Flame-hued leaves still cling to branches in and around New York City, even as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is set to be lit. Thanksgiving to New Year’s already seems like it will be the fastest stretch of the last 12 months. And the last days of 2021 look a lot better than those of 2020. Enjoy them. Each one is a gift. 


Celebrate at the Thanksgiving table with wines that are up for the job. Plenty of wines, white, red and rose will be fine with a roast turkey. But when the dishes with it go from cranberry compote to bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts, candied yams to sausage stuffing, versatility counts even more.

Sparkling wines are ideal, from first course to last. Prosecco, Champagne, Lambrusco, and numerous American sparklers suit the whole meal.

Just-released Beaujolais Nouveau, while in shorter supply than usual, is a lively choice, uncomplicated and food-friendly. The paradigm is the 2010 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, this year defined by red fruit, blackberry, and cranberry notes. Serve the wine slightly chilled. It’s $13.99.

If you’d like a fuller-bodied red, pinot noir would be the first choice, fruity and full of flavor. Sangiovese and less-assertive zinfandel are tasty alternatives. Keep clear of tannic reds. When choosing a white, consider an off-dry Riesling, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, or viognier instead of an oaky chardonnay. 

And uncork a wine such as orange muscat to accompany all those pies. Quady Essensia, with accents of orange marmalade and ripe apricot, stands out. The wine is made with orange muscat and muscat canelli, fortified to 15 percent alcohol. $22.99, 750ml; $14.99, 375ml.


Holiday snacking gets a boost from the gourmet popcorn of Eatable, a Canadian company. What makes these poppy-hour mouthfuls distinctive is that the popcorn is infused with wines and spirits. Flavors carry names such as Pop the Champagne, Pop the Salt & Tequila, Poppin’ Rose All Day, Pop Goes Sangria and Whisky on the Pops. They arrive in 100-gram packages A three-pack is $23; a six-pack, $44; an eight pack, $53.  Pop the Champagne is $9; others, $8. Available at eatable.com


New England cranberries blend with Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard fruit for a newly launched, made-in-New York, semi-sweet, small-batch cider from 1911 Established. A pleasing, refreshing accompaniment for holiday fare or simply for sipping. A 12-pack of 16-oz. cans is $55.50. Available at 1911established.com.

Adagio Teas is in the holiday mix with its Twelve Teas of Christmas box. The selections include white tea with apple; rooibos highlighted with chocolate, cinnamon, and chicory; “lavender lemon;” black tea with peppermint; jasmine pearls green tea; chamomile with lemongrass and peppermint; Earl Grey with cornflower; rose hips with hibiscus; rooibos with cocoa and marigold. Reusable tins can become ornaments. The aromatic and inviting gift set is $24. Available at adagio.com.


Ehlers Estate, respected for its red wines, has two new ones to go with a holiday rib roast. You also may want to let them age for festivities to come. The 2017 Ehlers Portrait (★★★ $72) and the 2018 Ehlers Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (★★★ $72) are very satisfying choices, to receive and to give.

The concentrated 2018 cabernet sauvignon offers black fruit, plus cherry and strawberry notes. It’s a full-bodied winner that has traces of black pepper. Made to accompany red meat. The 2017 Portrait is 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, with suggestions of cassis and red berries. Smooth and stylish, it’s also ready for that rib roast, steaks, and lamb chops.

The 2018 Goldeneye Ten Degrees Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (★★★★★ $130) is a superior wine, complex and lush, with a long finish and a harvest of black and red fruits. The vibrant pinot has a hint of licorice and is slightly earthy. A grand gift for the devotee of pinot noir, it’s a memorable union from Goldeneye’s Confluence, Gowans Creek, and The Narrows vineyards. And it will age gracefully.

The 2017 Duckhorn Vineyards The Discussion Napa Valley Red Wine (★★★★★ $155): a stunning cuvee. The intricately structured production is 51 percent cabernet sauvignon, 46 per cent merlot, 2 percent petit verdot, and 1 percent cabernet franc. Seamless and elegant. Berries and cherry, cinnamon and clove, dark coffee and toasted nuts, contribute to a carefully sculpted profile. The wine may be enjoyed at any stage. But give it time. It will get better.

One of the top reds from a one of the best Napa Valley vintages of the past 20 years, the 2018 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (★★★★ $78) is an instant classic, heady with black fruit and spice. There are traces of licorice, figs, cassis, chocolate. Long finish, long life. Save it to complement a rack of lamb, rib roast, porterhouse or ribeye steak.

The 2019 Cuvaison Adda Pinot Noir (★★★ $80) blends three clones from the estate’s best blocks, and the result is a stirring, intense, and, yes, deftly balanced wine. You’ll find a floral aroma; and ripe plum and black cherry notes in this opulent wine. Adda is named for the family’s matriarch.


“How to Sous Vide” (Workman Publishing, $19.95) by Daniel Shumski includes a recipe for turkey breast with greens, so your Thanksgiving may have a new accent. His book demystifies and details the technique. You’ll be ready to give dinner a water bath and enjoy sous-vide precision. And the recipes range from skirt steak to spaghetti alla carbonara, poached eggs to duck leg confit, lemon curd to chicken drumsticks.

Prepare for the grand tour of brews with the third edition of “World Atlas of Beer” (Mitchell Beazley, $39.99) by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont. Authoritative, thorough, and enlightening, it’s a first-class passage to beers widely known and not so. Go country by country in Europe, the Americas, Australia, southeast and east Asia, Africa. There are sections on beer festivals, food affinities, styles of brews, storing and cellaring, and a bad beer guide, too.

Give a dram and dive into “Rare Whisky” (Conran, $55) by Patrick Mahe. It’s a book that lives up to its title. This is a lavishly illustrated and handsomely designed production, slip-cased and focused. Visit Scotland and Ireland, the United States and Japan for a taste of whisky’s greatest hits, served neat. It’s Scotch as eye candy as well as the grand pour, history with flair, and whisky as an investment with more than a good return.

Karl Raitz, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Kentucky, has written a very detailed and informed guide in “Bourbon’s Backroads: A Journey Through Kentucky’s Distilling Landscape” (University of Kentucky Press, $19.95 paperback). Full of fascinating history, it’s a scholarly and accessible primer about the state’s defining beverage. Sip along.

“The Atlas of Bourbon and American Whiskey” (Mitchell Beazley, $19.99) by Eric Zandona is subtitled “a journey through the spirit of America.’ His reflective and practical regional reports go from Kentucky to Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Indiana, and the Pacific Northwest. The result is easygoing, practical, concise, and easy to recommend, from the author of “The Bourbon Bible” and “The Tequila Dictionary.”

And, for a taste of the season in bourbon, look for the dependably smooth and refined Woodford Reserve Limited Edition Happy Holidays 2021 ($67). Cheers!


For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.

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