Great Party Wines

Experts name their favorite bottles to serve at home.

To scout out perfect holiday wines, FOOD & WINE asked chefs, sommeliers, restaurateurs and other experts what wines they serve at home at this time of year. Most of them serve several; we've made our own selections from among their picks with an eye toward versatility and price. (The majority of bottles are in the $15 to $25 range.) Happy holidays!

SPENCER CHRISTIAN Television commentator, Spencer Christian's Wine Cellar and Good Morning America 

1996 Fess Parker Syrah I love this Syrah. I grew up watching Fess Parker play Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on television; he was one of my heroes. I was surprised to learn that he made wines, and when he appeared on my show I was thrilled to meet him. He gave me a lot of his wines, and each of the bottles had a miniature coonskin cap. 

INGRID CROCE Restaurateur, Croce's, San Diego 

1995 Chimney Rock Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Thanksgiving is my favorite day. I married my husband, Jimmy Rock, on Thanksgiving Day in 1988, and we celebrate our Thanksgiving anniversary with our family and friends. The Chimney Rock was given to me by a friend because the name sounds just like my husband's. It's also a wonderful wine! 

DEAN FEARING Chef, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 

1996 Fall Creek Chardonnay and 1996 Becker Merlot I served the Chardonnay to Julia Child in my home and she loved it. I served the Merlot to President Clinton when he stayed at The Mansion. The reason I keep drinking both of these wines is that they taste great, they're a great value and they come from my home state, Texas. 

ANDREA IMMER Master Sommelier, Windows on the World, New York City 

Nonvintage Codorníu Brut Sparkling Wine and nonvintage Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne I'm not good with decorations. But for the holidays I use sparkling wine and Champagne to lend glamour to the table. I serve the Champagne from a big magnum, and it looks grand. I also put together a cluster of nice flutes and add half a strawberry or a frozen cranberry to each of them. Filled with sparkling wine, they look shimmery and festive. 

NANCY HARMON JENKINS Author, Flavors of Tuscany 

Nonvintage Nino Franco Prosecco I discovered Prosecco in Venice in the early Eighties. It's a Venetian tradition to stop for l'ombra--a glass of wine in the shade--and drink Prosecco and eat mantecato, a salt cod puree. I think of it as a holiday wine because it's wonderfully bubbly. At our traditional Tuscan Thanksgivings, we make spit-roasted loin of pork and fortify ourselves with Prosecco as we take turns pouring oil and wine on the spit. 

SIRIO MACCIONI Restaurateur, Le Cirque 2000, New York City, and Le Cirque, Las Vegas 

Villa Antinori Chianti I come from Tuscany, where my grandfather was a farmer who produced 300 or 400 bottles of wine annually for local consumption. I was working at my first job ever, at a hotel in Montecatini Terme in 1948 or so, and I remember having enough money to buy an Antinori wine. I didn't know that much about the contents, but I was fascinated by the bottle and the label. I took the wine back home and asked my grandfather why we couldn't make wine like that. He was not so pleased to hear that! 

PETER MORRELL Owner, Morrell & Co., New York City 

1977 Dow Port, 1970 Fonseca Port and 1970 Graham Port A glass or two of vintage port with a slice of pumpkin or mince pie is the only way to conclude a holiday feast. Port is the stuff that dreams are made of, and after a traditional New England Thanksgiving dinner, I'm ready to dream. 

MARY EWING-MULLIGAN Director, International Wine Center, New York City 

1996 Vietti Barbera d'Alba Scarrone Vineyard We've never spent the holidays with our best friends because they live across the ocean in the Piedmont region of Italy. But we keep them in our thoughts by serving their wine, imagining how happy they would be if they could hear our guests remark that it's one of the finest reds they've ever had. 

JULIAN NICCOLINI Manager and partner, The Four Seasons, New York City 

Nonvintage Perrier Jouët Brut Champagne No celebration is complete without Champagne, and this one is refreshing and simple. You should always have it on hand. It goes really well with sevruga caviar. It also goes extremely well with oysters, but most people don't keep oysters on hand! 

CAROLYN O'NEIL Television journalist and host of CNN's On the Menu 

1996 Trefethen Chardonnay This is a great Chardonnay, beautifully balanced and not too sweet. I was with John and Janet Trefethen at a luncheon in the middle of the woods to celebrate the vineyard's 30th anniversary. Chiffon sashes and streamers billowed from tree branches. It was magical. 

DENNIS OVERSTREET Retailer, The Wine Merchant, Beverly Hills, California 

1994 or 1995 Comte Lafond Sancerre This is a crisp, wonderful, dancing wine! I was once sharing a glass of it with the late composer Henry Mancini, and he said that to him there were only two great Americans, Thomas Jefferson and Cole Porter. He thought Porter had so much class that it dripped off his fingernails. Whenever Porter traveled, he insisted that two things be waiting in his hotel room: flowers and a couple of bottles of chilled Sancerre. Mancini said Sancerre was like the lyric that married the melody. 

JACQUES PÉPIN Master chef 

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages My philosophy of wine is: every day and a lot of it! I chose the Beaujolais because Beaujolais is where I was born. This wine is user-friendly, unpretentious and satisfying no matter what you serve it with. 

ALFRED PORTALE Chef and owner, Gotham Bar and Grill, New York City 

1997 Paolo Saracco Moscato d'Asti This sparkling wine nicely complements dessert. It's lightly sweet and it breaks with tradition--it's kind of hip. I have friends who are serious wine collectors. They're used to drinking Château d'Yquem for dessert. When I served them the Moscato, I got a really positive reaction. The wife was like, "Why can't we serve something like this at our home?!" 

KATY SPARKS Chef, Quilty's, New York City 

1996 or 1997 Gini Soave Classico La Frosca During our honeymoon, my husband and I were driving toward Milan, and we stopped in Soave for a bite to eat. We were starving, but it seemed as though every restaurant in town had shut down for the afternoon. Finally, we stumbled upon a small bar. We were going to content ourselves with coffee, but the owners, realizing that we were ravenous, offered us bread and cheese from their private kitchen. They also opened a bottle of Soave for us. It was such a generous, heartwarming gesture--and the wine was so good! We bought a case of it then and have enjoyed Soave ever since. 


FAREED ZAKARIA Managing editor, Foreign Affairs, and wine columnist for the on-line magazine Slate 

Nonvintage Domaine Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine For years I tried to solve the problem of how to serve Champagne on a budget. In my student days, I used to wrap damask napkins around $7 bottles of Korbel and hope nobody would notice. Then I visited Taillevent, the great Parisian restaurant, which serves a house cocktail: Champagne with crushed raspberries. I realized that I could fashion a pretty good cocktail using raspberries and even inexpensive sparkling wine. These days, however, you can get some first-rate sparkling wines from California at reasonable prices.

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