In 2018, we began the endeavor of developing a wine that follows the guiding principles of our business: superior quality, quintessential embodiment of the spirit of the holidays, limited in quantity, uses Judi Vaillancourt’s artistic eye (the label features a painting by Judi), and tells a story. Our goal was to be able to sell a wine that looked as good on the outside as it tasted on the inside and we did just that.
In 2018 and 2019, we were fortunate to work with a small winery in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley that would allow us nearly 700 bottles of their high-end Cabernet Sauvignon for each year. Collectors, both serious and first-timers, were quick to purchase the wines—the first bottle actually sold at auction in Virginia for over $300—and have turned to the annual Vaillancourt Christmas Wine for both personal consumption and gifts. The first edition was available at Worcester-area restaurants and high-end package stores.
Because of COVID, we were unable to source the 2020 version, but were fortunate enough to find another vineyard—this time out of Monterey—to bring the third edition, this time a Pinot Noir, in 2021.
Regardless the varietal, the quality of the wine stands on its own legs as a stocking stuffer or host gift, or simply to drink at home.
Created as a way to celebrate the holidays year-round, the Vaillancourt Christmas Wine is meant to instill the warm feelings of the holidays.
What’s on the bottles?
The most important part about the wine, contrary to what a certified sommelier might say, is the label. The goal with the Vaillancourt Christmas Wine is to have a label that represents Judi Vaillancourt’s interpretation of Christmas and as the wine changes, so does the label.
The first year, Judi paid homage to the Vaillancourt Wine Santa—a custom mould that we created to be released in conjunction with the wine. She painted a still life of the unpainted chalkware piece next to an empty historic wine bottle and corkscrew. Each bottle was hand numbered.
The second label was a more abstract approach with a subtle nod to both the Flemish genre and Trompe-l’œil style as Judi did a still life of one of our popular pewter ice cream moulds with an ice cream Santa sitting on dish with a cookie, spoon, napkin, and glasses of wine in the background.
Today, the third edition is meant to truly unlock Judi’s mind with her interpretation of Santa Claus. With subtle inspiration from Colonial Williamsburg and Normal Rockwell, the label cannot be confused with anything but Santa. Originally an oil on paper, this figure translates beautifully into a label with bright red border and base, the vibrant image is meant to instill the spirit of the holidays whenever this wine is enjoyed.
What’s in the bottles?
First and Second Edition
The first and second edition were both 100% Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon—the first was a 2016 vintage and the second a 2017 vintage—sourced from Alexander Valley. The wine inside the bottle is a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. It comes to us from a highly regarded producer who has been growing grapes in Sonoma since the mid-1800s. Like Vaillancourt, this winery is a family business that has a long history of tradition. It’s the perfect fit for this first edition celebratory release.
The grapes that went into this wine come from low-yielding vines grown in gravel and clay soils on land that slopes gradually from the hills to the Russian River. The Mediterranean climate of California’s Alexander Valley, combined with the marine air from the Pacific that flows through the Russian Valley by way of the Petaluma Gap, the warm sun, and cool air allows the grapes to fully ripen with a balanced acidity.
Harvested in the fall, the grapes were fermented in stainless steel and matured for 10-12 months in casks, allowing the wine to deliver a full-bodied, lip-smacking affection.
With vineyards having been affected by devastating wildfires and draught, compounded by the demand brought about by COVID-19, it was a challenge to source a wine of quality and complexity. Fortunately, a small vineyard in Monterey, CA was able to fulfill the job. Monterey wines benefit from the air of the Pacific Ocean crashing into the rugged sea cliffs of the Santa Lucia mountains. It’s here that the Pinot Noir vines thrive on the vast Salinas Valley where bright sunshine radiates the rock outcrops and hills. The cool nights ensure the grapes do not ripen too quickly and the thick blanket of morning fog ensure the aroma and body of the wine is balanced by its nuance flavors of silky earth, minerals, and spice.