Biltmore Estate Releases Annual Limited Edition Christmas Wine

Happy holidays from the Biltmore Estate! The historic home and winery has released its limited edition 2013 Christmas at Biltmore Wine.

The Christmas season is a festive time for the Biltmore Estate, dating back to Christmas Eve in 1895 when George Washington Vanderbilt first opened the iconic home’s doors. The tradition of releasing a limited edition wine for the holidays began with the 1996 vintage.

2013 Christmas at BiltmoreThis year’s wine, from the 2012 vintage, is a blend of Muscat Canelli, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Sixty percent of the wine came from California and 40% came from Washington.

The label was designed by artist Perry Winkler of DuBois, Pennsylvania, the winner of Biltmore’s 4th annual Christmas Wine Label Design Contest, as voted by the public.

Floral and citrus aromas introduce delicately sweet flavors of apricot, ripe lemon, lychee, honeysuckle and orange blossom. The finish is smooth with lingering notes of rose petal and white pepper.

The 2013 Christmas at Biltmore Wine is great for holiday celebrations, pairing with a range of foods including turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

The contest to design the label for the 2014 Christmas at Biltmore Wine is now open. Original designs, photos or artwork inspired by Christmas at Biltmore may be submitted through January 10, 2014. Click here for full details.

For more information on the Biltmore Estate and to purchase wines online visit

$12.99, 12.8% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | Under $20

Champagne and Beyond: Celebrate 2014 with French Sparkling Wine

France is king when it comes to bubbly. Whether you’re looking for Champagne or a great value Crémant, there’s a French sparkling wine to match your taste and your budget. Ring in the New Year with one of these bottles.

Ruinart Brut Rosé

Ruinart Brut Rose

Ruinart is the oldest Champagne house, founded in 1729. Their elegant and aromatic rosé is truly a pleasure to sip. The Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (approximately 45% and 55% respectively). Around 18% of the Pinot Noir is vinified, which adds color and flavor to the final Champagne. The Brut Rosé is a lovely pink-orange color, and has notes of cherry, raspberry, wild strawberry and a hint of rose petal.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Everything you look for in a high quality Champagne, you’ll find it in the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that spent three years aging in Gallo-Roman chalk cellars. It is deep gold in color, with aromas of freshly baked brioche and complex flavors of white apricot, mango, ripe lemon, plum, praline and almond.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

This Champagne is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and vinified entirely in oak (‘sous bois’ means ‘under oak’). It has an intriguing mix of fresh and dried fruit aromas and flavors. Lemon, orange peel, dried yellow fig and dried apricot are layered with grilled brioche, almond and toffee, and the mouthfeel is rich and creamy.

Domaine de la Louvetrie, “Atmosphères” Jo Landron
Vin Mousseux de Qualite

Atmospheres Jo Landron

This sparkling wine from the Loire Valley is made in the traditional method from 80% Folle Blanche and 20% Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located in the Muscadet region and is certified organic and biodynamic. Crisp flavors of Meyer lemon and white grapefruit are complemented by a chalky minerality.

Léon Palais Blanc de Blancs Brut
Crémant de Jura

Leon Palais Brut

This dry sparkling wine made in the traditional method comes from the Jura region in eastern France. It is made from Chardonnay, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc grapes. Flavors of pear and granny smith apple culminate in a soft citrus finish.

Helfrich Brut
Crémant d’Alsace

Helfrich Cremant d'Alsace

This sparkling wine comes from Alsace, located east of Champagne near the border with Germany. It is made entirely from the Pinot Blanc grape in the traditional method. Straw yellow in color, this Crémant has flavors of fresh lemon, grapefruit, white flowers and toast that culminate in a crisp finish.

>> Related Articles:
Crémant: France’s Alternative to Champagne
A Guide to Sparkling Wine

AG Pick: Grey Carmenere 2011

If you’re a regular reader of the Amateur Gastronomer, you know how much we love Chilean Carménère. The latest one we’re enjoying is the 2011 Grey Carménère from Viña Ventisquero.

