Monday, December 11, 2017

2017: Top Ten Wines Over $15 (But Under $50)

What were some of my favorite wines of the past year?

Welcome to my second Top Ten Wine List. Last week, I posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15, which I hope you enjoyed and found useful. Now it is time for my Top Ten Wines Over $15, though these wines also cost less than $50.

Like the prior list, this list includes wines that not only I enjoyed, but which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious, something more unique or just excellent values for the price. They all stand out, for some particular reason, above the other wines at this price point that I have tasted this past year.

This is a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" wines out there. It is primarily the wines which spoke to me the loudest, even when they were subtle wines. These are all wines that I highly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers will also enjoy.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review. All of these wines are worth your consideration but please also note that the prices are approximations and the actual price may vary in your area. In addition, some of the wines might not be available in your local area, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws. Please also note that this is technically a Top 12 list as three Sherries are tied at one spot.

1) Julien Brand La Bulle De L'Oueste Petillant Brut ($20.00)
A Sparkling Muscadet? This was my first such wine and it won't be the last. Made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne grape, this French wine is certified organic and was fermented by the Methode Ancestrale, also known as Pétillant-Naturel. It has a low 9.8% ABV, meaning you can have an extra glass without worrying much about getting too tipsy. As I raised the flute to my nose, visually delighted by the tiny bubbles, I was entranced with this wine, loving its appealing and intense aromas, such beautiful fruit with a wisp of the ocean. On the palate, there was lots of crisp acidity, delicious citrus notes, and a steely minerality with an herbal hint. It was fresh and tasty, each sip making you crave more. Highly recommended!

2) 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce ($18.99)
This Italian Sparkling Lambrusco was produced from 100% Salamino di Santa Croce, from 40+ year old organic vines. The wine was a deep, almost purple color, with an alluring aroma of berries, violets, mild spices, and a hint of earthiness. On the palate, it has a creamy effervescence, with enticing, dry and juicy flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and ripe plum, with an underlying earthiness and mild spice notes. The tannins are well-integrated, the acidity is strong, and the finish is lengthy and pleasing. It was easy drinking but with plenty of complexity, the type of addictive wine which you'll likely finish the entire bottle before you know it.

3) 2011 Artevani Qvevri Aged Rkatsiteli ($30-$35)
One of the top three wines I enjoyed at the Boston Wine Expo, this Georgian wine is impressive on many levels. Artevani is a family-owned winery, seeking to produce more natural wines, reflective of terroir, and combining ancient traditions with modern technology. This wine is made from 100% Rkatsiteli, from seventy-year old vines, and is fermented in qvevri for about 24 days and then aged in qvevri for another 8-12 months. With a rich amber color, the wine presented with a fascinating aroma, an alluring mix of herbs, spices, and dried fruits. On the palate, I found a complex and intriguing melange of flavors and it was actually difficult to describe everything happening in my mouth. It was full bodied, with nice acidity, and a lengthy and satisfying finish. This is the type of wine you slowly savor, enjoying the new and surprising flavors you encounter with each sip.

4) 2016 Valdespino Ojo de Gallo Palomino Fino ($15.99)
This Spanish wine is made from 100% Palomino Fino, the grape usually used to produce Sherry, but the producer chose to make an unfortified version. The organically cultivated grapes are 20-25 years old. Fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts, and then it is aged for about 6 months on the fine lees. With a 12% ABV, it has a nice golden color and the nose reminded me immediately of a Fino Sherry. On the palate, it also was reminiscent of Fino Sherry with a bright salinity, citrus flavors, a strong minerality backbone and savory notes. It was crisp and very dry, with a lengthy and pleasing finish. It was fresh, elegant and complex, an intriguing wine that certainly shows the potential for Palomino Fino in unfortified, still wines.

Bonny Doon Vineyard, based in Santa Cruz, California, produces a fascinating range of intriguing and delicious wines. Another of my top three wines from the Boston Wine Expo was their 2014 Clos de Gilroy “Cuvée Particuliere", which is produced mainly from Grenache with a little bit of Mourvedre. It was more of an Old-World style wine, with bright red fruit flavors, some peppery notes and a mild earthiness. It was complex and intriguing, an elegant and delicious wine that calls out for lamb or wild boar, or a hearty Italian ragu. The wine easily seduced my palate and it was hard to refrain from draining the bottle on my own.

