Choosing wine for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter - our top food holidays - leave many of us as breathless as Uncle Josh trying to hide a chocolate-filled plastic egg eight feet off the ground in an ocotillo tree.
Steady yourself, don’t fret, it’s going to be alright. These holidays, especially Easter or Passover, are about food, family and togetherness. Heck, you could serve one of those fruit-flavored “malt beverages” in a wine glass and no one would care.
But, of course, you aspire for better. You want proper wine, in proper wine glasses, served with your Easter ham, leg of lamb or crown roast. And when you factor in all these meats and a bevy of sides - mashed potatoes, quiche, veggies, salads of all kinds, deviled eggs, smoked salmon, fruit, breads, etc. - you could throw nearly any wine out there and it would stick.
That said, I do like an off-dry white, such as Riesling or Semillon, to counteract the saltiness of ham, and Shiraz/Syrah with lamb. For beef, only a Cab will do.
The bottom line is, don’t stress. Have fun with your family and chow down. Here’s a few recent finds for your consideration. All are widely available at local retailers such as Total Wine, BevMo, AJ's Fine Foods, Fry's Food Stores, among others. Cheers!
• Wente Reliz Creek Pinot Noir 2010, Monterey, Calif. After “Sideways,” it’s all Pinot all the time in some homes. I’m still not fully convinced, but this bottle nudges me a bit closer. I love the earthy cherry-strawberry impressions and hints of cigar box cedar. The bright fruitiness and natural acidity make it a natural for brunch foods like lox and bagels, or even that holiday ham. $28.
• Tin Roof 2010 Merlot, North/Central Coast, Calif. You’ve seen Tin Roof all over town and are a bit squeamish about the screw cap. Relax, your guests won’t turn their noses on a good glass of wine. This fresh and juicy Merlot serves up ripe plum and dark chocolate-coffee aromas and flavors, balanced with firm tannins. Serve with that minty leg of lamb you’re roasting. A value play at just $10.
• Steven Kent Winery 2013 “Lola” Sauvignon Blanc, Livermore Valley, Calif. Sourced from SKW’s Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard, known its Bordeaux-style whites, this fifth release of Lola shows considerable acidity which lends itself to food. The minerally citrus flavors work well with cold starters like a shrimp cocktail or asparagus salad (who says you can’t pair wine and asparagus), or perhaps just chill and sip on its own. $24.
• Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Maipo Valley, Chile. Don’t let the South America appellation dissuade you, this is good wine at a good price. They’ve had practice. Originally planted in the 1880s, the land has produced excellent fruit for generations. But it wasn’t until the 1980s and capital from Santa Rita has the winery reached its full potential. Ripe red and black fruit intermingle with the leather and spice of the local terroir to create something off the California path. One word: Beef. $20.