The holidays are on the horizon and many people are looking forward to enjoying the company of family and friends. Whether you’re hosting loved ones at home or dining out, the perfect bottle of wine can complement any evening. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few insights from SOHO’s wine expert, Lars Snavely, on choosing a high-quality – and affordable – bottle.

First, a brief introduction to Lars – he’s spent over 20 years working in various hotels and restaurants, and he has worked with wine distributors such as Prestige and Grapefields. I asked Lars why he loves wine industry, and if he has a favorite varietal.

 

Lars: Because wine is an agricultural product, it’s never the same from year to year. The wine industry has been evolving ever since I began in the restaurant and wine business – and it’s kept my career very interesting. Plus, the industry has allowed me to travel numerous places, such as France, Spain, and South America. I don’t have a favorite varietal, but I can say I don’t care for over-oaked Chardonnays, insipid Pinot Grigios, or high-alcohol, over-extracted red wines.

If you were choosing an affordable bottle ($15 – $30) for an evening in with family or friends, what would you buy? Any suggestions for food pairings?

 

Lars: For a white wine, I would recommend the Four Vines “Naked” Chardonnay. It is an unoaked Chardonnay that is very enjoyable. If you prefer your Chardonnay to have a bit of oak, I would recommend a La Crema from the Sonoma Coast. The Chardonnays will pair well with seafood or chicken – as will a Moscophilero from Greece (Boutari makes a nice one) or a Grüner Veltliner from Austria.

 

For a red wine, I would recommend the Delas Cotes du Rhone, as well as the Tres Picos Garnacha from Spain– it is a delicious old-vine Garnacha that is drinking well now. Each of these wines pair would pair well with red meats and pork. If you are looking for a Pinot Noir, I would recommend a Mark West or Bishop’s Peak. Both would pair well with lamb.

Which wines standout for you on SOHO’s wine list?

Lars: Quite a few – I think the Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc is terrific. The Monchhof Reisling is wonderful as well. I’ve met the winemaker and he’s dedicated to a top quality product, plus it has received outstanding recognition from critics. I also like the Oberon Cabernet from Napa Valley. The 2001 Oberon was one of the best values I’ve seen in years and the current vintage, 2006, is very good as well. Finally, I like the LaCrema Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from California. They are consistently very high quality.

I hope you’ll raise a glass with us at SOHO this holiday season. And, please let me know your favorite wine in the comments section!