One of the more interesting rumors I’ve heard recently is that some people like free booze. This was confirmed by an informal poll I took at a local bar.
In other stunning recent developments, trees are being harvested by the millions, only to find a new indoor home for a month or so. As luck would have it, these trees tend to possess a nice aperture at the bottom for one to place said free booze.
You certainly have a friend or two who would appreciate some tasty liquid treats for Christmas. The beauty of the local alcohol industry is that Michiganders have more purchasing options than ever before. What a time to be alive. Whether you’re a wine newbie or an experienced wino looking for some new bottles, I’ve put together a list for you of some of this year’s gift-able wine choices.
For the Pure Michigan contingent: Not every mitten-based winery offers incredible value, but there are some dependable producers that make wine that’s worth every penny. L. Mawby Winery is a real standout here with its selection of sparkling wines. For about $15, check out M. Lawrence Sex, a hit by many standards.
Cheeky marketing often works irrespective of quality, but there’s plenty of redblooded fruitiness here. A refreshingly dry wine, Sex tastes like raspberries and juicy plums. It’s a style that lends itself to easy sharing, so the gift-receiver may very well pop it open as soon as possible.
For the snow-loather: Get your loved ones out their winter funk by conjuring up some serious vacation imagery. Wines from the Greek island of Santorini are great for this. Shaped by volcanic activity and blessed with views that will melt the most hardened souls, the island has produced compelling wines in the last 10 years, largely from the assyrtiko grape.
For $20, Domaine Sigalas’ 2013 assyrtiko is refreshing in its lemon rind/salty zing. Assyrtiko tends to create a racy styles of wine — think of it as a white wine on beast mode. Serve this with hearty pork chops, or hold on to the bottle for five or six years. It will still be mouthwatering.
For the unshakable California drinker: Don’t fight if your mom or dad has a permanent West Coast wine lust. Look to the Santa Lucia Highlands, where Luli Wines is making a name for itself by creating fruit-driven wines that still retain balance. For about $20, its 2014 syrah could be a new favorite for carnivores. It is smoky, dense and chewy, with a thick blackberry and soy sauce profile that screams for barbecued baby back pork ribs.
The winery is a collaboration between the famous Pisoni family, wine trailblazers in the central coast, and master sommelier Sara Floyd. It’s a new project, but it has already shown a consistency and style that’s right in the wheelhouse of loyal California wine drinkers.
For the insatiable Chardonnay lovers: When discussing this buttery white wine favorite, Michael Skurnik isn’t one of the first names that pops up. He’s better known for importing European wines that are more savory than oaky or fruity. That reputation is changing with the release of the Chard Project.
You can land the 2014 vintage for $15, and it’s worth that and more. A touch of salted caramel and toffee notes mingle with some pineapple, and it just doesn’t quit. It hits all the right spots for this famous grape.
People tend to get down on chardonnay, but versatile wines like these are a wonderful additions to dinners — whether your holiday table features takeout pizza or a Christmas ham.
For the wine haters: If you seek a pleasant beer peninsula, look about you. You won’t have to look far. The Michigan craft beer scene is an embarrassment of riches. Smart retailers stock as many beers as they can fit into their coolers and let you handpick your own six-packs.
Is your girlfriend really into hops? Look for the Liberator double IPA from Short’s Brewing Co. — it should be released any day now. Does your man dig on dark beers? Founders Brewing Co.’s porter is widely available and wildly delicious. Porter is not a sexy beer style at the moment, but it’s difficult to tell that from this beer.
The local craft spirits game is in rapid growth as well. There are roughly 30 craft distilleries in Michigan, and one of the state’s top performers is southwest Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks. If your loved one warrants a $50 splurge, the go-to here is the Ravenswood rye whiskey. The rye taste is prevalent and spicy, with bright orange notes and a cereal backbone. It’s perfect for homemade Manhattans.
Recent Reading Picks: For the budding sommelier/beer geek/mixologist in the family, there are some great literary options available at local bookstores. I highly recommend Adam Rogers’ “Proof: The Science of Booze” for budding spirits aficionados, “Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine,” a great, visually-pleasing introduction to wine, and “The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks - From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes,” by Joshua M. Bernstein.
Justin King is a certified sommelier and resident of Williamston. He is part-owner of Bridge Street Social, a restaurant opening this winter in DeWitt. He hopes none of y’all get fruitcake this year. Email him your nonfruitcake Christmas pics at justingking@ gmail.com.