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.
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.
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?
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.