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A Source for Affordable Holiday Wines
Whole Foods is good for more than just picking up a deli dinner to-go

Picture courtesy of Whole Foods Market

You know Whole Foods Market as a premier spot to pick up a carton of rBGH-free milk or a scrumptious deli dinner to-go, but have you spent time in the wine department lately?

For this holiday season, the Austin, Tex.-based grocer – its Milwaukee location at 2305 N. Prospect Ave. – has unveiled holiday-appropriate wines to combat fussy pairings conundrums. (If you’ve ever tried to think of a match with cranberry sauce; sugar-, chocolate-, peppermint- and jam-infused Christmas cookies; or oddball appetizers, you know exactly what I mean!)

Here are four red wines from the grocer’s line-up of holiday wines; all cost under-$10 a bottle.

2009 Georges duBoeuf Grain Noir Malbec (France, $10) is a lighter, brighter Malbec style with cherry, vanilla and blackcurrant notes, and its restrained elegance leads to fewer tannins than most Malbecs. (www.duboeuf.com)

Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz (South Africa, $10) is a departure from most Shiraz wines produced down under. Instead, this sweeter-style Shiraz, made from sustainably farmed grapes, is packed with bright and dense blackberry and raspberry notes with aromas of leather. (www.jamjarwine.com)

2011 Marques de la Musa Garnacha (Cariñena, Spain, $9) is extremely approachable, with a palate that transitions from a dry bouquet of crushed cherries to a sweet finish laced with leather, featuring peppery plum flavors in between.

2012 Bodega Santa Julia Innovacion Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza, Argentina, $10) is smooth and absent of tannins, with notes of plum, fig and tobacco. The wine, made from sustainably farmed grapes, features 50 perfect Shiraz and 50 perfect Cabernet Sauvignon, with the fruit-bomb nature of Shiraz nicely softened by the Cabernet Sauvignon. (www.santajulia.com.ar)

There are two words that I love to hear: free wine. And so when a press release sailed into my inbox this week from Whole Foods Market, announcing an all-day-long holiday festival this Saturday, those two sweet words jumped out at me. (Free wine!) From 12-4 p.m., drop by the store and partake from a no-cost “holiday menu and wine tasting sampling” event. Dungeness crab will also be cracked to order at a rock-bottom price of $9.99 a pound. One more reason to come: If you’ve always been curious about the Vitamix, there will be a free demo on how to use the machine. (Okay, that has nothing to do with wine, but a smoothie is a worthy beverage to combat all of the holiday-time gorging, no?)

Through this Saturday night, Harbor House has a feast in store for fans of lobster and wine: Lobsterpalooza. For $75 per person you get a three-course menu designed by Executive Chef Zach Espinosa that’s entirely focused on lobster; tack on an extra $25 and – voila! – wine pairings are included. Lobster rolls are paired with Chardonnay, poached lobster salad with Gruner Veltliner, and roasted South African lobster tail with Cabernet Sauvignon.

While traveling in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago it seemed like everywhere I went the sommelier pulled out a flute of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, from Reims, France. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this French bubbly but the price can hit you hard (from $50 for the Yellow Label on up to $180 for past vintages of La Grande Dame). Please don’t cringe, but I recently sipped Yellow Tail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé Wine (Australia, $10), a newer debut from the storied Aussie winery that’s been keeping thrifty wine drinkers satisfied for years. Wild-strawberry notes against a backbone of tropical fruits, along with a spicy quality, make this an approachable yet complex bubbly to pull out when friends come over for the holidays, or you need a hostess gift in a hurry. (www.yellowtailwine.com)

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