Cabernet-paired holiday dinner

Chef and wine pro Maria Helm Sinskey serves the king of reds with the king of beef for a pull-out-the-stops holiday meal

Cab dinner tabletop
James Baigrie

Secrets for success

“Sometimes we hide our wine in brown bags so our friends aren’t swayed by the labels,” says Maria Helm Sinskey. Especially when one of the bottles is an exquisite $80 Cabernet from Robert Sinskey Vineyards, which Maria owns with her husband, Rob. Tonight, though, all bottles stand unmasked. It’s Christmas, and for Maria, it’s the best time to present a cast of wines―with the king of reds in the lead role.

A former chef at San Francisco’s PlumpJack Cafe, Maria has written two cookbooks, including just-released Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen (Oxmoor House, 2008; $33). Now she’s on track to sit for the Masters of Wine test next spring. (There are only 277 MWs in the world; none of them works as a professional chef.)

But it doesn’t take a professional to turn out Maria’s Christmas menu. And it doesn’t take an $80 bottle to revel in this food and wine pairing. It just takes some planning, and more than one Cab. You can hold the bags―or not.

Stick with casual, natural decor: Maria sets out a bay laurel table runner and napkin sprigs, plus amaryllis blooms, with festive red-pink accents.

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