As the holidays approach and our pace picks up, scurrying around preparing for all the friends and family gatherings, we will undoubtedly buy all sorts of the meats, vegetables, stuffings, fruits, and desserts that we are accustomed to enjoying during these festive days. Sometimes in a hectic rush, however we forget to pick up the holiday wine. Then at the last minute we rush out and buy the same old wine we drink every week without even giving it another thought. But, these are special occasions and with just a little bit of planning ahead we can enjoy special wines that will beautifully complete the holiday feast.
When matching wines with our holiday meals we must look past the turkey, ham, venison, or lamb and to all of the accoutrements that will be on the menu as well. Our presentation of side dishes during this time of the year tends to run on the rich side: hearty or fruity sauces, rich dressings, sweet vegetables. With all of the various and sometimes strong flavors I have found a handful of wine offerings that are staples for matching with these foods.
German Rieslings are always a good bet because they are so very versatile. The slight sweetness in many of these wines will complement all the fruity dishes and the vibrant acidity in them will help cut the richness of these foods. If you like Chardonnay, now is a good time to drink it with roasted or smoked turkey and dressing. But, there may not be a better holiday white wine than Gewürztraminer (pronounced: gu-‘vurts-tra-meaner). This is a very floral wine with crisp acidity and good fruitiness. Literally translated gewürztraminer means “spicy grape” and it certainly is interesting with its nose of rose petals and flavors of passionfruit, peaches, and litchi fruit. Thomas Fogarty in Santa Cruz produces about the best one you will find anywhere and it’s under $17.
For reds you can never go wrong with Pinot Noir for it is light in body, low in tannins, high in fruit acidity and usually exhibits a heady smokiness along with its notes of cherry, strawberry, and baking spices. Like German Riesling, it is extremely versatile, pairing easily with turkey, ham, venison, beef, pork, lamb, quail, or vegetables. But, feel free to experiment here with other reds like Cotes-du-Rhone, or Spanish reds made from Tempranillo, Garnacha or Monastrell. The earthiness of these Old World wines really plays nicely with all the different flavors of the holiday dinner.
For a medium-bodied red bursting with plum, raspberry and blackberry flavors try a California Zinfandel, the red one It may be an even better holiday red than Pinot Noir because of its jammy character. For something unusual and fun, the Aussies drink sparkling Shiraz with their turkey and dressing and you can find three of them at Colony Wine Market, all delicious – The Jumping Grape ($15), Paringa ($16) and Hill of Content ($17).
Lastly, I always enjoy sipping on dessert wines this time of year. When your belly is full of savory foods and you don’t have room in there for pecan pie or bread pudding, a dessert wine offers something sweet without being filling. In addition, dessert wines help us digest the meal we just enjoyed. Try Broadbent’s Ten Year Old Malmsey Madeira ($36) which tastes like pecan pralines in a glass with fig and orange zest. And in case you are wondering, I am looking forward to a bottle of Jack Larkin Merlot from Napa with my smoked turkey, ham, and cornbread dressing, but not before the Bert Simon Riesling Auslese Goldkapsule I will enjoy while cooking it. Cheers and happy holidays!