Fail-Safe Ebullience for the Holidays

With Christmas well-nigh and New Year’s celebrations arriving soon thereafter, I am constantly being hit up to recommend a delicious, interesting red to give as a gift or take to cocktail parties.

cocktail parties wine

The answer is easy: secure a bottle of the Shooting Star Blue Franc 2004, a wine I first encountered six months ago at New York’s well-edited Appellation Wines & Spirits and have since included in several wine seminars.

Like the Governator, this wine is an Austrian in West Coaster’s clothes, being that it is from an Austrian grape (Blaufränkisch) grown in Washington State (where the same grape is known as Lemberger, not to be confused with the stinky, rind-washed cheese, Limberger).

Here is why the Shooting Star Blue Franc hits on all cylinders:

* Gustatory scrumptiousness: its vibrant mix of red-berry fruit, combined with a soft, silky texture, will please any party

* Cocktail-party intrigue: not the usual Cabernet, this red stands out for its unusual grape of origin

* Gentle on the money-clip: clocking in at a reasonable $14

* Captivating label: an old, blue-hued 100-franc note (a “Blue Franc”) making it look like a wine at least twice its price

* Relatively available: in addition to Appellation Wines (, it can be ordered at New York’s Astor Wines, Michigan’s Bello Vino Marketplace, and California’s Solano Cellars, among other merchants.

Spooky Sips: Wines for Halloween

Wondering what to serve at (or bring to) your Halloween party?  Consider these spooky treats:halloween

  • Alexander Valley Sin Zin (California)
  • Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin “Beastly Old Vines”(California)
  • Bonny Doon Le Cigar Volant (“Flying Saucer”) (California)
  • Cockfighter’s Ghost (Australia) Chardonnay or Shiraz   (Australia)
  • Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo “Cellar of the Devil,” various types (Chile)
  • d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz (Australia)
  • Devil’s Lair Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)
  • Egervin Egri Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) (Hungary)
  • Leitz Dragonstone Riesling (Germany)
  • Trevor Jones Wild Witch Shiraz (Australia)
  • Vampire Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir (Romania)

devil4Producer: Devil’s Lair (Australia)
Wine: Chardonnay Margaret River
Vintage: 2003
Cost: $25
Track it down:

This Aussie triumph manages to do what many Chardonnays can’t: straddle a razor’s edge between richness and zest, between oakiness and refreshment. Creamy aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and almonds mingle with essences of pears and lemons.  Its taste, combined with the wine’s bloodcurdling, fossilized Tasmanian Devil label drawing, will chase away the demons of undistinguished Chardonnay.