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Holiday wines

by George Balling
| December 23, 2010 8:00 PM

While Thanksgiving has pretty much one traditional meal and is focused on one day, the Christmas and New Year holidays bring many meal favorites spanning a number of days. The wine choices similarly are multiplied too. So without wasting too much column space here are some recommendations for the most common meals.

While growing up on the south side of Chicago my closest friend was of Italian decent. His family had a tradition of having a big seafood feast on Christmas Eve. We have since adopted that tradition but on a somewhat smaller scale, as my friend was one of 12 kids. We now have Dungeness crab salad every Christmas Eve, and the natural pairing for this or any other shellfish dinners is Chardonnay. We feel a more restrained version of Chard is preferable so the firmer acid can cut down on the richness of the shellfish. We recommend the 2009 Matchbook Chardonnay from California $12, or in the upper price range the 2008 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chard for $48.50. There are many more choices too within that price range.

Christmas morning for us starts many times with a mimosa or Bellini while opening presents and enjoying our morning meal. No need to spend big dollars for a champagne that will be blended with fruit juice so the Monmousseau, a sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France, for $13 or the Perdrier Brut from Burgundy at $11 are affordable and also delicious.

For those in the gathering that want something sparkling but with a little sweetness try a crisp Moscato d' Asti. There are many choices but one of our favorites is the Strev for $14 from Italy. These wines are great too after a big meal with their light effervescence, slight sweetness and low alcohol. They make for a wonderful treat with or before dessert.

For the big meal on Christmas Day meat and game dominate the dinner table. We most times have turkey but also ham is a popular choice as is prime rib. With turkey we almost always choose Pinot Noir and the Angeline is a tasty one and value priced at $12. If you want a bit more expensive treat we recommend the Soter North Valley from Oregon for $34, and if you want a traditional Red Burgundy we like the 2006 Lucien Boillot, a bargain for French wine at $25.

The natural pairing for most pork dishes including ham is Syrah. There are many choices for great Syrah since the varietal does so well in the appellations of Washington and Idaho. Our local favorite from Coeur d'Alene cellars is a great choice at $26. The current vintage of their Syrah is one of the most elegant and refined Syrahs we know and a stunning addition to your holiday table.

From Washington we like the 2005 Basel Cellars for $30 and the 2006 Byzance, a Syrah-based blend from Brian Carter Cellars also for $30. In a more gently priced bottle we like the 2008 Stump Jump Shiraz from Australian all star producer d'Arenberg for $11.50. This great little Syrah has received a top 100 placement for two years in a row from the Wine Spectator.

For those who prefer prime rib, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc are the best choices. Cabernet Franc was the original grape grown in the Bordeaux region of France. Cabernet Sauvignon was actually developed later as a hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc; however both do well with rich meat dishes. Again there are many choices from both Washington and California, as the grapes do well in both growing regions.

For Cabernet Franc we recommend the 2007 Willow Crest from the Yakima Valley for $13, or the 2007 Basalt from the Lewiston/Clarkston area for $26, which won the Cabernet Franc category at the North Idaho Wine Rodeo ($26). In Cabernet Sauvignon the 2006 made by Don Redman at Mannina Cellars in Walla Walla is delicious ($31), as is the 2007 Gilbert Cellars ($30) and the 2007 Groth from California priced at $55.

There are many choices for you in many price ranges so as always we recommend you talking to your favorite wine shop owner for even more recommendations to highlight all of your holiday meals.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d'Alene Press.

George Balling is co-owner with his wife Mary Lancaster of the dinner party a wine and table top decor shop in Coeur d'Alene by Costco. George is also the managing judge of The North Idaho Wine Rodeo. www.thedinnerpartyshop.com .

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