Christmas pours

Your family Christmas meal is a great time for wine, but it is not a great time for great wine.

There will be a lot going on, usually with a lot of people involved, some will prefer beer or spirits. There will be candy and presents and drop-ins and, for many, a visit to church. Lots of moving parts, lots of drama and distractions, and don’t forget the eggnog.

None of which augurs well for appreciating that Châteauneuf-du-Pape you cellared the past decade or that ostensibly outstanding California cab you splurged on last year. Really astonishing bottles of wine deserve to be the center of attention and savored with respect, even reverence.

That won’t happen at a big, boisterous event. Give someone great wine as a gift—some are noted at the end of this column—but open the bottle later in the calm of a special day with your spouse, maybe a few wine aficionado friends.

Big-event meals call for mid-level wines. You can afford an assortment, so there can be a white zin for Aunt Midge and a pinot grigio for Sally Sue, who just turned 21. If the family event is one in which everyone prepares something, consider everyone bringing a favorite pour, but cap the price at $20.

Last month there were two Thanksgiving columns, one on wine-serving strategy and another with a list of various recommendations. The suggestions remain valid for Christmas; they are online at the Standard-Times website ( and mine (

Gift wines:

• Enkidu Tin Cross Chardonnay 2009. Piercing acidity, clean (no malo), rich fruit; new oak; top maker. $30

• Meeker Handprint Merlot 2008. Each bottle is unique with multi-colored handprint of a winery employee; big cherries and more delicious cherries. 750 ml $40; 3-liter $289.

• Warre’s Otima Tawny Porto. Clean, lush; caramel, honey; very appealing pour from legendary maker; 10-year-old, 500 ml, $25; 20-year-old, 500 ml, $45.

Last round: Wine improves with age. The older I get, the more I like wine.