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As the holiday week nears, we prepare in our home to celebrate Christmas en masse, as only can be accomplished when the Cichello clan gathers.  Seven kids in ten years, all now with life partners, thirteen grandchildren, four dogs, and a bun in the oven.  We are massive numbers, and now that so many of the grandchildren are grown adults, we also occupy enormous amounts of space.

And eating?  Yes.  Copious amounts and quickly too.  When you are raised around a table full of ravenous siblings, you soon learn to chew-swallow-grab seconds.

I visited Empire Wine earlier today.  This is a wine lover’s paradise – every single grape varietal, at just about any price point.  The real wine geeks visit Empire just as the masses go to the Christmas Tree Shop across Central Avenue – to wander, peruse, pick it up, feel its weight, judge its true value, and eventually put it in your cart even though you don’t really need it.  You should see the business they are doing this time of year at Empire!  But the experience is still fantastic – extra bodies on the floor asking you if you need help finding anything, even random requests like mine today, for Croatian wine.  There are multiple cashiers, as well as someone at each cash register solely with the purpose of boxing up your lovely spirits.  I just had shoulder surgery last week, so I took advantage of the helpful carry-out to my car.  Unbelievable variety and quality, with stellar customer service.

My 12 wines of Christmas:

  1. 2012 Borgo Friulano – the loverly Italian white that has wooed me away from my former love, Albariño.  Friulano, I publicly adore you.
  2. 2012 Saracina unoaked Chardonnay – just because I am a sucker for Italian-looking names and unoaked chards!
  3. 2012 Sisters Forever unoaked Chardonnay – which I will hold until all of my sisters (forever) are present.
  4. 2011 Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio bianco – perhaps more fitting for Easter (tears of Christ), but still worthy of the season, and reminiscent of our Cichello family pilgrimage to Italia, where Vesuvius was often in our view.
  5. 2011 Trapan Ponente – the Croat wine referenced earlier in respect for my new colleague Catherine who kicks off EVE Abroad this coming summer in Croatia, and who will be presenting with me and colleague (and fellow wine lover) Aden, at a conference in Toronto in June.
  6. 2010 Undurraga T.H. Carignan – moving into reds, this is a reminder of my time in Chile in the Maule valley where colleagues were about as friendly as you could imagine.  I left thinking how I would so enjoy if we leaved nearer each other.
  7. 2011 Amancaya Gran Reserva – a Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, something the Argentines do so well.  This one also has the hand of Nicolás Catena involved, so we can be sure it will be fantastic.  Catena in Argentina = superior wine.
  8. 2011 Graffigna Centenario Malbec – just the iconic Argentine grape on its own now, with a beautiful Italian name to attract my attention.
  9. 2009 Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Syrah – from the Chilean Colchagua Valley.  The Lapostolle wines in Chile are highly prized, and again harken back to meal times with new friends and colleagues.
  10. 2009 Quinta do Pinto Touriga Nacional – the Touriga grape out of Portugal is deep and rich.  I will share this with my brother Michael, and convert him.  I guarantee it.
  11. 2011 Foxglove Zinfandel – rounding out our deep reds, we will think of foxglove flowers, which friend Sharon alerted me to on the Camino de Santiago, soon after discovering the Touriga grape.
  12. 2011 Layer Cake Primitivo Zinfandel – how better to end the meal and the season but with a flour-less layer cake?  Gluten free!

And now a Reader Throw Down – what are your 12 Wines of Christmas?

A Sauced in New York wish for a joyous, spirited holiday season to you all!


About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!

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