6) 2015 Metrick Mourvèdre ($31)
Alex Russan, with his Alexander Jules Sherries, has been on these prior lists multiple times and this year he earns a spot for his non-Sherry wines. His Metrick Wines explore the different wine regions of California and the 2015 Metrick Mourvèdre is a blend of 85% Mourvedre, 5% Marsanne, 5% Counoise, and 5% Syrah. The wine was fermented in 50% stainless steel and 50% concrete. 95% of the juice was free run, and it was then aged for about 11 months in concrete. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered, and has a 12% ABV. This wine was thoroughly impressive, a light bodied and savory elixir. A complex blend of herbs, olives and earthiness dominated the taste, with subtle hints of berry. It was so ethereal on the palate, with a compelling taste, including a lingering finish, which made me crave a second and third glass. I would pair this with an herbed, roast chicken or a mushroom risotto, or maybe a venison steak.

7) 2015 Alapiani Shavkapito ($25)
Another Georgian wine, I was thoroughly impressed with this wine produced from the indigenous Shavkapito grape which is even in Georgia. Its name means "vine with a black cane" and is said to be terroir-reflective. The grapes were sourced from a vineyard in the Okami village of the Shida Kartli region and the wine was fermented and aged in qvevri. With an alluring aroma of black fruit and herbs, the wine presented with a fascinating melange of flavors, including ripe plum, blackberry and black cherry, along with herbal accents, a smoky note, and a touch of spice. Lots of complexity, smooth tannins and a lengthy, pleasing finish.

8) 2016 1865 Pinot Noir ($18)
Finding excellent Pinot Noir for under $20 is difficult so I was extremely taken with this Chilean wine. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, from the El Platero Vineyard in the Valle Del Elqui, the wine was aged for about eight months in a combination of foudres, concrete eggs and barrels. With a 13.5% ABV, the wine has a light red color, and an alluring and complex nose of red fruits and touches of earth and spice. Those aromas will draw you in and you won't be disappointed once you taste it. The wine is elegant and light bodied, with a complex and fascinating melange of flavors, including bright red cherry, more subdued black cherry, subtle spice notes, and underlying hints of earthiness. There was excellent acidity, mineral notes, and a lingering, satisfying finish. It was well-balanced and compelling, reminding me in different ways to Burgundian Pinot as well as Oregonian Pinot, yet still with its own unique character.

9) 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton ($47)
I love Greek wines and this is a killer wine, compelling and delicious. It is a blend of three indigenous Greek grapes, including 50% Limnio, 25% Mavrotragano & 20% Mavroudi. This wine is fermented and aged in French oak, has a 14% ABV, and has an inky dark red color, with an alluring aroma of black fruit, mild spice, and a touch of earthiness. On the palate, the wine is muscular and big, though it is still elegant and the tannins are well restrained. There are complex & rich flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, and blackberry, enhanced by a spicy backbone, good acidity, and a hint of herbs. It is delicious and well-balanced, with a lengthy, pleasing finish. It would be great paired with hearty dishes, from a grilled steak to a leg of lamb.

10) 2016 Rară Neagră de Purcari ($22-$23)
Another tasty wine from Moldova, this Rară Neagră de Purcari was impressive, luring me in from my first sniff of its compelling aroma. The wine is made from 100% Rară Neagră, was fermented in stainless steel, aged in French oak barriques and has a 14% ABV. The aroma is very savory, with black fruit accents and subtle spicy notes. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, with soft tannins and good acidity. It presents an intriguing melange of bold flavors, ripe black fruit, spicy notes, hints of vanilla, and an almost meaty undertone. A lengthy finish completes this well balanced and delicious wine.

This is always my toughest list to compile because there are numerous other excellent wines which I could have added. I had to ponder long over which wines to actually select for the main list, meaning that I had to eliminate other worthy wines. To give some credit to those other worthy wines, which almost made the Top Ten list, I have an Honorable Mention list. These are also wines you definitely should check out.

Honorable Mention

1) 2015 Metrick Chardonnay ($36)
This Metrick Chardonnay is made with grapes from the Sierra Madre Vineyard, planted in 1971 and sustainably farmed, in the Santa Maria AVA. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees, in stainless, for about 11 months. It underwent malolactic fermentation, allowing it to be bottled unfiltered, and has a 12% ABV. I found this wine to be crisp and clean, with bright citrus notes and some minerality. There was some richness in the mouthfeel and it came across as elegant and delicious. I paired this wine with some stuffed clams and it was an excellent pairing. It was obvious that this Chardonnay would be perfect with seafood, from sushi to oysters.

2) 2015 Batono Qvevruli Tetri ($20)
This Georgian wine is an intriguing blend of three indigenous grapes, 40% Kisi, 40% Mtsvane and 20% Rkatsiteli. It was produced in both qvevri and oak, and was a fascinating and delicious wine with a unique melange of spice, dried fruit, herbal accents and a touch of eucalyptus. Each sip brought a new flavor combination to my palate and this is a very good value wine to savor and enjoy over time. This wine would work well with seafood dishes and roast chicken.

