I'll bet that there is no more asked question about wine than "what should I have for my big holiday meal?"




In the old days, say the 1960s, the answer was easy, either something from Wente Brothers such as a Blanc de Blanc or Grey Riesling or something from BV vineyards or Louis Martini. If you wanted "classy" wine you got Blue Nun, Lancer's ros&

233; or Mateus ros&

233;.




The choices were few and the wines were fine if somewhat uninteresting. In those days, there was little distinction between chilling a red wine or a white wine and nobody really cared, we just kept spinning the dial on the phone to call someone, dropping a needle on the vinyl LP's, getting up to change the TV channel to get one of four snowy, black and white stations and off we went.




Wines from Oregon, Australia and New Zealand were, for all intents and purposes, nowheresville, and the wines from France, Italy and Germany rarely went over the $5 mark, the $10 mark was a dizzy ascent into winedom. There were few, if any wine fairs or competitions and UC Davis was just sprouting a wine program for folks who wished to find out more about what was happening in vineyards and wineries. Chilean wine was a buck a bottle, two for a dollar fifty!




Today we have come light years in wine selections for holiday meals. We even have wine professionals to help us with choices as well as wine magazines and the Internet to browse around to give us some idea of what we are spending our hard earned money on. Here's the best bet going for the season:




Pinot Noir




Saintsbury Carneros from California, the magnificent Cristom Louise from Oregon as well as Ken Wright Canary vineyard, also from Oregon.




The Cristom is a very serious Pinot Noir with layers of spiced fruit, gorgeous mouth feel and a finish that goes all the way to Philly. "Louise" is the name of one of the vineyards on the site and has produced, for my money, very fine Pinot Noir. The Ken wright wines are also hard to find and display lovely palate grip, silked out tones on the finish and a touch of very sexy oak. Yum.




Chardonnay




I have always liked the Chardonnays from the Napa Valley and I try to stick with those under the 14 percent alcohol level. Many of these wine are very rich, long and display superb fruit. If you are looking for a more crisped out Chardonnay go with a nice Macon from France or try an Oregon Chardonnay.




Southern Italian reds




These are the kickers! Best buys abound in this category and the prices on every level rarely hit above $15 per bottle. The last few years have produced slam bang great reds and whites from Sicily and other parts of The Boot. These guys have produced lovely wines for about 300 years and with the technology and money being spent in the south, the wines are a really fine value.




Spain




Here is another fine area of the world for good, inexpensive red wines. Look for the Rioja region of Spain as well as the Ribera del Duoro where the wines are fruity, soft and display wonderful, rich palates and smooth finishes. I can't think of better reds for the money spent than these fine Tempranillos. The market abound with many of them under $20 and well worth the money on all levels.




Well, that's the short list. Have a good holiday!