The holiday season is here and, hopefully, most of your shopping is done. Now it's time to concentrate on one last detail: the wine.
Whether you celebrate with carols, candles or caviar, a great bottle of wine to share can be a memorable experience. In addition, if you're hosting a holiday party, or have been invited to one, you'll want to provide a wine that will be delicious, impressive, easy to find and reasonably priced, particularly if you're picking up several bottles.
Here are a few suggestions that run the gamut from affordable to splurge-worthy. Retail prices are approximate.
I know that I sound like a broken record, but I really do enjoy beginning every festive occasion with sparkling wine, and good Champagne is always worth the splurge. The nonvintage Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne ($30) from France is one of the best values in authentic Champagne sparklers. The lovely flavors of green apples, pears, roasted nuts and buttered toast are enhanced by the tight bubbles and the firm, crisp finish. QPR 8.5
If you are preparing roast chicken and latkes, spice up the pairing by painting outside of the usual chardonnay lines with the 2010 d'Arenberg the Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne Blend ($15) from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. This lovely white wine offers an aromatic nose with scents of peach, nectarine and tropical fruit. The flavors of white peaches, guava, mango and apricot are rich and full in the mouth and are kept in check by the crisp acidity and notes of lemon/lime and mineral highlights on the nicely balanced finish. QPR 9
The traditional holiday ham can sometimes present a wine pairing challenge, but the 2010 Reata Pinot Noir ($30) from the Sonoma Coast of California does a masterful job of cutting through the richness of the fat while standing. This award-winning wine roped me in with smooth flavors of dark baked cherries, red plum and cherry cola on the front of the palate that combine effortlessly with a focused finish that continues on for almost a minute. QPR 9
I know more than a few families that elect the takeout option. If Peking duck, or any other game fowl, is on the menu, then consider a red wine whose jammy richness and fruit-forward characteristics will complement the duck's higher fat content and gamier flavors, such as the 2010 QUO Premium Garnacha ($20) from Campo de Borja, Spain. This 100 percent grenache-based wine features scents of cherry and plum on the nose that complements the softer fruit-centric flavors of black cherries and dark strawberries in the mouth. The medium-bodied finish has a hint of spice at the end that adds an additional dimension wine. QPR 8
A good friend of mine insisted that I try the 2010 Stolpman Syrah Santa Ynez ($27) from the Central Coast of California with lamb, and I am glad that I did. This powerful red has wonderful aromas of roasted meat, ripe blackberries and cassis. In the mouth, flavors of blackberry, black cherry, dark cassis and licorice coat the tongue. The long and luxurious finish is well-integrated with toasty oak tones and black olives, supported by sweet-but-firm tannins. Treat yourself to a few extra bottles for future celebrations. QPR 9.5
For a special treat at the end of the night, pull out a bottle of nonvintage Dow's 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($30) from Oporto, Portugal. Rich flavors of caramel, raisin, brown sugar and baking spices open on a richly textured bodied. The medium sweetness is nicely balanced by a touch of acidity, and the coffee/toffee notes on the long finish are a perfect foil to either pecan or pumpkin pie. QPR 9
Note: QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.