Cool picks for holiday entertaining, Whistler-style 

Pour yourself a glass of port, and enjoy…

There’s only one weekend left before Christmas and that means it’s time to get serious about picking up all those wines you will be entertaining with over Christmas and New Year’s.

No need for panic but there’s work to be done and the sooner you get started the better the selection, and, if at all possible, you want to avoid the madness of shopping on Dec. 24.

If anything, the wealth of choices at last month’s Cornucopia event proved that this holiday season your choice can be wider than ever, with some provisos. Inexpensive is in, basic varietal wines like chardonnay (especially oaky ones) and merlot are out. Interestingly, the rush to spend less on wine will give you more room to manoeuvre at the check out counter.

But before you do anything, I suggest you begin your journey in a government specialty wine store, or private store with a similarly wide selection and start by grabbing a bottle of Taylor Fladgate Special White Port ($21).

This is your reward for shopping early and it can double as a fabulous aperitif to be served to drop-in guests with a simply prepared dish of mixed olives and roasted almonds. Best of all, it will keep throughout the holiday season as long as you place its handy stopper back in the bottle and store the wine in the refrigerator. The adventurous serve it over ice with a twist of lemon.

My guess is most people will be arriving with a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz or Chardonnay, which is fine, but why not make a point to serve something different? White wine is the new red so you may want to think about having a selection of sauvignon blanc, viognier or riesling on hand so your guests know you are on top of the latest wine trends.

Viognier continues to capture the imagination of wine writers and restaurant chefs and is clearly the season’s hippest white wine. Honeysuckle orange rind and mineral mark the flavours of this stylish white and, best of all, it’s the perfect varietal to pair with turkey. Among my very favourite picks are: Smoking Loon ($17), Cline Cellars ($21) or the ever stylish and 100 per cent organic Bonterra Vineyards ($22), all from California; from Australia try Yalumba Y Series ($18), and from France, Moillard Hugues le Juste ($11.75) and Serame ($11.40).

Rieslings are highly versatile apéritif wines that also work well as stand alone sippers and they come with the added bonus of relatively low alcohol. Local picks include Hawthorne Mountain ($13) and Gehringer Private Reserve ($13.49).

Global picks that mix mineral, racy fruit with peachy flavours include: Lingenfelder 2003 Bird Series Riesling ($17), Dr L. 2003 ($17), and Gunderloch 2003 Redstone ($16), all from Germany. Value from Oz includes the Lindemans Bin 75 ($12), the Wynns 2003 Coonawarra Estate Riesling ($15) and the exciting new Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2003 ($20).

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