Christmas deserves a big piece of prime rib. These are the wines to pair it with. – newportri.com

Next weekend Christmas is celebrated across the world. It is a special day for many, one that brings back many childhood memories and memories with my children.
Every Christmas, we celebrated with a big meal, almost always with beef, occasionally lamb. We never went overboard as we did with Thanksgiving with all its supporting cast sides, but basically meat and roasted potatoes, onions and something green. So, as I got older, I was assigned with the wine selection — imagine that. My parents would invariably always have roast beef, prime rib, to be exact and why not? It is the quintessential red meat to enjoy on a special day. In addition, many insist on beef tenderloin, not as flavorful, but extremely tender. It seems that Americans this holiday season are spending somewhat lavishly on many items, including food. So that brings me to wines to pair with this prime rib.
Prime rib is a confusing term; many think that it is automatically prime beef. Not so fast. It is a term that goes back to before USDA grading, of which there are three — prime, choice and no roll. It has become a marketing term as rib roast which choice truly is probably won’t sell on a restaurant menu, but prime rib will. Prime prime rib is decadent — very flavorful, very tender and very expensive. If you see it on a menu, get it. Choice prime rib is also expensive so it is a meat that most people would order in a restaurant, for special occasions.
So, what wine? This is truly a no-brainer as this harkens back to the old rule of red wine with red meat. And there is no better red wine to pair with a prime rib than cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet is grown all over the world, it is truly the King of Red Wines, but its pairing is limited to basically red meat — lamb, veal, pork and beef. It is a big, tannic, acidic wine that needs to be enjoyed with a fatty protein.
For this article, I want to share a few Napa Valley cabernet wineries that are of high quality, perfect for this dish and priced higher than lifestyle wines as, well, it’s Christmas. They are also readily available. My first choice is Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet from the famed winery that much of Napa learned from. I personally like to narrow my choices down to a particular AVA, sub-region of an area. Rutherford in Napa is one such area from which some of the greatest cabernets from Napa hail. This will cost you around $85, and well worth it.
My next winery choice is Robert Mondavi Winery. Probably the most recognizable producer from Napa, world- wide. As a young person entering the restaurant business, this was one of the first wineries I truly experienced and the first winery I ever visited. Mondavi went to the restaurant world to introduce his wines to America and the rest is history. I again go to another AVA, Oakville for a cabernet from this famed property. This one will cost about $80 and, again well worth it.
Next, one of the hottest wineries in Napa is Duckhorn. They are known more for their merlots but they make extraordinary cabernets from several sub-regions. Their Howell Mountain appellation cabernet is a winner! This will set you back a bit more, around $105, remember, this is a special day requiring special wines!
Next, one that may surprise you is from J. Lohr. Many think that they make lifestyle wines, decent wines at a decent price, restaurant friendly but they do make some extraordinary wines and the one I have had on lists is from the St. Helena sub-region, that being Carol’s Vineyard. This comes in at about $70. My last choice is a winery that I have recently been trying and am very pleased with what they are doing. Frank Family Vineyards produces a cabernet named RHF from the Rutherford sub-region and will run you about $105. I have suggested five cabernets from Napa that for the money will make your dinner a wonderful experience.
While seeking out one of these gems or, if you prefer one of your favorite cabernets, look for something with some age on it so as the tannins will have had time to soften up. I would also encourage you to decant these wines so as to open them up and make sure they are around 65 degrees, give or take. This is a day to treat your family and friends and the wines will only enhance the experience!
This month’s PSA. As we have been reading, COVID is rearing its ugly head. The governor has issued new mandates that being Monday although many restaurants as a precaution are already requiring staff to wear masks and some are even have rapid tests available for those that are a bit under the weather. This couldn’t happen at a worse time. The holidays are an opportunity for the hospitality industry to make some bottom line money before the doldrums of January arrive. All of the issues they have been dealing with the last 18 months are still with them. So, please support our incredible hospitality community as best you can, whether it is dining in, catered by, or ordering take-out, it all helps. And gift cards are not only a great way to help restaurants out financially, but make great gifts and for those that want to wait for COVID to subside, what better way to put the experience on hold!
Above all, be safe, drink responsibly and have a wondrous holiday season!
Len Panaggio is a wine consultant and former corporate beverage director for Newport Harbor Corp. Send feedback and suggestions to [email protected] The Wine Press runs each month in The Daily News and online at newportri.com.

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