Story By Charles Fredy
‘Tis the season to splurge. This year, get creative and make your holiday parties sizzle with simple selections that will etch delicious memories of decadence for years to come.
I like to stock up on several basic “party wines.” Champagne or sparkling wine is a must. if you are on a budget, go with cava or prosecco. Most white wines tend to be dry, so to make sure you’ll have something to please all your guests, include some off-dry whites in your selection. Add a couple of good rieslings and pinot grigios. They are always crowd-pleasers and pair well with almost anything on the menu. Layer that with some rich and heavy chardonnays from a few top producers. Light- to medium-bodied reds are wonderful to have around because of their versatility and drinkability, while rosé wines are a perfect match for many feasts of this season. Pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese, gamay . . . all of these varietals pair nicely with seafood, turkey and meat dishes, which makes them a well-rounded choice for festive occasions where the meal has numerous flavors and textures. (See below for specific suggestions.)
I also love to cook with wine, and incorporate it into some of my favorite holiday recipes. This one is always a winner: apple-stuffed turkey roasted in Champagne. Stuff your turkey with cut apples, season to your preference and place the bird in a roasting bag. Pour a bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne (minus a couple of glasses for the chef) inside and all over the bird, then bake to perfection.
Seafood anyone? The Italians have a wonderful holiday tradition that’s been handed down from generation to generation. The day before Christmas, many families get together for “La Vigilia di Natale” (Eve of Christmas). Because they celebrate with an abundance of fish instead of meat, many refer to this as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. La Vigilia’s favored dishes vary from family to family, but you will likely find an array that includes shrimp, lobster, mussels, oysters and clams. My choice would be fresh mahi mahi, seared hot and quick with a touch of salt and pepper, served over a basil-garlic orzo with a red-wine olive marinara. Prepare the orzo according to directions, and in a food processor purée butter, basil and garlic, and combine. Stir in the red wine, peppers, tomatoes, olives and fresh Parmesan cheese. Sounds like a Chianti classico to me.
- Billecart-Salmon, Champagne, Brut Reserve, NV, $59.99
- Kila Cava, Vins El Cep, Spain, 2007 $12.99
- Ramey, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2009, $39.99
- Calera, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, 2009, $25.99
- Badia a Coltibuono, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, 2008, $21.99
- Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, 2009, $32.99
- Bodegas Emilio Moro, Tempranillo, Ribero del Duero, Spain, 2007, $29.99
- Obsidian Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, 2008, $32.99