December is the climax of the holiday season. After all the Halloween candy, we indulge in Thanksgiving and the shopping extravaganza of Black Friday. While Halloween doesn’t have the reputation of being a foodie holiday, Thanksgiving does. Thanksgiving dinner is dedicated to family, gratitude and eating, but its culinary scope is limitless in its diversity, as is the wine pairings that go with it. But after all the turkey, stuffing, and the endless stream of leftover sandwiches made in the week following, we get to cook another feast to celebrate the end of the year and the start of another at Christmas time. These classic festive meals, and the wines we will be drinking with them in 2014, remind us to really enjoy the food of the holidays.
An institution of California Christmas meal has to be the Dungeness crab. By December, the official season has started on this spectacular delicacy from the Pacific. The best idea is to cook the Dungeness crab simply and plainly, letting its natural sweet density shine bright. Making this a thorough California experience, try pairing with the DeLoach Vineyards 2011 Hawk Hill Vineyard Chardonnay. Hints of lemon and vanilla simultaneously cut through and compliment the crabmeat, while the minerality suggests an element of the sea from which this sweet treat emerged.
Learn more about De Loach here from owner Jean Charles Boisset:
Prime rib, maybe a goose or pheasant and the eponymous Christmas Ham round out the main course in most American homes. We love these classics almost as much as we love pairing wines with them.
With the game bird options, Pinot Noir is the “go to” wine in this department. In Napa Valley’s Carneros wine region, the 2012 Artesa Pinot Noir suggests strawberry on the nose, caramel on the palate, and has the acidity and long finish to compliment most food.
Honey baked ham is a bit of a curve ball with wine pairings. It is sweet yet savory, it is rich but still lean. Not only a spot on pairing with ham, but sure to run the rest of the table is the rosé from Azur Wines. Ripe fruit notes pop with the saltiness of the pork, while the acidity cleans up the richness.
Finally, we come to the prime rib. Of course, this unctuous and rich cut of meat calls for but one wine in the world, and it has to be Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Our choice this year is the Sullivan Vineyards James O’Neil Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 is just the third release of the wine named after their founder, but this crown jewel of a Cabernet is a fitting choice for a meat cut of this caliber. The timeless and distinctive ‘Rutherford Dust’ and its corresponding pronounced tannins, are the wine pairing stuff of legends when it comes to the heralded marbling of great prime rib!
No Christmas season is complete without a Yule log. Historically, an actual log covered with pinecones and ivy, was burned to celebrate the winter solstice, but now is much more commonly, a baked good. There are many variations in ingredients, but wine pairing is the determinate factor in our recipe. The Caldwell Syrah port has notes of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut to pair perfectly with the ganache, espresso and marzipan elements of the traditional Buche de Noel. The wine’s breadth and perfumed notes of blueberry, plum, and black raspberry make picking out the rest the cake’s garnish a breeze.
If you want to get to know the stories and people behind these incredible wines, let us introduce you.