By: Stu Nudelman AKA Stu The Wine Guru
The holidays are the best time to bring family and friends together and enjoy good food and great wine. In this article, I’ll share some expression of my favorite holiday selections – both traditional choices and some non-traditional choices as well. Life is too short to make bad drinking choices. So, let me take the guesswork out of it so that you, your friends and family may drink happily.
Traditional dishes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah can vary according to customs, and the wines and spirits that accompany these dishes can vary as well. I am a firm believer that taste, in its purest form, is like fine art… completely subjective. Consider your palate the canvas and you the painter. What you add to the canvas, or in this case, what you choose to drink is solely up to you.
There is no right or wrong, only your expression of taste, and what you feel should go together to create your masterpiece, in this case, your meal and beverage pairings
Now I’m sure my friends who are sommeliers or true wine and spirits connoisseurs will disagree with that statement. They will say, red wine goes with beef and roasted meats, white wine goes with poultry and some seafood. I think it is smart to have the right assortment of wine varietals and spirits available on the table, so that your guests can make their own choices. You, as the host, are still choosing the beverages to serve, but ultimately it’s quite nice to give your guests the choice to pair according their own individual palates. For instance, during Hanukkah, it’s good to have a small assortment of red, white and sparkling wines for your guests to choose from. If you only have a red or a white as a representation, it misses the point of truly letting your guests enjoy the meal before them. I’d suggest Cabernet, Merlot, Riesling, Red Blend, White Blend and a Sparkling.
I know this sounds expensive, but in the long run, it’s worth it. When you are hosting, it’s essential to create a sensory experience. As humans we remember through our senses acutely. With that in mind, its always great to offer multiple choices to everyone, so that later, that meal and wine can take us back to that occasion for years to come.
Let’s explore a quick bit of culinary history with respect to traditional meals for the winter holidays. I use the word “traditional” loosely because everyone can have a different interpretation/or take on what “traditional” means.
Thanksgiving typically showcases a combination of turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, green bean casserole, candied yams, and desserts like Pumpkin Pie or Pecan Pie.
Christmas traditions are a little more vast depending on cultural background. Turkey, beef, ham, pork, seafood, and pasta are all main dish possibilities. Common desserts include pie, plum pudding, minced pie, cookies or pastries.
Hanukkah dishes feature a unique flavor profile. Challah, sweet noodle kugel, latkes, beef brisket, fresh horseradish relish with apples and cranberries, brussels sprouts with lemon and thyme are common Hannukah dishes, with desserts like jelly donuts and assorted cookies.
So rather than give you specific drink choices for specific meals, I am going to suggest wines and spirits that are palatable for each holiday.
For Hannukah, Kosher wines are a must. Jerusalem Wineries from the Judean Hills are available in the following varietals: Cabernet, Merlot, Dry Red Blend (Cab/Merlot), Dry White Blend (Muscat/Riesling)— all at around $19.99 per bottle.
Gamla is a great Kosher Pinot Noir producer, and I also highly suggest Hagafen Brut Rosé and Psagot
Cab Franc to round out your Hannukah selections.
For Thanksgiving and Christmas:
A little less complicated to choose than Kosher wine, try easy- to-recognize brands and a few more un- known finds to complement your table. For reds, you can’t go wrong with Ster- ling Napa Cabernet,Hahn SLH Pinot Noiror Rutherford Hills Merlot. I’d also offer a few non-tradtional selections such as Sidewood Estates Shiraz and Over The Mountain Sauvignon Blanc.
For those guests that might prefer to drink spirits instead of wine at a holiday gathering, Generous Gin is a sophisticated choice and Mauritius Islands Turquoise Bay Rum will bring your eggnog to a whole new level of deliciousness. For a classic digestif, look no further than Amaro Nonino.
So now, expand your palate this holiday season. You will create a sensory experience for your guests and memories to last a lifetime.
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Remember to join me at American Fine Wine Invitational Charity events and tastings! Listen to my podcast: Wine talk with Stu The Wine Guru. As I always say “If it’s time to pour the wine, it’s time for Stu The Wine Guru. Drink up!”