Erik Neilson on December 20, 2016 0 Comments The holidays are here, which has many people frantically trying to shop for the best wines to open with friends and family. With so many different options to choose from, it can be head-spinning trying to determine where to start. Whether you’re putting together a list of wines to pair with dinner or are simply looking to keep your guests entertained, winter calls for big, bold reds. The richer and deeper, the better. Save the light thirst-quenchers for summer — here are 8 strong red wines for the holidays. 1. Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier 2013 At around 3 years old, the stellar 2013 vintage of Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier would still be classified by many as a “young” wine, until you realize that it’s anything but. Australian Shiraz is known for being big and bold, and this is a great example of why. This red wine is as peppery as Shiraz gets, quelled slightly by the addition of Viognier, which brings out its red fruit and violet characteristics. With a wonderful, fine texture supported by supple tannins and nicely balanced acidity, Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier finishes remarkably complex, especially considering the wine’s age. This wine is ready to drink now, but it will age gracefully for the next 15-20 years. 2. Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 When it comes to strong reds, it’s difficult to beat old vine Zinfandel. It’s often thought that grapes which come from older vines are more robust than the alternative, and one taste of Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel will show you why. A blend of old vine Zinfandel from 16 different area vineyards, the average age of these vines is 85 years old, which gives the grapes a strong concentrated berry flavor that’s rounded out by earthy, peppery characteristics. This wine will pair beautifully with a succulent rack of ribs or even a humble cheeseburger, but it’s just as well-suited to be drank alongside a roaring fire with the accompaniment of good conversation. 3. Koehler Grenache 2013 Grapes such as Shiraz and Zinfandel are safe bets for those who are looking for a wine that will deliver big, bold flavors, and Grenache deserves such a spot on this list. California winemaker Colin Murphy’s excellent Koehler Grenache is as big as it gets, showing notes of rich, dark strawberries, burnt incense, cola and black pepper. Both the nose and palate of the wine are floral and elegant, yet framed by sturdy complexities that translate to a long, mysterious finish. This is one of the best examples of Grenache that California has to offer, and at around $25/bottle, it represents an excellent value. 4. Cayuse Bionic Frog Syrah 2013 The Walla Walla Valley region of Washington State is one of the sleeper hits of wine right now, even though many people have never even heard of it. Want to find out why? Take a sip of the 2013 vintage of Cayuse Bionic Frog Syrah — it’s all you’ll need to become a complete convert. This is a savory take on Syrah, rife with the characteristics you might expect out of a roaring fire. It’s a tight wine, framed by close-knit tannins that open up once the wine has seen about a half hour in a decanter. Once it has breathed for a bit, Cayuse Bionic Frog Syrah expresses huge flavors of black olive and violets, making this one of the more interesting examples of Syrah to come out of Washington in quite some time. 5. Tablas Creek Mourvèdre 2014 The French grape Mourvèdre is often utilized for blending purposes, chiefly due to the fact that it holds such grippy tannins and is capable of bolstering lighter wines with very little effort whatsoever. The 2014 vintage of Tablas Creek Mourvèdre will give you the opportunity to see what the grape can do on its own, and it’s one of the boldest wines on this list. Dark, deep berry characteristics are met with dried blueberries and black pepper, all framed by a touch of light vanilla in the back-end. Savory and reminiscent in many ways of charred beef, this is an excellent steak pairing that will also do well without the assistance of food. It’s a bit more expensive than most other bottles here at $40, but the cost is certainly justified. 6. Craiglee Shiraz 2011 Shiraz is a unique grape for a number of reasons, but most important to note is the fact that it can be a big wine while also retaining some of the lighter characteristics often associated with grapes like Pinot Noir. Out of Australia comes a great example of balanced Shiraz in the 2011 vintage of Craiglee Shiraz. It’s a heavily perfumed wine, which becomes evident immediately upon popping the cork. Inside, you’ll find rich red fruits, cracked black pepper and fragrant leather, all supported by a wonderful texture and silky tannins. The added age gives this bottle a mellow smoothness not often associated with Shiraz, which in and of itself is worth the price of admission. 7. Folin Cellars Estate Grenache 2014 A 100% varietal wine from Folin Cellars in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, the 2014 Estate Grenache is a shockingly delicious wine. Spicy, assertive and loaded with aromas of wild herbs, this is a grassy Grenache that holds a peppery bite at 14.4% ABV. It’s a bold and exciting wine that can be had for less than $40, making it an excellent entry-level offering for those who are unfamiliar with Oregon wines. Just the chance alone to try a 100% varietal Grenache from this part of the country is unique enough — the quality puts this over the top. 8. Xenysel Monastrell 2014 Monastrell is one of the bolder, more peppery grapes you can expect to find out there, and the 2014 vintage of Xenysel Monastrell is a true gem. This is a raw wine to say the least, with green characteristics that give it a slightly sour and cherry-laden finish. The palette is loaded with cranberries and fresh herbs, making this an excellent wine for the holidays. At just $12/bottle, it’s also an unbeatable value — typical in many ways of the Monastrell grape.