Amy20150923DelFriscosSomm027_Amy We’re in full swing on the festive season. That means everything from major holidays to engagements galore. Whether you’re the host or holiday attendee, the gift getter or the gift giver, or simply dining out this holiday season, it’s important to know how to order (and drink) with the best of the best. That’s why we turned to Amy Lutchen, Wine Director, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House Chicago, to guide us through the menus and aisles holiday season. This exclusive Pursuitist Q&A offers a glimpse into what you should be sipping, serving and gifting this holiday season. 

When you’re headed to someone’s house for a holiday affair or open house, what do you bring? Champagne! It is a festive wine and always pairs well with appetizers! 

It’s a traditional holiday feast – what wines are you serving?
I would start with a rosé, still or sparkling, and then move into reds. Pinot Noir from the West Sonoma Coast, California (Cobb Wines, Arista Winery) or Gamay from Beaujolais (Jean-Paul Thévenet, Réginé or Jean Foillard, Morgon). Merlots from Washington State are beautiful wines and I enjoy Pepper Bridge or Leonetti from Walla Walla Valley.

 What’s your favorite special occasion bubbly to toast with this season? What about a lower-priced option for a group?
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne is always delicious! For great value bubbles look for Cremant from Loire, Jura and Burgundy. A very tasty option is the JCB No. 69 Brut Rosé Cremant de Bourgogne. For a white, try Tissot Cremant du Jura Blanc.  

When you’re planning a cocktail party, how do you decide which wines to serve – what are some “good for a group” selections?
A Rosé Champagne or a Sparkling rosé is always a crowd pleaser. It also depends on the food being served. I would go with a riper style of Pinot Noir, Adelsheim from Oregon or Syrah from Davis Family Vineyards are great options.

How about wine clubs – they’re popular gifts for the holiday. Are there any you like?
The wine club at Davis Family Vineyards in Healdsburg, Ca is one I tell Del Frisco’s guests about. They offer multiple wines from different varietals and at a great value! They also produce amazing olive oils!

What about some super special bottles you’d gift to a loved one? Perhaps something to drink now, as well as something that should go in a cellar?
A wine to drink young would be a Pinot Noir from Arista Winery in the Russian River Valley, one of their single vineyard designates would be very special. A wine to cellar would be O’Shaghnessy, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a small production winery and the mountain fruit from Howell Mountain is my favorite in Napa Valley which has elegant fruit, tannin and expressions of the earth and beauty of Howell Mountain.

What new wine regions are you really excited about right now?
I wouldn’t say these are new wine regions, since they have been around a long time, however may be new to consumers to experience. The Finger Lakes region in New York, producing Riesling and Cabernet Franc are delicious and are evolving every year. Also, wines from the Languedoc are always intriguing and a great value.

Similarly, are there any producers that have you excited?
Hermann J. Wiemer Riesling is one to seek out from New York. From Languedoc: Mas cal Demoura, L’Infidele or Mas de Daumas Gassac.

When consulting a wine list at a restaurant, is there a vintage or varietal that should stand out? For example, should I select 2011 over 2012, or always look to the Pinot Noir vs. the Merlot?
There are many variables to take in consideration when choosing a wine and a vintage. It all depends what you are eating. Vintage variation is different for every wine region across the world and certain wines from certain vineyards taste better than others in different vintages. This depends on where the wine is coming from: which wine region, country, vineyard, who is the producer, wine making techniques, etc. I choose what I know Del Frisco’s guests will enjoy and the producers I believe in and want to show support to.

Del Frisco’s is known for its great steaks. What’s your favorite wine to pair with a heavy meat like steak?
I enjoy Syrah with a steak and I like to introduce it to Del Frisco’s guests as I find it is often forgotten – Cabernet Sauvignon always dominates. Syrah has the tannic structure to hold up to the proteins in a steak and the peppery, gamey and smoky aromatics and flavors are a perfect pairing.

What about dessert – would you suggest an ice wine or a dessert wine, or head straight for the port?
I enjoy all dessert wines and ports. This also depends on the dessert you are going to eat because they can be paired accordingly. You can choose a flight of dessert wines to sample all styles or a flight of port. I enjoy late harvest Viognier, 20 year old Tawny Port and Royal Tokaji from Hungary.