3) 2016 Alpha Estate Rosé ($19.99)
You should enjoy Rosé year-round and this Greek Rosé should please you. Made from 100% Xinomavro, it spent two months on the lees and has a 13% ABV. With a bright pink color, this wine has a delightful fruity nose and on the palate, it is crisp, dry and fruity, with tasty flavors of strawberry and cherry and subtle floral notes. It has a medium-body, with a lengthy, satisfying finish.  This would certainly be a food-versatile wine, from oysters to burgers, roasted chicken to pizza. Though sipping it on its own, while relaxing poolside, would be quite the pleasure as well.

4) 2013 Adega de Borba Reserve ($18-$19)
Another excellent value Portuguese wine, this is a blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Castelão and Alicante Bouschet. The wine spent about 12 months in French oak, and then another 6 months in the bottle. This is a delicious, complex wine and though it is also powerful in some respects, that power is restrained within a velvet glove, presenting a silky smooth taste. There are lush black fruit flavors, plenty of intriguing spice notes, and some exotic herbal accents. This is another wine which would benefit from pairing with meat dishes.

5) 2013 Vallegre Vinhas Velhas Reserva Especial (about $21)
Another tasty Portuguese wine, this is an intriguing blend of Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Sousão and Tinta Francisca, from 60+ year old vines. It presents as deep and dark, complex and smooth, spicy and tannic. Concentrated flavors of Rich ripe plum and flavors, with hints of chocolate and leather. A well-balanced wine with plenty of acidity and a lengthy, satisfying finish. So much going on in this wine, it is sure to impress.

6) 2015 Artevani Saperavi ($24)
The Georgian winery of Artevani also produced a compelling organic Saperavi, made from an old recipe and which sees no oak. With a dark red color, it presented with a fruity aroma, and a rich palate of red fruits with a hint of earthiness. It was smooth, with low tannins, good acidity, and a lengthy, pleasing finish. A wine that would pair well with plenty of different foods, from pizza to burgers.

7) 2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos ($35)
Another fascinating Greek wine, the Biblia Chora Biblinos is made from 100% of an unknown grape that was discovered on the slopes of Mount Pangeon. DNA testing couldn't identify the grape but it was able to verify that it was vitis vinifera, of Greek origin. Essentially this is a lost grape, one whose origins could extend back to the ancient Greeks, and it might never be identified. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in French oak for about 12 months. With a 14.5% ABV, the wine is inky dark in color with an interesting aroma of black fruit with some light floral notes, like wild violets. On the palate, there is an intriguing and complex melange of flavors, with ripe plum, blueberry and black cherry up front and leading to some spicy and savory notes, especially on the long and lingering finish. Good acidity, some rich voluptuousness up front, and well-integrated tannins. The savory aspect, hints of herbs and roast meat, was compelling and I was well enamored with this wine.

8) 2013 Ramat Negev Ramon Petit Verdot ($39.99)
This Israeli winery saw its origins back in 1997, with a desire to establish a winery that was based only on local produce. Their Petit Verdot, from a single vineyard, spent about 18 months in new French oak and then six months in the bottle. With a powerful spicy aroma, this wine is deep and dark but with restrained tannins. It possesses juicy blackberry and plum flavors with a touch of blueberry, a spicy aspect, and a lengthy, pleasing finish. This is a wine that is probably best paired with food and it should also impress many wine lovers.

9) 2015 Survivor Pinotage ($18-$20)
This South African wine is made from 100% Pinotage and it was aged in 95% French and 5% American oak for about 18 months. Pinotage can be a divisive grape but I've always been a fan, and this example was compelling. I found it to be smoky and spicy, with deep flavors of plum and black cherry, with hints of vanilla, spice and bacon. The tannins were well integrated, it had a lengthy finish, and would be an excellent accompaniment with lamb, steak, or other roasted meats.

10) 2014 Enderle & Moll Basis Pinot Noir ($30)
Pinot Noir is probably not something you think of much when you consider German wines but maybe you should based on this fine example. It has only an 11.5% ABV, an amazingly low alcohol level compared to most other Pinot Noirs. This wine has a very light red color and on the nose, its present an alluring scent of cherry, mild spice and a touch of earthiness. On the palate, you'll be impressed with its elegance and complexity, its bright acidity and delightful flavors of red fruit, spice notes, earthy elements and a touch of herbs. With a lengthy and pleasing finish, this is a killer Pinot, one that can easily compete with Pinots from any other region. It seems like a wine reflective of place, and it was easy to finish the bottle over the course of an evening.


Eight countries made the list this year, as opposed to seven last year. Georgia and California occupy the most spots on my Top Ten list, each with two spots. The rest of the list is occupied by France, Italy, Spain, Chile, Greece, and Moldova. The list is also broken down into two Sparkling Wines, two White wines, one Rosé, & five Reds.

