Tips For Holiday Wining And Dining

Happy holidays!

Celebrations will be in full swing, with family and friends the centerpiece of every gathering. Wine only will enhance the joy and cheer.

So, not to sound like a glossy magazine at the checkout stand, but I do have some helpful tips on throwing a great party with wine.


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This Cabernet over-delivers for the money

First of all, make sure you have enough. Wine is an extension of the plate. And like food, if there is not enough, the natives can get restless. A regular bottle of wine that we buy off the shelf has 750ml or 25.35 ounces within. That works out to be about five 5-ounce glasses of wine. When I calculate the number of bottles that I need for a party, I always estimate more like 4 ounces of each wine for each guest. This allows for guests who do not drink wine. They may prefer beer or cocktails or may be pregnant or the designated driver. As a side note, always make sure to have plenty of water as well as booze available to your guests. I recommend drinking at least as much water as wine throughout the party.

Notice I say 4 ounces of each wine, as I select different wines for different foods. By selecting different wines, you also cover the fact that guests have different tastes.

At minimum, I choose three wines. I always have a sparkler — Champagne, more often than not — with a white, then a red. Covering your bases will ensure all your guests are happy.

Now, choosing the exact wine for the food you are serving does require a bit more research. But either asking the friendly wine expert at the store or looking up the wine information on your smartphone should not take too long.

And don’t get bogged down with exact pairings, unless you are having a seated, plated, multi-course dinner. If that is the case, email me for recommendations.

Having a general idea of white with fish and a red with meats is surprisingly helpful. As I have said in the past, drink what you like with what you like to eat. No wine police at my holiday parties!

You must have enough glassware. Riedel is the best, but if glassware is not in your budget or you have a pool, there are some great alternatives, like Govino wine tumblers, which are shatterproof, reusable and recyclable. These are great for the outdoors. There are even some simple plastic “assembly required” wine cups available in stores. It is just a bummer when your guests have to go searching for a vessel from which to enjoy the lovely wines you are serving.

Keep the wines cool and cold. It is easy enough to get a big bucket or cooler filled with ice to hold the sparkler and white wine, but I also recommend keeping the red cool. Instead of putting it inside the ice, put it on top or in a separate container just on top of a layer of ice, not submerged.

Even in winter, our open-air homes are much warmer than I recommend serving red wines. That little bit of chill will make the wine more refreshing and taste better.

Recommendations: 2012 Landmark “Overlook” Chardonnay ($23) This is a very “pretty” Chardonnay. It has plump fruit, a creamy butteriness and a zesty edge that brings everything into balance. Everything seems to be in place, and it is just a joy to drink. This is great with sautéed fish with herbs and citrus. 2012 Stonecap Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)

This wine over-delivers for the money. It has all the hallmarks of Cabernet — black fruit, spices, tannin and richness — but it doesn’t break the bank. This is one of the best values that I have tasted this whole year. It is great with beef stew and grilled steaks, too.

You can find both at Fujioka’s Wine Times.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.
Twitter: @Pinotpusher