How nice: Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve this year. Or Christmas Eve comes on the first evening of Hanukkah. However you want to say it.
And whether we dine on braised brisket or roast beef, on corn casserole or kugel, we want some really nice wine to mark the occasion.
This is the season to pull out the stops. Well, some of them, anyway. To venture into our deepest cellars, if we have them, or go to our favorite wine shop, if we have that, to find something exceptional.
But we don’t have to overdo it. We also have kids’ college tuition, mortgages, vacation funds, retirement plans, etc. Can’t get carried away.
So when the big dinner arrives, my philosophy matches that of one of the editors back at my old newspaper. We won a big journalism award, so he sprung for a bottle of expensive champagne for the photographs. Then he cut back to cheaper bubbly so we could toast each other.
Nothing wrong with that. Splurge on one extravagant wine for the first glass, red, white or rose. Then turn to more affordable wines for the rest of the meal.
A pricey French champagne followed by some less-expense but very nice Spanish bubbly. A fancy French chablis, then chardonnay from Chile.
A $50 reserve red wine, then some $15 merlots.
With dessert, a pricey port, then a sweet, fizzy and inexpensive white wine from France.
▪ Nonvintage Champagne Bollinger “Special Cuvee,” Ay (60 percent pinot noir, 25 percent chardonnay, 15 percent meunier), France: lots of tiny, long-lasting bubbles, aromas and flavors of bread dough, apple pie and spice, $50 per 375 milliliters bottle.
▪ 2012 Les Cadrans de Lassegue, Saint-Emilion, France (90 percent merlot, 7 percent cabernet franc, 3 percent cabernet sauvignon): dark purple hue, hint of oak, aromas and flavors of cassis, licorice and espresso, silky tannins, long finish; $35.
▪ 2014 Drouhin Vaudon Estate of Maison Joseph Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru (100 percent chardonnay): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, minerals and spice, full-bodied and rich, long finish; $40.
▪ 2014 Hagafen Kosher Syrah, Napa Valley, Calif.: deep dark hue, hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and black pepper, full-bodied, ripe tannins, smooth finish; $36.
▪ 2015 Angeline Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, Calif.: aromas and flavors of ripe pears and apples, lively and crisp, mineral-scented finish; $15
▪ 2014 Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc, Estate Grown, Napa Valley (100 percent sauvignon blanc): aromas and intense flavors of tropical fruits and minerals, creamy texture, long finish; $31.
▪ Nonvintage Codorniu Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut sparkling wine, Penedes, Spain (70 percent chardonnay, 30 percent parellada): lively bubbles, aromas and flavors of peaches and lemons, crisp; $14.
▪ 2014 J. Lohr Estates “Los Osos” Merlot, Paso Robles, Calif. (85 percent merlot, 15 percent malbec): dark hue, hint of oak, aromas and flavors of red plums and mocha, subtle tannins, long finish; $15.
▪ 2015 Matchbook Wine Estate Bottled “Old Head” Chardonnay Dunnigan Hills (100 percent chardonnay): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of ripe pineapples and cantaloupes, lush and creamy, long finish; $15.
▪ 2013 Mi Sueno Chardonnay, Los Carneros, Napa Valley (100 percent chardonnay): hint of oak, big, full-bodied, aromas and flavors of bread dough and ripe yellow apples, smooth and creamy; $38.
▪ 2011 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port (19.5 percent alcohol): aromas of dried roses and black cherries, flavors of dried figs and sage; $24.
▪ Toad Hollow “Risque” Sweet & Sparkling Wine Languedoc-Roussillon, France (100 percent mauzac grapes): light and lively and fizzy and quite sweet, only 6 percent alcohol, tasting of ripe pears; $16.