Grey Carmenere 2011This wine was made from a small harvest of grapes from a specific section of a vineyard in the coastal Maipo Valley – Block 5, in the Trinidad Vineyard. This site was selected for its unique climate and soil; the grapes grown here are marked by their concentrated flavor. The wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels.

The wine is deep purple red, almost black in color, and has all those inviting aromas you want in a Carménère – pepper, leather, smoke and dark berries.

While spice and earthy notes dominate the nose, it is the berry notes that come through first on the palate. Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, boysenberry and cassis are layered with tobacco, black pepper, wood smoke, mocha and a hint of vanilla.

This Carménère is silky in the mouth with well-integrated tannins, and a satisfying finish with lingering warm spice.

Pair the Viña Ventisquero Grey Carménère with steak, roasted or grilled pork and game meats. Decant the wine or give it time in the glass to fully enjoy it.

$24, 14% alcohol by volume

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20

Gift Ideas for Wine, Beer & Spirits Fans

Finding that perfect gift for the wine, beer or spirits fan is just a few clicks away. Here are the Amateur Gastronomer’s picks for this holiday season:

Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses

musical wine glassesMake music with your Merlot! These glasses hold 25 oz. of wine or non-alcoholic beverages, large enough to play a full A-major scale. The musical notes are labeled with sandblasted fill lines. Just pour or drink to the desired note, then run a moistened finger along the rim. The glasses are made from lead-free crystal and are dishwasher safe.
$65 for set of 2 glasses, available online at

Six-Pack Bike Bag

wine bike bagThere’s a new way to tote wine, beer, sodas and more when biking to a picnic or party. This durable canvas bag has six pockets that can hold all the essentials, and Velcro to secure both sides of the pack together underneath the crossbar. The dividers keep bottles and glasses cushioned while on the move. Please drink responsibly when riding a bike.
$69, available online at

SPARQ Wine Pearls

SPARQ wine pearlsKeep your wine or cocktail chilled without diluting it or affecting the flavor. SPARQ wine pearls are made from hand polished stainless steel. Put them in the freezer for four hours to chill them, then add two per drink. The wine pearls will hold their temperature outside of the freezer for approximately 45 minutes.
$30 for a set of 4, available online at Can be personalized for $40, available online at


ChillsnerFrom the makers of the Corkcicle comes the Chillsner, an in-bottle, drink-through beer chiller. Just freeze for 45 minutes, take a sip of your beer to make room for the Chillsner, then insert and press firmly to create a tight seal. Four flow vents allow the beer to flow smoothly. The Chillsner keeps its cool thanks to a gel that easily freezes, and its stainless steel frame makes it sturdy and easy to wash.
$29.95 for a set of 2, available online at

Mason Shaker

Mason ShakerGive your cocktails a southern shake with this unique four-piece cocktail shaker. The 32 oz. mason jar comes with a stainless steel top that screws on for easy shaking, straining and storing. The inspiration for the shaker came from two best friends who were raised in the south and wanted to stay true to their southern roots.
$29, available online at or in store in Atlanta at The Cook’s Warehouse.

Molecular Mixology Cocktail Set

molecular mixology setCombine cocktails and chemistry for tasty tipples! These molecular mixology sets let you put a new spin on mojitos, margaritas and cosmopolitans. Try them deconstructed, topped with foam, or with “caviar” bubbles that burst with flavor. Each set comes with recipes, tools, additives and silicone molds. Add your own liquor and ingredients.
$30 for each kit or $85 for set of all three, available online at

Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds

Tovolo ice moldThe ultimate tool for Whisky or Scotch fans, this mold produces two large round balls of ice that are perfect for keeping drinks chilled without watering them down. Just fill the molds with water and freeze them for approximately 4 hours. They’re stackable for easy storage in the freezer. The molds are made of BPA free plastic and have a silicone cap, and are dishwasher safe.
$10.95 for a set of 2, available online at or at in store locations in Atlanta.

images from sellers’ websites