The 3 Kings of Christmas Wines


You don't have to be Scrooge to think Jacob Marley is a terrible Christmas spirit. Indeed, one of the great joys of the holiday is there are so many appropriate tipples to savor this time of year, as there are so many traditions to celebrate. Here's a peek at just three ideas for some right time, right place pairing for the holidays.

What's Good for the Goose...
Whether you think of Dickens or "Shop Around the Corner," there's no holiday feast grander than roast goose. Given a goose tends to taste like a turkey that's spent more time in the woods -- pretend it's a fan of camping -- you've got to contend with that gamier flavor. Despite its outdoorsy-ness, a goose also has a lot more fat than a turkey or chicken, so you need to cut that with something, as chefs often do with sides such as apples or red cabbage. The upshot: you want a wine with pretty high acidity to help de-unctify (it is too a word) your mouth after a bite of goose.

The right pinot noir can do that, but you have to avoid the fruit bombs that are syrahs-in-pinot's clothing. Anderson Valley up in Mendocino County can do that for you, with its grapes that simply can't get over-ripe because of the cooler climate, providing bright cherry notes, some fullness, and a good hit of acid, too. (Not that kind of hit of acid. You know what I mean.) Try, perhaps, a 2011 Breggo Pinot Noir Anderson Valley: there's enough fruit to accompany the groaning sideboard of accompanying dishes and it will help round out the roasted quality of the bird.

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Those Seven Fishes Have to Swim in Something
Christmas Eve, Italian-style, means an amazing dinner of seven seafood dishes. You're not supposed to be eating meat, so you end up feasting in order to fast. You have to love the Italians. That means a parade of deliciousness that can include things like baccalà (dried, salted cod), calamari, eel, shrimp, mussels, clams, and pasta to go with. You want a white to pair with all that seafood, and the default for many would be pinot grigio, as it's the only Italian white most people know.

While there are good pinot grigios out there (including one by Palmina), why not try something a bit out of the ordinary: a Palmina Arneis 2011. Palmina, run by Steve and Chrystal Clifton in Santa Barbara County, worships all things Italian, and makes some of the best Cal-Ital wines available. Arneis translates to "a little rascal" or "whimsical," so here's one last chance to be mildly naughty in a nice way. Prepare for a minerally mélange of apricot, apple, and pear, something truly refreshing as all the seafood goes down.

Santa Needs a Little Nip
It's a quarter to three, and there's no one by the tree except you and the toy you're supposed to assemble. You'd love to put flap B into slot A, but all the parts are numbered, as you're feeling your days are if this present isn't put together in time for your child. That's the moment to eat Santa's cookies, pour his milk back into the bottle, sip a bit of port, and reconnoiter. It might be a great time for Croze 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Port, and you read right -- they're making a port from Cab. Napa Cab. Since it's a port, there's aged brandy in there, too, making it 18% alcohol, a sipper, but not as sustained sugary as some ports. They bill it as savory-sweet, but it's more savory.... sweet. There's no better way to put some not-too-sugary happiness in your ho ho ho.


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