On the Honorable Mention list, seven countries made the list and Georgia, Greece and Portugal occupy the most places, each with two spots. The other regions include California, Israel, South Africa and Germany. The list is also broken down into two Whites, one Rosé, & seven Reds.

When you combine the two lists, Georgia is in first place with four spots while California and Greece are tied for second place with three spots each. Portugal has two spots while France, Italy, Spain, Chile, Moldova, Israel, South Africa and Germany all have only one spot. In addition, you'll find two Sparkling Wines, four White wines, two Rosé, & twelve Reds. Eight of the wines on these lists were tasted at the Boston Wine Expo.

I have plenty of other recommendations for wines at this price point on my blog. There are top notch wines from countries all over the world, made from an incredibly diverse selection of grapes and you can still find plenty of values too. My advice is that you seek out wines outside of your comfort zone. Explore the multitude of diversity in the wonderful world of wine. Taste and try anything new, unique or potentially interesting. I am sure your search will lead to new favorites.

If you have some of your own recommendations for wines that are over $15 but under $50, please add them to the comments.

Friday, December 8, 2017

2017: Top Ten Wines Under $15

What were some of my favorite wines of the past year?

As 2018 approaches, it's time once again to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor many pleasant memories. As 2017 winds down, I'll be posting my annual series of Favorite Lists over the next few weeks, covering food, wine, sake and spirits. These lists should provide a comprehensive summary of my favorites from this past year, allowing my readers to more readily locate such gems, the best of my recommendations.

My first Favorites List of 2017 is my Top Ten Wines Under $15. This list includes wines that not only did I enjoy, but which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious, something more unique or just excellent values for the price. They all stand out, for some particular reason, above the other wines at this price point that I have tasted this past year.

This is a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" wines out there. It is primarily the wines which spoke to me the loudest, even when they were subtle wines. These are all wines that I strongly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers would also enjoy.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review. All of these value wines are worth your consideration but please also note that the prices are approximations and the actual price may vary in your area. In addition, some of the wines might not be available in your local area, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.

1) Cricova Crisecco Vin Spumant Alb Brut ($12-$14)
A Moldovan Sparkling wine! This wine is a blend of 90% Fetească Albă (an indigenous grape) and 10% Muscat, produced by the Charmat method (like most Italian Prosecco). At 12.5% ABV, this bubbly is aromatic, with a distinctive Muscat nose enhanced by some citrus notes. On the palate, it is dry, crisp and tasty, with flavors of apple, pear and subtle citrus. A very pleasant and easy-drinking Sparkling wine, this is also an excellent value and highly recommended.

2) Telavi Wine Cellar NV Marani Sparkling White Brut ($11)
Another excellent value Sparkling wine, this bubbly is from the country of Georgia, which has over 500 indigenous grapes. This bubbly is a blend of Rkatisteli, Mtsvane and Kisi (three indigenous grapes) and has a 12.5% ABV. It is dry and lightly effervescent, with bright peach, citrus and almond notes, and a hint of toast. A tasty and easy drinking bubbly, with plenty of complexity at this low price point.

3) 2015 Batono Chinuri ($12)
Another wine from Georgia, this white wine is produced from 100% Chinuri, another indigenous grape. I found this wine to be interesting and delicious, with notes of ripe pear and melon, accompanied by some intriguing herbal accents. It was easy drinking but with some complexity, good acidity, and a nice texture. An excellent value wine offering a fascinating taste profile at this price point.

4) 2015 Cuvée René Dopff Pinot Blanc ($12.99)
The French region of Alsace has long had a special place in my heart and this white wine is a fine example of some of the values found in this region. Produced from 100% Pinot Blanc, the wine sits on the lees for about 4 months, is then filtered, and sits in stainless steel for several months before bottling. With a light golden color, it has a delightful fruity aroma, and on the palate, there are bright notes of peach, citrus and lemon. It has a rich mouthfeel, with a nice crisp acidity, and a clean finish. It is an easy drinking, but not single-note, wine and a very good value at this price.

5) 2016 Maetierra Atlantis Albariño ($12)
Spain is another country which produces some excellent value wines, such as this one. From the Rias Baixas D.O., this wine is made from 100% Albariño, sees no oak and is only 12.5% ABV. With a light golden color, the wine presented an appealing, fruity aroma and on the palate, it was crisp, dry and delicious. There were tasty flavors of apple, melon and pear with a medium-body and a pleasing finish. An easy drinking wine, it presents with more complexity than many other wines at this price point.

6) 2015 Hugel Gentil ($12)
Alsace offers another great value wine for this list. The Gentil is a blend of 50% Sylvaner & Pinot Blanc, 22% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewurztraminer, 7% Riesling and 6% Muscat. I should note that the 2015 vintage was considered exceptional in Alsace. This is an excellent value white wine, with lots of character and complexity at this price point. From its aromatic nose to the delicious melange of flavors on the palate, this is a wine for everyday drinking, especially with food. There were tasty flavors of pear, lemon and melon, with a hint of spice, and plenty of crisp acidity. It was fresh with a pleasing finish and pairs well with seafood. 

