The top five wine varietals to consider keeping on hand for the holidays include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc. Between these five varietals you will be able to handle a substantial spread of different foods. Ranging from appetizers featuring shrimp cocktail (think Riesling) to stuffed mushrooms (opt for Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir) to a full course meals featuring turkey (Pinot Noir), prime rib (enter Cabernet Sauvignon), honeyed-ham and all of the fixings - these key varietals will have you covered. Most of the producers featured have wines in the $20 and under category, yet there are a few listed that will catch you at double that per bottle.
Pinot Noir- Give Pinot Noir a go with Brie, goat or Swiss cheese and crackers, veggie trays, stuffed mushrooms, baked ham, turkey meat, roasted duck, and even foods that are heavy on the cinnamon and cloves. Quick tip - skip the fruit and super sweet dessert pairings with this wine.
Producers to consider:
Adelsheim, Castle Rock, Cherry Pie, Saintsbury, Etude, ForeFront, Sebastiani, Acacia, Fess Parker, Hartford Court, King Estate, Chehalem.
Cabernet Sauvignon- Consider pairing your Cab with blue cheese, deviled egg appetizers, heavy duty red meats, smoked meats, and dark chocolate.
Producers to Consider: Dancing Bull, Columbia Crest, McManis Family Vineyards, Louis M. Martini, Rutherford Ranch, Beaulieu Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Robert Mondavi, Pine Ridge, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Gundlach Bundschu, Silver Oak, Franciscan, Veramonte, Chateau St. Michelle, Conn Creek.
Shiraz/Syrah - Grab the Shiraz for the smoked or grilled sausage platters, and consider pairing with a roast, ham, salmon filet, and pizza. The Australian Shiraz is noteably fruit forward, compared to a traditional French Syrah - keep this in mind when making your matches.
Producers to Consider: d'Arenberg, Chateau Tanunda, Penfold's, Shoofly, Peter Lehmann, Bonterra, Concha y Toro, Jean-Louis Denois, Tablas Creek.
Riesling - Pair Riesling with a wide variety of appetizers, fruit trays would be more compatible with Riesling than any of the other varietals mentioned here. Also a delight with honeyed ham, roasted veggies, seafood and spicy fare.
Producers to Consider: Gunderloch, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Trimbach, Hogue, Fetzer, Pacific Rim, Dr. Loosen, Tesch, Schloss Johannisberg, Fritz Haag, Hugel et Fils, JJ Prüm.
Sauvignon Blanc - You will love this herby, earthy refreshing varietal with turkey and stuffing, dishes that are heavier on the garlic, quiche, soups, seafood, and many ethnic entrees. Skip the red meat with this wine.
Producers to Consider: Frog's Leap, 3 Stones, Kim Crawford, Starborough Marlborough, St. Supery, Geyser Peak, Villa Maria Estate, Chateau St. Jean, Veramonte, Montes, Pascal Jolivet, and Hogue Cellars.
Be prepared for any get together, gift exchange or office party, with these selected varietals. Of course having a Champagne on hand for New Year's or spur of the moment celebrations, is not a bad idea either.