Greet your guests with a glass of chilled champagne. Choose a non-vintage cuvée from a name house to please both your purse and your palate. Extra dry champagnes, which are actually slightly sweet, partner well with the salty, sweet tastes of the yuletide table.
• Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry
Sparkling Wine, Columbia Valley,
Washington, NV ($11)
• Gobillard Prestige Rose Premier Cru,
Champagne, 1993 ($37)
Nothing is fishy about the masterful, enduring partnership between seafood and shellfish with Sauvignon Blanc. Its high acidity, light to medium body, and modest alcohol make this wine not only a superior aperitif, but also a stellar choice to accompany goat cheese, artichokes, oysters on the half shell, or fried or oily foods.
• Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc,
Sonoma County, 2000 ($10)
• Reverdy Cuvée Les Coutes Sancerre,
France, 1999 ($20)
Turkey is relatively bland and will probably be happy with any wine that pleases you. Perhaps it is not coincidence that those clever French release their Beaujolais Nouveau on the third week of November each year, since this delightful young red is low in tannins and eminently drinkable. A robust fruity Zinfandel is a stand-up partner to turkey with sage dressing and roasted potatoes.
• Zind-Humbrecht Pinot d’Alsace,
Alsace, 1999 ($25)
• Geyser Peak Cucamonga Valley,
D’ Ambrogio Vineyard Zinfandel
The fruit-forward, full-bodied, rich Chardonnays from California and Australia are a refreshing foil to the saltiness of sugar-cured ham. A popular red wine match is Sangiovese. This fruity, cherry-rich, sometimes nutty varietal is medium in both body and tannins.
• Antinori Santa Christina, Sangiovese-
Merlot blend, Tuscany, 2000 ($10)
• Gallo Sonoma Laguna Ranch Vineyard
Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 1999
With full-bodied dishes like lamb, goose, duck, and venison, bring out your big, elegant reds to toast the season royally. Like many of your diners, these ruby romancers are tannic and concentrated in their youth and grow in character and voluptuousness with age.
• Siduri Pinot Noir, California, 1998 ($25)
• Geyser Peak Reserve Alexandre/ Meritage, Alexander Valley, 1997 ($45)
Often the best sweet after a huge feast is simply a dessert wine. However, if you insist on serving wine with dessert, avoid cream-based desserts or chocolate, unless a tart fruit element is an accompaniment. Consider Muscat with chocolate desserts, spicy pumpkin pies, cheesecake, or stinky cheeses. Port with chocolate is a truly divine pairing.
• Weltevrede Muscat de Hambourg,
South Africa, 1999 ($10)
• Souza Late Bottled Vintage Port, 1994