7) 2014 Montes Clares Reserva Tinto ($13.99)
It's certainly no surprise that Portugal appears on this list, as it always does, because I believe they have some of the best values in the wine world. This red wine is a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tinta Caiada, which was matured for about 12 months in new French and American oak and then 6 additional months in the bottle. With rich flavors of plum and blackberry, there was a strong spicy undertone with a subtle earthy element, especially on the finish. Tannins are manageable and it has a fairly lengthy finish, especially for such a value wine. Pair this wine with meat, from wild boar to steaks, though it would work with a juicy burger as well.

8) 2012 Costa Do Pombal Red ($8-$10)
Another Portuguese wine, this is an incredible value as you would be hard pressed to find a wine from another region priced under $10 that offers as much as this wine. This red wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca which is a fruity and easy drinking wine, with low tannins, a hint of spice, and a pleasing finish. It is more than a one-note wine, possessing more character than most wines at this price point. Highly recommended.

9) 2015 Ruhlman Pinot Noir Cuvee Mosaique ($14.99)
About 90% of Alsatian wines are white, so it is more difficult to find their Pinot Noirs, but you should seek them out. This wine was absolutely delicious, an easy drinking Pinot with a nice melange of flavors. It is very light red in color as well light-bodied on your palate. It offers bright red fruit flavors, cherry and raspberry, a hint of an underlying earthy element, and a decently long finish. At this price point, this is one of the best value Pinots you'll find and highly recommended. I'd buy this by the case to enjoy on its own or with dishes from burgers to pasta.

10) 2015 Proyecto Garnachas de Espana La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo ($11.99)
This Spanish wine is another killer value, made from 100% Garnacha and with a 13.5% ABV. It is fermented in stainless steel and then is aged for five months in new French oak barrels. It possesses a more subtle aroma on this wine, mild fruity notes with hints of spice. On the palate, the wine immediately impressed, presenting delicious black fruit flavors, enhanced with a touch of earthiness and spice, and there was even some minerality beneath it all. The tannins were well integrated, presenting a smooth and easy drinking wine, with a moderately lengthy and satisfying finish. You could easily enjoy this on its own, or accompanied with food, from pizza to ribs.

Five countries made the list this year, as opposed to six last year. Alsace took the lead with three spots on the list, with Georgia, Spain and Portugal each occupying two spots. Moldova occupied the last spot. Five of the wines on this list were tasted at the Boston Wine Expo, an event where I often find a number of excellent value wines. There are no real surprises on this list, though I'll note you probably start seeing more Georgian wines on local shelves as more people find the treasures being produced in that country. Moldova is the newcomer to the list and I suspect you'll see more on these lists in the near future, if not on another list this year. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 4 Whites, 4 Reds and 2 Sparkling. Last year, there weren't any Sparkling Wines on the list.

I have other recommendations for wines under $15 on my blog and you just have to search for them. You can find value wines all over the world, in every region, though some regions provide a greater range and diversity of value wines. It is important to remember that though wine stores sell plenty of wines in this price range, not all of them are of equal value. Wines in this price range do not have to be one-dimensional wines that all taste the same.

You can find wines of character and complexity, though you might need to spend a little more time seeking them out. Wine blogs can help you in that regard, pointing out wines that you might not otherwise know about. Tasting the wines before you buy them is another way to find such values. Or simply ask your trusted wine store staff for advice and suggestions. For more advice on finding value wines, please check out my prior article on the subject.

If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines under $15, please add them to the comments.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sips & Nibbles: Holiday Edition

I am back again with a special Holiday edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
1) Legal Harborside is gearing up for the holiday season at Liberty Wharf. From December 13 through 24, the second floor at Legal Harborside will serve a “Feast of the Seven Fishes” tasting menu, featuring five courses from the best of the sea, with optional wine pairings.

Legal Harborside’s menu will be presented as follows:
Raw Bar Duo (jumbo shrimp cocktail, Wellfleet oysters, pomegranate granita)
Laurent-Perrier Brut Vintage Champagne, 2007
Salt Cod Croquette (lemon aioli)
Lemelson Vineyards “Dry” Riesling, Willamette Valley, 2014
Organic Shrimp (truffled risotto, basil oil, aged parmesan)
Bethel Heights “Justice Vineyard,” Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, 2014
Frutti di Mare (dungeness crab, halibut, littlenecks, tomato saffron broth)
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, Waipara Valley, 2013
Eggnog Panna Cotta
Quinta do Noval Colheita Port, 2003

COST: $80 per person for tasting menu; $125 per person with wine pairings
For reservations, please call 617-477-2900

2) This New Year’s Eve, spend the night among a fine harbor and city view atop the rooftop of Legal Harborside. The glass-enclosed space will be sparkling in winter wonderland décor for the sky-high soiree which will include deejay entertainment, a complimentary midnight toast with Taittinger bubbly as well as noisemakers and hats in true celebratory fashion.

