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Holiday wines and entertaining

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“…on the Fifth Day of Christmas, My True Love Sent to Me:
Five Golden Chards,
Four California Cabs,
Three French Reds,
Two Sauv Blancs,
and a Partridge from Napa Valley.”

With apologies to composer Frederic Austin, I just can’t help it. The holidays bring the kid out of all of us.

There’s joy everywhere you go, beit a holiday party or brunch, relaxing at home, or a sumptuous dinner with your extended family. And let good wines - of all kinds - be a centerpiece.

Wine continues to be a mainstay of holiday cheer. It’s a thoughtful, versatile gift, a last-minute quick fix, the lubricant of the season. Do me a favor and don’t go anywhere without a bottle in hand. Hosts always appreciate the gesture.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. There are great wines in all price ranges, readily available at local grocers like Safeway, Basha’s, Whole Foods, among others. Here are a few you may want to consider as a gift or to pour during festivities. Cheers!

• J Vineyards & Winery JBrut Rose NV, Russian River Valley, Calif. Tis the season for bubbly, and this California beauty will even make Aunt Maude blush. Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay combine for a sparkling wine that checks all the boxes visually and on the nose and palate. It’s all in here: Citrus, rose petal, raspberry, strawberry and an earthy creaminess. It’s a great gift, or impress brunch guests as they nosh on the cheese course. $38.

• Chateau de Sancerre Blanc 2012, France. How come Sauvignon Blanc stands in the shadow of Chardonnay? The Pinot Grigio craze of the past decade or so even overshadows this remarkable grape. And this lovely wine clearly illustrates this. The nose powerfully foreshadows what’s ahead, which is rich and well-balanced grapefruit, fresh grapes and lively mineral impressions. Winner! Pair with fish. $29.

• Hanna Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, Calif. This boutique producer has been turning heads for years. Proprietor Christine Hanna “gets it;” the holistic approach to food and wine and home entertaining. Her wines are food friendly and well made. This Cab has plum, chocolate and mint on the nose, and coffee-vanilla cherry flavors on the palate. Hanna’s 2010 Cab screams for beef. Give it what it wants. $40.

• Bocelli Family Wines Sangiovese IGT, Tuscany, Italy. You will want to sing this wine praise after tasting, yes, created in partnership with the famed Italian tenor. Made from Tuscany’s noble varietal, the family’s passion and expertise are on full display in this exceptionally bright, lush, and appealing wine. Delicious fresh cherry, rhubarb and granite surface. I can see the family gathered around the table with a few bottles of Bocelli scattered about. Great with pasta and beef dishes. $19.

• Tortarossa Rosso Toscana, Italy. Must add another Italian red to the mix. The wines are fun, well-priced and speak to family and the holidays. This one is ideal as a gift-giving idea or simply savoring. The whimsical label of a contorted circus performer balancing on one arm, the other holding a piece of red cake (Tortarossa) will make her laugh, but the wine inside is quite serious. Lots of red fruit and balanced tannins make this perfect for pasta, steak and lamb. $15.

Contact Drinks Editor Mark Nothaft via e-mail and click here and follow him on Twitter. Subscribe to his frequent columns on Examiner and click here.



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