Christmas Dinner Wines

What will you be serving and eating for Christmas dinner this year?  Whereas Thanksgiving is all about turkey and root vegetables, many folks go a little more elaborate and luxurious for Christmas.  Why not, it only comes once a year, and it’s a great excuse to prepare a meal fit for royalty.  Standing rib roast, leg of lamb, goose, and even sushi never suck, and I’d like to be your guide and help you create the perfect wine and food pairing for whatever you decide to prepare.

The Traditional Turkey or Goose and Root Vegetables

Stick with fruit driven wines, as opposed to those with high levels of tannin or heavy oak treatment.  You want to be able to taste the subtle flavors of your bird and the earthy nuances of your root veggies, so don’t overwhelm them with heavy reds or whites.  Here are some safe bets:

2009 Domaine du Pas St. Martin Saumur Blanc – Dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley is delicious with a number of foods, but this one is something special.  It is rich and almost honeyed on the nose, but once it hits the palate, it’s completely dry with flavors of ripe apple, citrus, honey and mineral.  The cleansing acidity of this wine will help to cut through some of the rich and earthy flavors of your sides, and it’s fruit forward personality won’t overwhelm the flavor of your turkey.

2009 Melsheimer Riesling Trocken – Trocken is German for dry, and this is just glorious white wine.  Thorsten Melsheimer farms organically and makes his wines naturally, which is always nice, but the clean flavors of peach, nectarine, and lime make this a great all-purpose food wine.

2009 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais “Pierre Chermette” – Pierre Chermette produces a wine that I like to call “joy in a bottle”.  He farms organically and bottles without fining, filtering or sulfur addition, and his wine is all juicy red fruits, spice and earth.  It’s not complicated one bit…….it’s just delicious. 

2009 Patricia Green Pinot Noir Willamette Valley – Patty Green was the original winemaker at Tori Mor, and she’s been making wines under her own label for about 7 years.  Vintage 2009 in Oregon was very warm and sunny, and the wines produced are bigger and riper than usual.  This one is packed with notes of black cherry, cedar, spice box and rose petal.

Beef Dishes
If you’re doing a standing rib roast or any sort of elaborate beef preparation, you should seriously consider pairing it with an equally sophisticated wine.  Red wines dominate here, and in this case, bigger can be better.  You’re dealing with intense flavors and a good bit of fat, so richer wines with more tannic structure tend to do the trick. 

2007 Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast – Everyone who’s bought this wine has loved it, and I can see why.  It’s from a single, biodynamically cultivated vineyard in the Red Hills of Lake County, north of Napa.  The wine is concentrated, but not overdone, with layers of black currant, spicy berries and gentle oak nuances.  What I really like about the wine is that it has some great acidity to cut through the fat of the meat.

2005 Chateau Villars Fronsac – This would be a great pick if you decided to go with filet mignon.  Fronsac is on Bordeaux’ Right Bank where Merlot dominates, and this wine is the product of a great vintage.  70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from vines averaging 35 years of age, this ripe and plump Bordeaux exhibits plump black cherry, plum, tobacco and spice nuances.

2007 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – Ok, so this isn’t exactly affordable, but Christmas only comes once a year, and Robert Parker has called this the finest estate on Howell Mountain.  Their 2007 is the best wine they’ve ever made, and it soars with aromas and flavors of creme de cassis, blueberry, camphor and smoke.  It would cellar well, but it really doesn’t have any hard edges at the moment, so why not?

Lamb or Wild Game Dishes

Again, red wines tend to be the best matches for the gamy flavors inherent to these proteins.  I tend to prefer Grenache or Syrah based wines, with their spice, herb and berry fruit tendencies.  Of course, picking the right wine can depend on the types of herbs and or spices your dressing your meat with.  Here are some great all-purpose options.

2007 Domaine de Monpertuis Chateauneuf du Pape – Paul Jeune makes wonderfully concentrated, classic Chateauneufs with fruit from his vineyards which range in age from 60 to 110 years.  His 2007, an incredible vintage in the Southern Rhone, is based on 70% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah and 5% Cinsault.  The flavors are of ripe black cherry, blood orange, minerals and smoky herbs.

2008 Neyers Syrah “Old Lakeville Road” Sonoma Coast – Bruce Neyers is the national import manager for Kermit Lynch, but he manages to find time to make a range of great wines.  This one is made with rootstock Bruce sourced from Cornas, Hermitage and Cote Rotie in France’s Northern Rhone.  It tastes of ripe blackberry, blueberry, exotic spices and roasted meats.  Bring on the leg of lamb!

2009 Domaine Clape “Le Vin des Amis” Vin de Table – Auguste Clape is the top producer in the village of Cornas in France’s Northern Rhone Valley.  For this wine, his “wine for friends”, the Syrah fruit comes from vineyards right across the road from his Cornas vineyards, and in the super-ripe 2009 vintage, this is a lot of wine for the money.  It opens up with violet, spice and smoke notes on the nose that open up to reveal a lovely core of peppery berry fruit, rosemary, thyme and lavender. 

Ok, so sushi isn’t so traditional, but for those of us who can’t make it home to see our familys, it’s a good, relatively low cost and easy alternative.  I know Green Tea is open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and sushi is colorful, healthy and delicious.  Clean white wines and sparklers, with their fresh and zippy flavors, are the best wines to accentuate and enhance the flavors of your raw fish.  Here are my top picks.
2009 Domaine Ricard Touraine Blanc “Le Petiot” – Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc is just simply delicious, and this one is from one of the top estates in the region.  It’s sort of like a Baby Sancerre with aromas and flavors of perfumed citrus and tropical fruits and great palate cleansing acidity.
2009 Quinta da Romeira Arinto – Arinto is an indigenous Portuguese varietal, and it might just be my favorite new white wine.  It reminds me a bit of a dry Riesling with exotic tropical, floral and mineral notes.  I love me some Arinto!
2009 Weingut Martinshof Gruner Veltliner – Gruner Veltliner is Austria’s most important white varietal and this family estate farm their vineyards near Vienna organically.  The wine is the definition of freshness in a white wine with notes of freshly sliced green apple, pear, mineral and white pepper.
NV German Gilabert Cava Brut Rosat – This dry sparkling rosé offers a lot of bang for buck, and the flavors are of delicate red fruits, blood orange and a bit of toastiness.  It’s a blend of Garnacha and Trapat and it is dark pink/light red in color……very festive and food friendly.

So there you go.  These are just my reccomendations and what do I know?  Head to your local independent wine shop and get advice, as we love giving it.  Happy Holidays and happy eating and drinking!

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