General admission tickets are available for $85 per person, and options to reserve a lounge-style table for the evening are available for up to six people for $650. Goodbye, 2017. Hello, 2018!

WHEN: Sunday, December 31, from 10:00pm-1:30am
MORE INFO: Tickets and tables may be reserved online. Tickets purchased are non-refundable and have no cash value. Limited tickets and table reservations are available. Access to the event will only be granted to guests with a ticket receipt and 21+ ID. Ticket price includes tax, but not gratuity. Please call 617-530-9470 with questions.

3) Chef Brian Kevorkian and team welcome guests to Grill 23 & Bar for a winter lunch this December. This seasonal special is the only time all year where Grill 23 opens their doors for lunch service featuring their signature steakhouse classics and fresh New England seafood. Guests can enjoy a variety of wines while dining on items such as the 100 Day Aged Prime Ribeye, Grilled Swordfish (cumin and orange glazed carrots, chermoula), Wedge Salad (blue cheese, bacon, crispy shallots, poblano ranch), and New England Chowder (smoked pork, lobster infused butter). Sit back and relax this holiday season with with colleagues or loved ones and share family-style sides including Lobster Mac N’ Cheese (smoked gouda), Tots with truffle oil, and Roasted Asparagus.

WHEN: December 11- 15, and December 18-22, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
To make Reservations, please call 617-542-2255

4) On December 25, from 11am-4pm, the Seaport Hotel will celebrate Christmas with an elaborate, family-friendly brunch buffet at Aura, featuring a spectacular menu and a visit from St. Nick himself.

The Aura Christmas Brunch Menu will include: Traditional Eggs Benedict, Black Bean Eggs Benedict with Smoked Chili Hollandaise, French Toast, Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Pork Sausage, Chicken Apple Sausage, Leek and Truffle Quiche, An Assortment of Fruits & Cheeses, Fruit, Yogurt and Granola Parfait, Shrimp Cocktail, Smoked Salmon with traditional accompaniments, Caesar Salad, Grilled Winter Vegetable Salad, Simple Salad with Seaport Honey Vinaigrette, Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Soup, New England Clam Chowder, Honey Ham with a Bourbon Maple Glaze, Roasted Sirloin with Red Wine and Currants, 3 Cheese Tortellini with Bolognese, Pan Roasted Salmon with Creamed Spinach, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Butternut Squash, Puree Mashed Potatoes, Glazed Winter Vegetables, Braised Green Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, Desserts, Assortment of Holiday Pastries Chocolate Fountain

COST: $75 per adult; $25 per child ages 5-12; complimentary for children 4-and-under
For reservations, please call 617-385-4304

5) On Wednesday, December 20, join Chef Michael Serpa of Select Oyster Bar for a traditional Italian-American seafood feast -- literally with the Feast of Seven Fishes. Chef Serpa combines tradition and his love for fresh seafood in seven delicious seafood dishes which will be served family style.

All dishes below served family style for the table:
--Frutti di Mare
--Island Creek Oysters & Wellfleet Littleneck Clams (traditional accompaniments)
--Yellowfin Tuna Crudo (house giardiana pickles, toasted walnut vinaigrette, olive oil)
--Flash Seared Dayboat Scallops (warm chestnut puree, blood orange salad, celery root)
--Eel Livornese (whipped polenta, roasted tomato, olives, basil pesto)
--Whipped Baccala (golden potato, crispy mushrooms, olive oil + herb crostini)
--Grilled Bronzino & Polpo (octopus vinaigrette, roasted fennel, parsley)
--Maine Lobster Spaghetti (roasted tomato sauce, basil, bread crumbs, pecorino)

Cost: $95 per guest
Reservations are required, so please call 857-239-8064

6) Executive Chef Stefano Zimei and the team at Chopps American Bar & Grill in Burlington have created a special Three-Course Christmas Dinner, which will be available on December 25, from 1pm-6pm. The normal Dinner menu will also be available.

