Hot wines for the holidays

The wine industry is gearing up for the holidays, which amazingly, are just around the corner. Here's a list of what's considered to be hot this season:

2008 Oregon pinot noir — pronounced by the wine press as a "100 point" vintage. Industry leaders believe this vintage to be the best in years and possibly the best since wine grapes were planted in the state. This is good news for winemakers, whose 2007 pinot noirs were average, 2009 good but not great, and 2010 problematic.

Industry insiders advise to gather the 2008 vintage pinots as gifts while they last. They start at about $20, with pretty nice pinots in the $30 range. The vast majority of the pinots are from the Willamette Valley, but there are a few nice wines from the south as well. If you are inclined to support the Oregon wine folks, here's a chance to do it with class.

  • Spanish tempranillo, which has exploded in sales over the last couple of years. The wines are universally good and the prices remain stable at under $15. There are many to choose from, and they offer not only tasty alternatives to the everyday cabernets and merlots but also are very clean and well-made. Spain has pulled a great turnaround in overall quality over the last 10 years, as sales figures indicate. Suppliers have been bringing me really lovely wines and I think we will see more of these little gems in the future.
  • Port and other sweet wines, which suppliers predict will be big sellers this season. I have been asked for port wine more often this year than in previous years, a trend echoed nationally with increased sales. They're very popular during the holidays as they go with so many desserts but also do beautifully with a variety of cheeses and fruit.

I sampled nearly a dozen over the last few weeks and found a huge difference in taste levels among ports, which originated in Portugal but have since spread to wineries in the United States and Australia. About $30 will get you a good bottle of port. The releases I tasted were all quite good. Stay tuned for a future column on recommended ports.

Industry experts predict that among white dessert wines, muscat, both sparkling and nonsparkling, will be very popular for the season as will riesling. The moscato d' Asti and Asti spumante remain the favorite muscats for the sweeter palates. The beauty of these wines is their low-alcohol levels. A good muscat will sit at under 8 percent alcohol as will a German riesling, both of which are refreshing, sweeter wines. I tasted quite a few of them over the last month and see great things for these low-alcohol beauties for the holiday season.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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