Paul Einbund is the wine director of the Slanted Door restaurant group including Out the Door Bush Street and Westfield Centre as well as Heaven's Dog. He also runs the beverage program at Frances, and has worked at Coi and more. Look for him here every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @pauleinbund.
How could you not love a holiday that is based around dinner? Here are some of my ideas on what to drink—and what to avoid.
Drink while cooking. This early in the day, so avoid beer. I know this may be an unpopular thing to say, but beer fills you up, and if you want to take part in the night’s festivities, then slow down on the cerveza, Holmes. Consider making a sangria—not too filling, fresh fruit, spices, and it's got booze! Take a light bodied white wine that has a little sweetness and add some fresh fruits and a stick of cinnamon and you are done. If you want to get more involved, visit an Asian market, grab a bunch of pandan leaves and make a pandan simple syrup. Add the syrup to taste and now you are the coolest person in town!
Drink with dinner. Variety is the key. Rieslings are the greatest wines with any kind of food, especially on this holiday when you find so much sweetness in the dishes. Look for a German Riesling Kabinett to go well with the food because it will have just a touch of sweetness too (my only food and wine pairing rule is that the wine needs to have at least as much sweetness as the dish). For the reds, I usually start with a light bodied wine like a Beaujolais. I am crazy about a wine from Edmunds St. John called Bone-Jolly, the 2009 is the best he’s ever done. This wine is made from the same grape as Beaujolais, the Gamay grape, and is light, fresh and fruity, not to mention affordable at around $16 retail. Towards the end of dinner we usually break out the big reds. My family plays along with me and my "fancy wine pairing ideas," but what they really want are the big, thick, juicy reds. Last year I brought along a bottle of Gramercy Cellars Syrah that was tasty; this year I think we will round out the night with Fred Scherrer Zinfandel.
Drink with dessert. I always have a bottle of Madeira around, maybe a Boal from Cossart Gordon because it’s not too sweet and chock full o’nuts. There’s a winery called Miraflores located up in the Sierra Foothills where winemaker Marco Cappelli is making great sweet wines from grapes like the old Mission grape and Muscat. He focuses on fortified wines, which suits my family just fine.