Category Archives: Rhone Valley


Choosing Wine for Your Holiday Table

Perfectly Paired


By Thaddeus Buggs and Susan Spinello

“Wine has a life of its own as it continues to live and breathe from the vine to your lips.”

Halloween may have passed, but the truly scariest time of year is still upon us…family holidays!   The table is set.  The turkey and stuffing are in the oven, and all that’s left is deciding on your beverage of choice.  Selecting the perfect wine for your holiday meal can be daunting.  Should you go with what you know or try something new?  When you’re looking for a beverage to pair with almost everything, look no further than Champagne. It’s the perfect breakfast juice, and for the holidays, it’s unbeatable. Grab a turkey leg, eat some stuffing, then finish it off with a glass of Champagne and experience the magical acidity, minerality and fruit come alive.

Try Growers Champagne, from Champagne, France.  There are about 5000 of these small growers of really good juice at a reasonable price. Growers tend to focus on terroir because they want their wines to have a sense of place and the three main grapes grown in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.  The best way to identify a grower of Champagne is to look for RM (Recoltant-Manipulant) on the label. Some favorites to look for are @Champagne Voirin-Jumel, @Champagne Paul Dethune, @Champagne Marc Hebrart, and @Champagne Paul-Etienne Germain.

You may be visited by your crazy Austrian Uncle Gruner Veltliner, who is really a “foodie”, that’s fun and easygoing.   In fact, he really should be the star attraction at the dinner table due to his compatibility with turkey, peas, artichoke and asparagus.  His reputation was almost completely ruined when the skeletons in his closet exposed an antifreeze scandal, but he just wanted to make you think he was sweeter than he was.  Gruner Veltliner is like a golden Margarita, with vibrant notes of lime, tangerine, green pear and grapefruit brushed with hints of saline and white pepper.  He’s a bit of an acid head, but hang out with Uncle Gruner and you’ll soon welcome him to every holiday table.  Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner from Kamptal is a perfect way to familiarize yourself with Gruner.

Then there’s your French Grandmother, Gamay, but most people know her as Beaujolais.  Don’t be fooled.  Gamay is not as sweet or whimpy as you may think.  Her family skeletons continue to drag down her good name with the annual production of whole cluster grapes crushed under its own weight along with carbon dioxide to produce a non-structured, popsicle-sweet concoction meant for copious consumption on the 3rd week of November.  Stay away from Auntie Beaujolais Nouveau.  Instead, try a Beaujolais Cru from one of the ten communes that grow Gamay in granite soil, creating a rich, velvety texture with red fruit, pomegranates, violets and savory spices.  @Domaine De La Voute des Croze produces Cote-de-Brouilly Beaujolais and is single-handedly crafted by winemaker Nicole Chanrion. Grandma Gamay is a rich, complex patriarch…though you wouldn’t know it from her family.

Now we need a big boy to show up late and make a grand entrance at the family table and guess who knocks at the door: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which translates to “The Pope’s New Castle”.  If it’s good enough for the Pope, you know it will be a sure crowd pleaser.  Chateauneuf is located in the Southern Rhone Valley of France. The main grapes varieties are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.  These wines are earthy, gamey flavors, black fruit, white/black pepper and a long lingering finish waiting on the gravy to be poured over the stuffing. Look for these wines: @ChateauRayas, @ChateaudeBeauCastel, @DomaineduVieuxLazaret, and @ClosSaint-jean.

This year open yourself up to something new and open up a bottle of something new.  There’s nothing scary about that.  Cheers #Goodjuice






During my travels through the Rhone Valley I stop in a little village called Cornas known for making Syrah the way it should be made.

I met a young inspiring Sommelier Elodie Zimmermann, who served as my tour guide at Jean Luc Colombo winery. She gave me a tour of the vineyards and we road high above the village of Cornas where Jean Luc Colombo grows some of the best Syarh grapes in the world.

The high elevation the rocky soil and great terrior make for a perfect place to grow world class Syarh.
This village is the heart of Syarh in the Rhone Valley and the name Cornas is Celtic for “burnt earth”,
this is red wine country and is the only area in the Rhone Valley that doesn’t permit white wine to be produced.

Jean Luc Colombo white wines come from St Peray and they are quite good, made with the typical Rhone grape varieties Granach blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne,and Viognier.

I tasted through several of his wines and this is how Syarh should taste gamey, earthy, peppery, and masculine. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Rhone Valley you must stop by and visit Jean-Luc Colombo winery you will have an outstanding wine experience.