Festive colors

Reds and whites for your holiday table

It’s that time of year again, when hundreds of thousands of Americans fly into a panic over what libations to serve with their holiday meals. Tasting terms and phrases like “food-friendly,” “overwhelms the palate,” “playful,” “the perfect match for braised wild boar,” “pairs elegantly with dark chocolate” and “a fun wine” bombard us from every medium.

Lifestyle magazines, food blogs, newspapers and the latest drivel on YouTube all join in the propaganda, and many consumers are swept up in the fuss. The holiday meal menu comes together by day, and by night they toss about in cold sweats.

“How do I pair wine to salad?” they cry. “Is Dungeness crab a fish?! What type of glass do I serve Cab in?!”

But the truth is, our friends and family don’t care. And attempting to match drinks to a meal that may include a dozen dishes and 15 people doesn’t begin to make sense anyway. Imagine pouring one-ounce tastes and directing your friends and family to eat the feast a bite at a time while noting how one wine or another complements the supple flavors of the Kabocha squash soup or the grilled trout.

So keep your head on straight, get yourself to your favorite wine and liquor aisle, and consider these splashes of wisdom: You’ll want red wine and some white wine, regardless of what food is on the table. People will like some variety, so don’t buy more than one bottle of any given selection.

And think beyond wine, why don’t you? A good rum, for instance, will suit the evening nicely after dinner is done and most of the guests departed. This, too, would be a good time to open a bottle of fancy beer.

Finally, don’t serve Charles Shaw. It’s not 2002 anymore, and everyone knows “Two Buck Chuck” is junk.

Here are a few suggestions, a variety sure to please the palates of the people.

LaRocca Vineyards Zinfandel, from Forest Ranch: Try any vintage. It might run you almost $20, but you’re supporting local winemaker Phil LaRocca, and you’re supporting the production of organic grapes. This Zin is big, sharp, peppery and brilliant.

Concannon 2009 Conservancy Crimson and Clover Red Table Wine, from California ($15): Made by one of the oldest wineries in California, in the East Bay hills, this dark, beet-red blend includes mostly Petite Sirah, while Zinfandel adds some spice and Cabernet some backbone. It is rich and lush, heavy with cherry and blackberry.

Parducci Winery 2009 Small Lot Blend Pinot Noir, from California ($12): This selection represents the state’s North Coast growing region—though a portion of the Pinot Noir grapes come from home-sweet-home in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The wine is a classic Pinot, melding lush berry and plum flavors, a little smoked meat, and earthy mushroom.

Un4Seen 2010 White Wine, from California ($11): A golden-yellow blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Moscato and Viognier, this crisp wine is all tropics and sunshine. Pineapple, guava and apple give perceived sweetness to this dry wine, and a satisfying nip of acidity.

Craggy Range 2010 Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay, from New Zealand ($21): This North Island Chardonnay was grown on a site overlooking the beach where Captain James Cook once sojourned and temporarily lost a crewman to kidnapping natives. It’s thick, luscious and buttery in that classic Chardonnay way.

Mount Gay Extra Old Rum, from Barbados ($49): Don’t serve this fine, slow-drinking specimen to the common masses. Wait until most have gone home, then ease back in your armchairs and fill a few tipplers. This rum has spent a decade and more in oak barrels and the wood has left a buttery, rich flavor and thick scents of chocolate, fig, raisin and vanilla. Blend into cocktails if you must, but we like it straight.

Firestone Walker’s 15th Anniversary Ale ($23 for 22 ounces): Eight different beers—most aged in bourbon and brandy barrels—come together to make this delicious, creamy sipper. Three fourths of the volume is barleywine, while imperial stout and double IPA make up the balance. Drink it well above refrigerator temperature to fully experience the amazing flavors of coconut, vanilla, custard and boozy dried fruit.