Drinks with Pat

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Pat Evans

This week, I caught up with Essence Restaurant COO and Beverage Director Tristan
Walczewski, one of the only Master Sommeliers around West Michigan, to see what he’s
thinking about his wine choices heading into the holiday season. He’s put on a couple stellar wine dinners recently at Grove and Bistro Bella Vita, so keep an eye out on those.

Pat: What are your top picks for wine this holiday season? 
Tristan: I really enjoy white wines for the holiday season. Many switch to reds as the weather transitions but some of my favorite holiday wines are white — and bubbly, too!. Domaine Huet’s Clos du Bourg bottling is a Chenin Blanc from Vouvray in the Loire Valley, France. It’s exceptional and a must-try for anyone on their wine journey. Bernard Moreau’s Bourgogne Blanc is one of the most undervalued wines and MUST with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the bottle I drink every year! The French cater the perfect holiday wines! Exploring Northern Rhone Syrah, Gamay from Beaujolais, and taking the plunge into Burgundy Pinot Noir are exceptional offerings for red wines and sure to impress.

Pat: Big for a splurge? 
Tristan: Exploring the Burgundy region of France is a lifelong pursuit but the holidays are a
perfect opportunity to delve into the region’s many producers and domaines, each crafting the most hallowed wines on this green Earth. Domaine Roulot’s Monthelie Pinot Noir bottling and Domaine Dujac’s Morey-Saint-Denis Pinot Noir are two undeniable examples of Burgundy lure (and compared to these domaine’s other bottlings, a pretty good value too!).

Pat: How about a nice budget pick? 
Tristan: Cotes-du-Rhone is wonderful value and versatile with holiday cuisine. Most often
Grenache-driven, the wines are opulent, yet spicy, and an excellent introduction to the Old
World. Many can be found under $20 and one of my favorites is Guigal’s Cotes-du-Rhone—a steal for $18.

Pat: What about Bubbles?
Tristan: I’ll say it again and again: if I could drink one wine for the rest of my life, it would be Champagne. The level of versatility found in the region is second to none. Grower Champagne bottlings offer us a unique glimpse into a sense of place and the French notion of terroir. I have been particularly found as of late to Philloponnat’s Royale Reserve Brut and Denis Chaput’s Brut from the Aube in southern Champagne.

Pat: And maybe a dessert wine? 
Tristian: Take this holiday season to explore Tokaj (pronounced toe-kai). A rarity in and of itself, the wines experience heavy botrytis, or noble rot, a benevolent mold that concentrates sugars and delivers flavors of saffron, chamomile, raw honeycomb, ginger, and orange marmalade. This is Hungary’s (slightly) kept secret!

Pat: What would make a great gift?
Tristan: Wine is an ever-evolving pursuit of experience, travel, and taste. We have some truly exceptional and emerging wineries in Michigan and a visit to some is a truly unique experience. Gift a tasting or visit to a few of our favorites: Jim Lester of Wyncroft Wines, located in southwest Michigan or Mari Vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Beverage related gifts
When in a pinch for someone I know — seriously only gift beverage-related presents to those you know partake regularly, and only then, shy away from actual beer, spirits or wine unless you really know their tastes — I head to places like Gear Patrol that always curate a cool selection of beverage-adjacent ideas.

What’s Pat drinking?

Aside from trying out those Heaters and the wine dinners, I’ve really tried to pare back drinking a bit heading into the holiday season. I can get to be a lot. That said, I’m very excited to dive into Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale this weekend.
It’s the one beer release I look forward to each year and work my hardest to make sure I grab it when I can, because I love that Fresh Hop IPA so much. It’s really delicious, even if you’re not a big IPA drinker!

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