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In the Spirit: Home for the Holidays

The holidays are certainly upon us and this usually means that a lot of family time is coming as well.  When my own and my wife’s families get together for the holidays you can bet there is a fair amount of food and maybe just a little libation.  Without guilt (because all the calories are removed right?) we eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company this time of year.  I’m sure our families are no different than most where there is way too much to eat and usually some beverages left around.  This is because we always try to have a little of everything to keep everyone we love happy when we are together.  While I would love to consider myself a chef, I won’t speak to the food side of things, but I may be able to help you face the intimidation of beverage selection for your party hosting time.  Pictured above: @kristainco Impressive tasting at Heitz Cellars yesterday.

As silly as it may sound, when I’m planning to have the family over I tend to think of things I personally would enjoy as well.  The reason being, when everyone leaves and there are leftovers, let’s be honest, I’m not throwing ANYTHING out.  That aside, I also like to choose things that fit the season and cuisine, being my professional side, my family comes to expects it now.  There is also a big spread of what our relatives like to indulge in.  Dad loves a good whiskey, Mom sips the chardonnay with ice cubes in it, and then maybe someone wants a cold beer.  A lot of our family would be coming from out of town, so I always try to shop local to show what our area has to offer.

Getting dad covered is easy here in the Greenbrier Valley where we have one of the newer stars in the world of whiskey, Smooth Ambler.  Grab a bottle of their Contradiction to give dad a good start with something to sip on.  Looking for something to warm you up a little more? Check out a bottle of the Old Scout Single Barrel, this 99 proof Hi-rye bourbon is sure to please the biggest aficionado in the family.  For the family mixologist, I always try to keep some crafty mixers on hand.  At the local ABC store you can usually find some Lillet Rouge or if you’re lucky to find it, Carpano Antica. Make sure to grab some Fee Brothers Angostura Bitters also.  These few ingredients will help make a fun twist on a Manhattan or an Old Fashion.

Turning to wine, of course, I tend to overdo it here.  But let’s start with the ice adding sippers that come to the party, grab one of those neat boxes for the fridge.  Not only is it an easy crowd pleaser but its compact and won’t clutter the counter where all the snacks are.  Having a couple of nice bottles on hand is always a good idea, remember the aficionado will be there too!  For white wine, a warmer Napa Valley Chardonnay is always nice this time of the year.  Stag’s leap Wine Cellars, Levendi Winery, or Heitz Cellars (pictured) all produce bigger, heavier chardonnays that will stand up to the heavy holiday menus.  For red wines, at Thanksgiving it’s simple.  Pinot Noir is the classic pairing and most wine drinkers won’t turn them down.  The fruitiness of a Central Coast Pinot and Thanksgiving turkey almost makes my mouth water thinking about it.  Something by Tallbot Vineyards, Melville Vineyards, or Foxen Vineyards would all be great choices.  The rest of the holiday season is usually trumped by Italian wines in our house.  A great Brunello di Montalcino is an easy call but can break the bank a little.  Maybe going with a Rosso di Montalcino (baby Brunello) or even a Super Tuscan is a great idea as well.  Some brands that come to mind Caparzo, Fontodi, and Tenuta Vitanza fit these categories very well.  Their ability to pair with anything your family master chef can throw at it will surprise you.

Beer is easy as well.  I usually fill a cooler with ice drop in some Bud Light (yup everyone needs a palate cleanser) and leave enough room for a few fancier things.  West Virginia has a great beer scene right now and so much to offer in every style of beer.  For the season and family IPA lover, Greenbrier Valley Brewing has the Mothman Black IPA.  Big Timber Brewing from Elkins, WV does a Porter that might even convert that IPA drinker.  Having a couple 6 packs of each in that cooler might be a great idea.  And if there is enough room in that cooler, a cider from Hawk Knob or Swilled Dog might be a fun edition this time of year.

No matter how you look at it, we’re still going to try to please everyone in the family.  Why not have some stuff left over to look forward to yourself?  Cheers!

– Ron Magliochetti, Director of Wine & Fine Dining at The Greenbrier. HashtagWV #107. November 2018.

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HashtagWV Art & Entertainment is a high-quality print and digital multimedia platform for all things West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The editorial focus is local music, unique shopping, the arts, events, theatre, and food and drinks.