Menu includes:
--Maine Lobster Soup (cognac, lobster dumplings)
--Wild Mushroom & Apple Salad (smoked pecan, warm bacon vinaigrette)
--Caramelized Scallops (carrot puree, melted leeks, asparagus, brown butter)
--Roasted Duck Breast (forbidden black rice, bourbon honey glaze, squash, turnips, sprouts)
--Butternut Squash Ravioli (hearty greens, sage butter, parmesan)
Butter Scotch Pot De Crème (candied pistachio brittle)

Cost: $55 per person
Please make a Reservation by calling 781-221-6643

7) Join the team at Sulmona Restaurant as they celebrate the holidays with a specialty Feast of the Seven Fishes menu, a nod to the traditional Italian-American Christmas Eve dinner. While the Feast of the Seven Fishes menu is traditionally enjoyed on Christmas Eve, Chef Delio Susi is offering the special menu starting December 11 through Christmas Eve.

The fruits of the sea take center stage with the Feast of the Seven fishes but there is another ingredient on the menu that is a real showstopper - a very rare and exclusive extra virgin olive oil from Chef Delio’s family vines in Sicily. This olive oil is 100% organic and unfiltered. While Delio predominantly uses this as a finishing oil, there are two menu items on the Feast of the Seven Fishes menu that showcase the unique flavors.

Chef Delio honors his Uncle Guy’s love for sea urchin, a variety of fish not usually used in homestyle Italian cooking, with extra virgin imported olive oil in the Uni dish with a simple and mouthwatering preparation of garlic, chilies, uni butter and buccatini.

The talented staff behind the Sulmona bar has also created the Zio ($12)– which means “uncle” in Italian and combines Columbian oregano, Italicus – an Italian root liqueur that is orange flavored, Aperol, fresh grapefruit juice, Noley’s gin and the olive oil.

The full menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes is as follows:
Baccala Cakes, parsley, lemon, garlic aioli $15
Head on Shrimp, salt, pepper, Calabrian chilies, garlic $17
Grilled Octopus, spicy aioli, crispy smashed potatoes, parsley $15
Lobster Agnolotti, pink brandy cream, caramelized shallots $37
Puttanesca, baby octopus, squid ink risotto $29
Uni, oil, garlic, chilies, uni butter, buccatini $28
Cioppino, mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, haddock, shrimp, lump crab toast Market Price
Panettone Bread Pudding, Crème Anglaise $12

WHEN: December 11 – 24, During dinner service, beginning at 5:30PM
For Reservations, please call 617-714-4995

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
1) From now until Friday, December 22, Osteria Posto will offer a special Holiday Luncheon, Monday through Friday, from 11am-2pm. They offer a special three course prix fixe menu, including appetizer, entrée and dessert for $49. An additional pasta course and wine pairings are also available. I am a big fan of their cuisine and remember having a great lunch last year during their holiday special. And looking at this year's menu, I'm likely to hurry back.

Holiday Luncheon Menu -
FIRST COURSE (please choose one)
--CAESAR (crisp romaine, lemon anchovy vinaigrette, parmesan crostini)
--TRI COLORE SALAD (winter citrus, vidalia onions, castelveltrao olives, pistachio vinaigrette)
--ROASTED APPLE SALAD (vermont goat cheese, ciabatta crostini, mache, cider vinaigrette)
--TUNA TARTARE (avocado salad, chipotle aioli, blood orange vinaigrette, crispy wontons)
--CRISPY DUCK LEG (duck confit, mascarpone polenta, pomegranate salad, cabernet vinaigrette)
--GNOCCHI (red wine braised short rib, roasted root vegetables, parmesan crema)
--TORTELLINI (lobster + crab, kuri squash passata, roasted heirloom squash, parmesan crema)
--MEZZE RIGATONI (veal, pork + beef bolognese, oregano, parmesan)
--LASAGNETTE (braised veal breast, chestnut passata, ricotta fontina, lemon + mint gremolata)
--FETTUCINI (shaved white truffles, vermont butter, parmesan, marsala-$50 supplement)
ENTRÉE (please choose one)
--BAVETTE (crispy potato pave, bone marrow, kale, pink peppercorn sugo)
--HALIBUT (prosciutto wrapped halibut, celery root passata, chanterelles, winter vegetables, marsala)
--VENISON (roasted venison saddle, cider braised red cabbage, garnet yam pasata, juniper, red wine)
--SALMON (mustard glazed, roasted broccolini, rosemary yukon potatoes)
--DUCK (rare duck breast, domestic + foraged mushroom risotto, truffle butter, cherry gastrique DESSERT (please choose one)
--BUDINO (dark chocolate pudding, sugar cookie, whipped cream, mint)
--CROSTATA (heirloom apples, buttermilk ice cream, ginger caramel sauce, toasted pecans)
--TIRAMISU (mascarpone, espresso, lady fingers, chocolate)
--STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING (vanilla bean ice cream, maple sauce, toasted pecans)

If you want to make Reservations, please call (781) 622-1500

2) Best Burger Bar has announced a collaboration with Boston’s craft distillery, Bully Boy Distillers, for a limited-edition December burger special, the Bully Boy Royale Burger. This special Burger will be available throughout the month of December at Best Burger Bar in Brookline Village.

