By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
Right up there with all of life’s major decisions is one virtually all metro Detroiters will have to make in the next 24 hours: What to drink to ring in the New Year.
Legend has it that whatever is going on in your life at the stroke of midnight will flavor the rest of the year — hence, the all-important kiss. So, make your New Year’s celebration something special with a great drink.
Here are recommendations from metro Detroit sommeliers on the best drinks at every price point for New Year’s Eve.
*$10 And Less
If you want to spend less than $10 on a bottle of wine or sparkling wine, get yourself immediately to Trader Joe’s. With locations in Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak and Ann Arbor, Trader Joe’s has a wine to please every palate, with dozens of varieties and descriptions of the flavor profiles posted on every shelf. Best yet? Three-Buck-Chuck isn’t a joke. Trader Joe’s own well-reviewed wines start at $3.99.
John Lossia, owner of Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn, recommends customers think outside the box, and the bottle, and fill their glass with port. Port is a Portuguese variation on wine that’s heavy, has varying degrees of sweetness, and more alcohol content than regular wines. The alcohol content is usually about 20 percent.
“People might have one glass of sparkling wine, but then they’re looking for something else. Since New Year’s food is usually small bites, we recommend port,” Lossia said. “You can serve it with cheese, fruit, crackers. It has a richness and a mellow flavor.”
Lossia’s favorite is the 10-year-old tawny Taylor Flat Gate port, which sells for $35. But many ports, especially Australian varieties, start in the $10 range.
Looking for A Michigan made adult beverage to ring in the New Year? Think about St. Julian. Created in Paw-Paw, St. Julian’s well-priced wine and sparkling wine can be had at many major retailers for $10 to $15. Check out the raspberry Spumonti, which is semi-sweet sparkling wine, or the passionate peach Spumonti. “They have the bubbles and the whole deal,” said Rick Inacio, St. Julian employee. “They’re fruity and delicious.”
If you’re willing to travel, get St. Julian’s newest offering, Blanc De Noir, which can be purchased only at the tasting rooms in Paw Paw and Dundee. St. Julian wines are made from grapes gathered from the shores of Lake Michigan.
“It’s crisp and fruity,” Inacio said. “It’s white from black grapes, so it’s a pink. It’s absolutely exciting and well received.” Usually $24.99, it’s for sale at tasting rooms this week for $14.99.
Holiday Market in Royal Oak’s beverage director Brian Croze is always ready in the wine aisle to answer questions and recommend vinos that he almost always promises will “change your life.”
So what will change your life on New Year’s Eve? He recommends starting with Sex. That’s right, pour yourself a glass of Michigan’s own M. Lawrence Mawby’s Sex, a locally produced Brut rose. “It’s a gentle, easy non-rustic rose, with wonderful flavor and good bubble,” Croze said. “It says ‘Yes to Michigan.'” It retails at Holiday for $13.99.
Tom Natoci, wine buyer at Cloverleaf Fine Wines in Royal Oak, recommends traditionalists go for sparkling wine. His favorites include Domaine Carneros, which should please every palate, and retails for $22.
Croze recommends Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose, saying, “It has that subtle, yeasty and balanced citrus note with a delicate amount of fruit on the finish,” Croze said. “It has a true French champagne experience.” It costs $31.99 at Holiday Market.
If you’re splashing out a little more, Natoci recommends Pierre Moncuit champagne. “What’s special about this is that it comes from a small little vineyard in Champagne that is exclusively planted for chardonnay,” he explained. “Most champagne is a blend of grapes.”
It’s a little more delicate than champagnes that have pinot noir in the mix, he said. The price is usually $55, though it’s only sale at Cloverleaf for $46.
Natoci recommends Billecart-Salmon, a rose champagne that has a touch of pink for that special New Year’ Eve look. It’s made completely from red grapes, so it’s more full-bodied than traditional champagne, Natoci explained. It retails for $79.
*Money Is No Object
If cost isn’t a consideration or you’re looking for a real splurge, Croze recommends Duval-Le Roy, a champagne from a small family-owned vineyard in France, that retails for $250 at Holiday Market. Why so much? “It’s a uniquely difficult product as very little of it is produced,” Croze said. “It has beautiful weight and balance.”