It’s a sure sign that the Holiday Season is upon us when the ‘What wine to pair with your Holiday Meal’ articles make their annual appearance. This is not that kind of article.
Instead, I thought I’d share some great advice I recently acquired on a visit to ‘Wine Exchange’ in Orange County. Not only does this emporium offer a vast and well priced selection of vino from all over the globe, they provide something that we all cherish during this hectic season: great advise and suggestions!
Owners Kyle Meyer and Tristen Beamon are both enthusiastic, well versed and well travelled, in a winelover kind of way. They hire like-minded staff and give them all the skills they need to share their knowledge and own love of wine. When you walk through the door of their huge store in Santa Ana or purchase online, there’s always a helpful hand to guide you to the perfect selection. That’s their goal!
Over the holidays, people are looking for wine as gifts as well as to enjoy themselves and this is where some helpful advice is appreciated. Who hasn’t been overwhelmed with selections? Confused as to which wine will impress the boss or make your in-laws smile? Well, Wine Exchange is there to help.
According to both Kyle and Tristen, there are some commonly asked questions that are heard from November to New Years.
“I’ve been asked to bring something to a dinner party, but I don’t know what they like or what will be served” Bubbles are always a good, fun and festive choice plus they’re great before, during and after any meal. What if I told you that you could impress your hosts with a bottle of Grand Cru Champagne for $39.98? Rare Wine Company Brut Grand Cru Le Mesnil NV is created with Chardonnay grapes grown in the esteemed French village of Le Mesnil.. It’s got that classic ‘Blanc de Blanc’ character of toasty buttered brioche, citrus zest and orchard fruits like apricot and pear. At this price, I would suggest picking up a couple of bottles so you’ll have a few for yourself for thoes impromptu celebrations. One never has too much Champagne!
“I’m looking for a really nice Chardonnay for Thanksgiving dinner – it has to be Chardonnay!” This is not the time for that big, buttery, California style Chardonnay, according to the experts at Wine Exchange. Instead, try something with a subtle touch of oak and lots of luscious fruit aromas reminiscent of baked apples and nectarines. Luca Chardonnay G Lot 2012 from Mendoza. won’t be “As serious as a heart attack” according to Kyle, but will please your Chard loving family members and your wallet at a modest $28.98 .
“I need a red wine to take to a dinner party but it has to go with all kinds of foods. Any suggestions?” Most places would probably suggest Pinot Noir, but not Wine Exchange! Their go-to, lighter bodied, food friendly, sipping suggestion might be something like Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 2014. Now, don’t turn up your nose and whisper something about ‘bananas and bubble gum’ under your breath. There’s nothing ‘Nouveau’ about this easy to drink treasure from France. Think classy,dark purple fruits and berries with aromatic florals like rose petals and violets. The tannins are on the light side so no worries about overpowering certain items on the menu and, at around 12% alcohol, you can sip on this all….evening….long! And did I mention that it’s only $12.98 a bottle? Tristen and Kyle call this selection ‘very wine exchangey’ and recommend pouring a couple of lightly chilled bottles into a jug (so it can ‘breathe’ and release all those amazing, tantalizing aromas) and passing it around. Ho Ho Ho!
“My friend is Italian so I need a wine from Italy! There are so many I don’t know what to choose – I just know it’s got to be Italian!” It’s big, it’s luscious, it’s brimming with La Dolce Vita – it’ a Super Tuscan! Choose a bottle of Ruffino Modus Toscana 2012 and your buddy will think he’s returned to Tuscany! A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine begs to be enjoyed with some Osco Busco or a thick juicy steak. Black berry, cherries, black olive and black currants – magnifico! Great point (94 from expert James Suckling) and great price, too $23.98
“I need something different, classy and impressive to give my boss. I don’t want to look cheap or lame and, oh yeah, it’s got to be under $45.00” How about something from a region that’s really ‘hot’ for wine savy collectors,? La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva Vina Ardanza 2005 ticks all the boxes. The Spanish region of Rioja Alta is enjoying a renaissance these days and this delicious 2005 vintage has just enough age to show you know what you’re talking about. Open now or save in the cellar. Either way, the deep, slightly rustic, black fruit shows typical Rioja character with a finish that is fresh and spicy at the same time. And did I mention the 93 points from Wine Advocate? All this for $29.98.
If you’d prefer something a little closer to home, the boys at Wine Exchange are happy to share one their recent ‘finds”. It’s not often that you’ll discover ‘library’ (read: older, well cellared, well cared for bottles from stellar vintages) from Napa or Sonoma. California wines tend to sell out fast! But like scavenging antique dealers, our intrepid duo managed to find a hidden cache of 2005 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain. There are only 36 bottles (at last count) of this classic California Cab – fresh dark cherry, black and red currants with vanilla bean, cassis and fragrant baking spice nuances. OK – it’s a little bit pricier at $74.98, but ‘tis the season to splurge!
“Is there anything can I offer my guests who only drink sweeter wines but will still appeal to everyone else?” Well, yes! One terrific suggestion is a slightly sparkling, Vietti Moscato d’Asti Cascinetta 2014. Not your sticky sweet rapper’s Muscato, this! The muscat grapes are grown in the cool mountain hills of Piedmonte in northwest Italy, producing wine that’s bright, light and thirst-quenching. Add a little soft effervescent spritz and you have an elegant wine that will appeal to almost everyone. It’s great as a sipper before dinner with some appetizers but even better with any kind of fruit based dessert, crème brulé or soft cheeses. Fruit and fizz with a refreshing finish and all for just $12.98
To make your gift giving even easier, Wine Exchange has a super selection of simple, tasteful wooden gift boxes ($8), wonderful corkscrews ($15 – also in wooden boxes – there’s a trend here!) to make any bottle into a festive present.
Taking wine with you to a party? Know someone who like to BYOB but can never find an un-crumpled paper bag when they need one? Check out the ‘Connor’ foldable bottle tote ($18) or the 2 bottle ‘Whittaker” with leather accents for just $25. These and many other artisanal, unique wine gifts are available in store and online.
Their well organized website is set up for browsing – just like the shop – and each wine is described in an approachable way. No wine snob lingo – just a true depiction of what you can expect. Kyle and Tristen have tasted every wine and visited many of the producers, so they know of what they speak! Sign up for their newsletter for advance notice of amazing wine deals and educational opportunities. Their in-house classes are relaxed opportunities to learn more about wine and expand your palate.
But the best treat of all is giving yourself the gift of a good wine merchant. Make friends with the team at Wine Exchange and it will feel like the holidays all year long.
Wine Exchange is conveniently located near the I5 at 1544 East Warner Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92705 or visit online www.winex.com
Disclosure: I was a guest of Wine Exchange but have been a private customer for years. The opinions and descriptions above are strictly my own.