Food and Drink 

Get ready for home-based holidays

The holiday entertaining season is nearly upon us. That's right - if you haven't noticed, an entire year has slipped by, which means it's time to get serious about which wines "Yule" be partying with from now until New Year's Eve.

I'm sensing this will be a big year for home-based holiday parties, thanks to the new .05 blood alcohol level for drivers, 12 per cent HST on restaurant meals and on top of all that, the generally ridiculous price of wine in British Columbia. It's a triple whammy for most wine drinkers, which is why sipping the great stuff at home begins to look so attractive.

But what to drink is the question, so I decided to look back at 2010 for wines that have made an impression on me this year and that will likely be well received at any party, dinner or erstwhile affair that you decide to host over the holidays. The good news is that shopping early means better selection, and take advantage of any in-store wine consultants to help you find the wines you want.

Make sure you keep a few bottles of sparkling wine on hand for the holidays, and in 2010 that likely means one or two bottles of easy-sipping, sparkling Prosecco. Your best bets from Italy are the Mionetto Prosecco Brut N/V, Veneto $20, or the slightly fruiter Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco di Valdobbiadene N/V $21.

The all-organic Pares Baltà Cava Brut B N/V from Penedès, Spain $20 is a great appetizer bubble, as is my local pick, the classy See Ya Later Ranch SYL Brut N/V $20 from nearby Okanagan Falls. Finally, the Charles Heidsieck N/V Brut Reserve $61 is my champagne pick for the holidays. Expect a delicious, fresh, crisp, elegant palate with baked apple, pear, cherry and juicy, tropical flavours. It is an impressive, mouth-filling bubble that over-delivers for the price.

Argentine Mendoza malbec continues to entice North American wine drinkers and its prowess is growing daily. Dense, soft, sweet fruit with savoury edges are part of the attraction and it seems to work well with so many grilled meat dishes. Personal favourites include 1884 Reservado Malbec 2009 $17 or the Famiglia Bianchi Malbec 2008 $20. The Show Malbec 2009 $20 is equally easy-sipping with enough alcohol to deal with any seriously inclement weather.

For a sit-down consider the Vistalba Corte C 2008 , $20. This is a malbec/cabernet sauvignon with a spicy mineral-laden nose and super glossy textures. The palate is equally rich and dense with spicy, dried fruits and a floral undercurrent.

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