The Bully Boy Royale Burger features a quarter-pound, dry-aged burger with black truffle foie gras mousse, and a jam infused with Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey, cranberry and bacon, sandwiched in-between a toasted bun.

When the Best Burger Bar team was looking to collaborate with a local whisky brand for the Royale burger, I immediately thought of the Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey,” said Beverage Director, Brother Cleve. “We were already proudly using it in our signature Steak House Manhattan cocktail and Bully Boy’s whisky just seemed like the perfect match.”

Bully Boy's America Straight Whiskey* is made from corn for a sweet, bourbon-like overtone, and a healthy dose of rye, for a dry, spicy undertone and then is aged in charred 53-gallon new American Oak barrels. The wood constituents bring out delicious vanilla and caramel notes, as well as a nutty finish that never overpowers the spirit’s taste. (*Note: the burger is not alcoholic, as the alcohol burns off during the cooking process).

The whiskey’s balance and complex flavor profile translates really well into the kitchen,” said Will Willis, Co-Founder of Bully Boy Distillers. “The smooth and nutty notes of the whiskey really shine in the jam that’s used on the burger."

3) On Wednesday, December 13, at 7pm, Chef Daniel Bruce and Advanced Sommelier Nicholas Daddona of Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar are thrilled to host a luxurious reception and four-course dinner featuring the extravagant Philipponnat Champagne and their legendary ‘Clos de Goisses’ vineyard. The family-owned vineyard is well known for producing some of the best champagnes in the world, artistic in nature and elegantly grown in the heart of France. The plot of distinguished land lays on an incline on the French region’s warmest territory, where the slope receives no shade from sunrise to sunset.

Selections from the distinguished vineyard will accompany a reception and four-course dinner by renowned Chef Daniel Bruce.

The full menu for the evening is as follows:
Crispy None Such Oysters
Sturgeon Caviar, Lemon Crème Fraiche
First Course
Ginger Roasted Lobster Tail (Pea Puree, Smothered Bok Choy)
Second Course
CUVÉE 1522 – VINTAGE 2005
CUVÉE 1522 – VINTAGE 2007
Fricasse of Sweetbreads and Wild Mushrooms (Shallot Confit Cream, Spinach)
Third Course
Mint Roasted Baby Lamb (Roasted Crosnes, Tumeric Laced Carrots, Potatoes Anna)
Fourth Course
Duet of Triple Crème Cheeses (Champagne Grape Jelly, Grilled Baguettes, Smoked Macadamia Nuts)

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite for $215 per person (including tax and gratuity). This is a 21+ event.

4) On Tuesday, December 12, from 19pm-1am, Toro’s Jamie Bissonnette & Ken Oringer and Tapestry’s Meghann Ward & Kevin Walsh invite guests to join them in celebrating Toro’s 12th Anniversary with food and drink specials. As longtime friends and former employees of Ken Oringer’s, husband/wife duo Kevin Walsh and Meghann Ward will join Jamie and Ken in the kitchen.

Their menu will offer cheeseburger-stuffed fried pickles topped with special sauce, sesame seeds, bacon cheddar Cheez-It dust, and iceberg; Detroit slices; and more. In addition to bites from Tapestry, Jack's Abby Craft Lagers and Bully Boy Distillers will be supplying libations for the evening. In true throwback form, DJ Jamie Bruno will be spinning records all night long.

Japanese Sake & Men's Shopping Night At Greentail Table (Dec.13)

Gentlemen, would you like to learn more about Japanese Sake while also acquiring some assistance in holiday shopping?

If so, then please join me next week, on Wednesday, December 13, from 6:30pm-7:30pm at Greentail Table in Newton. Greentail Table sells "inspired, modern tabletop and home entertaining wares," including dinnerware, glassware, serveware, table linens, accents, cocktail equipment, wine glasses, books on entertaining, and much more. For examples of what they sell, check out their Holiday Gift Guide.

On December 13, Greentail Table is hosting a special Men's Shopping Night, where they will help you select holiday gifts for your family and friends. As an addition to this Shopping Night, I will be there to preside over a Japanese Sake tasting and informal class. You will get to taste three different Sakes, accompanied by some nibbles, and learn about the fascinating world of Sake. Sake is a mystery to many people but I'll help you learn the basics so you'll feel much more comfortable ordering Sake at restaurants or buying it at your local wine shop. And you'll be able to ask all your Sake questions as well.

This should be a fun, informative and tasty evening of Sake & Shopping. The Sake will be flowing from 6:30pm to 7:30pm ($10 for a full tasting flight). And you can shop both before and after this event, with plenty of suggestions and recommendations from the shop's experts. Get plenty of holiday shopping completed and learn about Japanese Sake.

Hope to see you there!