What to Drink this December 2012

Zinfandels have the weight of cabernet sauvignon, but not the tannins. They pair wonderfully with meaty fish like salmon or tuna and are a joy to drink young (unlike cabs). The cherry on top: Top-of-the-line zins cost as much as a middle-of-the-road cabernet. Is zinfandel the perfect red? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure does make a great grape for the holidays. Here are a few bottles to look out for.
– Glenn Bardgett, member of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board and wine director at Annie Gunn's

Brown Estate Zinfandel, 2010, Napa Valley, Calif. This is one of the most impressive zins in terms of fruit power and manages to still capture the intense raspberry character that the majority of us zinophiles seek. Most cabernets from Napa won’t give you this much pleasure for just $40.

Paraduxx Z Blend, 2009, Napa Valley, Calif. Made to give you thoughts of the great super Tuscan blends of Italy, Duckhorn Wine Co.’s 62-percent zin – blended with cab and merlot – has the same great food affinity found in its Italian muse. For holiday gift-giving, you can be confident that nearly all red wine fans will have a big smile when you treat them to this zintillating $48 blend.

Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel, 2010, Dry Creek Valley, Calif. These old vines were first planted by the Pedroncelli family in 1904, when many Americans were eating ice cream cones at the St. Louis World’s Fair. The vines made it through Prohibition and are still rewarding lovers of this distinctive California grape. Finding wines that are this zinsational for about $17 is truly a challenge.


Aging beer in oak vessels used to be the norm, but once stainless steel and sanitation were introduced to brewing, we saw a long period of time during which very few beers were aged in oak barrels and other wooden casks. Brews that do get to enjoy this rustic aging process bring back traditional techniques and truly push the boundaries of what beer can be.
- Cory King, certified Cicerone and brewer at Perennial Artisan Ales

Lindeman’s Gueuze Cuvée René This “sour” ale is made by blending young and old spontaneous ales (You let the natural yeast in the air “spontaneously” ferment the beer.) to develop depth of flavors that range from honey and pollen to wet hay, lemon juice and chardonnay grapes. The ales that are blending have spent years in neutral oak barrels, so the oak in this case is more for the benefit of the yeast than its character in the beer.

Rogue John John Dead Guy Ale John John Dead Guy Ale starts as one of my favorite Rogue ales, Dead Guy Ale. The deep honey-colored ale is then aged in the Rogue Distillery’s Dead Guy Whiskey barrels. The resulting beer starts with toffee, caramels and earthy hops but finishes with a lingering vanilla and oaky char. Slight warmth from the whiskey rounds everything out.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout For years, this was one of the biggest, baddest and most intense imperial stouts available. Some say this beer started the whiskey barrel-aging revolution in the U.S. This inky, viscous, midnight black stout will give off flavors ranging from sweet licorice to burnt mocha coffee, toasted coconut and boozy bourbon. The heavy oaky notes say that this beer sat on charred wood that was once infused with bourbon.