Merlot and Pinot Noir are soft, mildly tannic and very user-friendly reds for the holidays. These two varietals go well with whatever spread one may have when entertaining. In Merlot, try Smoking Loon, Bogle, or Blackstone in the 750 ml size bottle. In magnums, Jindalee from Australia, L'Orval from France, and Stimson Lane from the U.S. are great choices. For Pinot Noir, Fetzer and Francis Ford Coppola's wineries make good ones from California. Coleman and Benton Lane are excellent Northwestern-style Pinots, and Zenith Pinot Noir from New Zealand is another good choice.
In white wine, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs are great for gift-giving and work well with holiday meals. Chardonnay is the classic wine gift when one does not know if the recipient enjoys red or white. Chardonnay's range makes it the perfect choice for the "hard to buy for" person. Sauvignon Blancs, on the other hand, are great wines to balance a meal and usually stay in the background. The ones we prefer are: Solitude, Artessa, Edna Valley and Queen of Hearts. In Sauvignon Blanc, we like Tin Roof, Nautilus, Dyed in the Wool, Kenwood, Chateau Potelle and Markham.
A category often overlooked until the last day of the year is Champagne and Sparklers. While a necessity for a New Year's Eve bash, these also go great with any special meal. For larger parties, our staff prefers Korbel, Domaine St. Michelle, and an Italian Prosecco (try the pop-top bottle!). For upscale intimate get-togethers, we like Moet White Star, Roederer Anderson Valley Brut, and Pierre Jouet Brut.
Shields T. Hood