is made only with red grapes), Pace geeks out a bit in adding, rhetorically we assume, “where else can you blend a red and white wine to make a legitimate rosé?”

If only your family would be so accepting of your unorthodox ways.

Digging It
Kristian Cosentino, Press Club
“Our guests have fallen in love” with Scholium Project wines, Cosentino raves, explaining why the quirky-cool label’s ‘The Prince in his Caves’ Sonoma Mountain foot trodden Sauvignon Blanc ($45) is his recommendation. Digging its “huge peach, tangering and lychee” flavors, Cosentino calls it a wine that “completely changes your expectations.” Abe Schoener, Scholium’s philosophy prof-cum-winemaker/owner, certainly does things differently (see: foot treading), a penchant that’s made him one of the most buzzed-about wine acts this year.

We say: Cheers to changing expectations – even just a wee bit - and to drinking some pretty fantastic pours along the way. Merry holiday and happy new year.


1129 Manhattan Avenue, , CA 90266 (415) 649-6077 Visit Website

Foreign Cinema

2534 Mission Street, , CA 94110 (415) 648-7600 Visit Website

Boxing Room

399 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 Visit Website

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