Tradition notwithstanding, holiday celebrations come in all shapes and sizes, calling for different approaches to serving wines. Here's how I'd plan for the three menus we offer in "A Perfect Fit."
FAMILY FEAST FOR 12 TO 14
For a large family gathering, Thanksgiving can be an all-day affair; people start sipping wine early. And the menu entails many flavors that, served buffet style, all appear on the same plate, so you need Thanksgiving wines that match a wide range of foods. I'd serve two aperitifs, then a white and a red with the feast, followed by a terrific dessert wine. Jekel Riesling 2002 (Monterey, CA), $11. Beautiful, fresh flavors of pear, ginger, lavender, and jasmine, with the merest touch of sweetness.
Mirabelle Brut Sparkling Wine nonvintage (Napa Valley), $18. Frothy and festive, with a crisp, citrusy tingle.
Thomas Fogarty Gewürztraminer 2002 (Monterey, CA), $15. Spicy and luscious ― a great white for standing up to a multitude of flavors.
Mazzocco Zinfandel 2001 (Dry Creek Valley, CA), $16. Briery aroma, ripe boysenberry-pie flavors, and a soft but meaty texture.
Cossart Gordon 15-Year-Old Bual Madeira nonvintage (Madeira, Portugal), $31 (500 ml.). Pricey, but one bottle will serve the whole crowd, since a small pour is customary. The flavor is reminiscent of toffee and brown sugar with hints of crème caramel.
HARVEST DINNER FOR 6 TO 8
With a smaller group and menu, the wines can complement specific dishes. I'd pour four in succession: a stellar aperitif, an unconventional but fun rosé with the salad, a Pinot Noir with the Persian-inspired main course, and, finally, a slightly sweet sparkler with the pear and cherry pie.
Annie's Lane Riesling 2002 (Clare Valley, Australia), $14. Beautiful aromas of peaches, apricots, and newly mown hay.
Frog's Leap "La Grenouille Rougante" 2002 (Rutherford, CA), $10. "The Blushing Frog" is a crisp slash of a rosé, with notes of grenadine, strawberries, watermelon, and spiced cherries.
Handley "River Road Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2000 (Santa Lucia Highlands, CA), $25. Luscious grenadine and cocoa flavors, with a texture that's pure silk. Graceful but rich.
Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2000 (Napa Valley), $33. Soft and only slightly fizzy, sweet but not cloying, with light, fruity flavors.
FESTIVE MENU FOR 2
Toast each other with a great sparkler, move on to a red blend with the roast hens, then close with a frosty Moscato with the warm persimmon tarts.
Roederer Estate Brut nonvintage (Anderson Valley, CA), $20. Fresh, pure, and crisp, with creamy vanilla notes.
Guenoc "Victorian Claret" 1999 (North Coast, CA), $22. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux varieties is rich yet refined, with delicious blackberry and cassis flavors.
Robert Mondavi Moscato d'Oro 2002 (Napa Valley), $20 (375 ml.). Sweet but fresh tasting, with beautiful apricot flavors.