Christmas is coming, perhaps the finest feast day of the year after Thanksgiving. It’s time for the wine lover’s much anticipated ritual: prowling the cellar to see what wines you want to serve, then building a holiday meal around them.
You weren’t thinking of doing it the other way around, were you?
Greet your guests at the door with a warm hug and a festive glass of bubbly. Save the fancy champagnes for New Year’s Eve and serve friendly, informal prosecco:
• Nonvintage Lamarca Prosecco, Veneto, Italy: light, lively and slightly sweet, with a soft fizz and flavors of grapefruit and minerals; $17.
Serve an elegant hors d’oeuvre like Oysters Rockefeller, accompanied by a creamy sauvignon blanc:
• 2011 Tangent Sauvignon Blanc, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley; crisp and lively and smooth, with flavors of green pears and minerals; $13.
Even if you’re not Italian, consider a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes — everything from polpi in humido (stewed octopus) to scungilli (snail) salad, and serve a nice Italian vermentino:
• 2011 Cecchi Family Estates Litorale Vermentino, Maremma, Italy: full-bodied and crisp, with white peach and lemon flavors; $17.
For a small gathering, choose roast a chicken — prepared simply, with only lemon and rosemary — and serve it with an all-American chardonnay:
• 2010 Wild Horse Chardonnay, Central Coast: hint of oak, rich and creamy, with flavors of pineapples and peaches; $17.
Get out the fancy, once-a-year china — including those rarely used soup bowls you inherited. Make a spicy Thai orange curry soup (Google it) and serve it with a crisp rosé:
• 2011 Matchbook Rose of Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills: lightly sweet, with orange, peach and strawberry flavors; $10.
Dig a hole in your back yard, roast a whole pig and fill the neighborhood with porcine perfume, serving it with its perfect match, dry gewurztraminer:
• 2011 Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley: rich and generous, with spicy litchi flavors; $23.
Toss a big slab of salmon in the oven to roast, and serve it with a red-wine-with-fish complement like pinot noir:
• 2010 Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley: rich and dry, with black cherry and bitter chocolate flavors; $25.
Play Ebenezer Scrooge — the kind-hearted one from the end of the Dickens tale — and roast a whole goose for your Tiny Tim and family, served with a hearty petite sirah:
• 2010 Hand Craft Petite Sirah, California: bold tannins, hearty blueberry and black cherry flavors, powerful structure; $11.
Pretend you’re squire of Downton Abbey and serve roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, matching it with what the Brits would call “claret” — a powerful French Bordeaux:
• 2009 Chateau Puy-Blanquet Saint Emilion, Grand Cru, Bordeaux: big, ripe tannins, cassis and coffee flavors, fruity; $26.
Vegetarians at your table? Serve Martha Stewart’s opulent Spinach and Gruyere Souffle (Google it too) with an equally rich and tasteful white viognier:
• 2011 McManis Family Vineyards Viognier, California: vanilla-scented, with ripe, white-peach flavors; $12.
For dessert, serve the delicacy your family has been clamoring for — wine-soaked, rum-filled fruitcake, or maybe a figgy pudding — and accompany it with rich, red port, or a Christmas-style beer:
• Nonvintage W & J Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port, Portugal: sweet and powerful at 20 percent alcohol, with flavors of dried sweet cherries and chocolate; $22.
• Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale: hearty and full, chock with holiday spices; $14 per 12-pack.
And a Merry Christmas to all.