The perfect holiday dinner party requires careful planning, not least in regards to your choice of fine wines. Save heavily oaked Chardonnays and hearty Cabernets for another day; this special occasion demands wines that complement delicate flavors rather than overpower them.

“You want the wine to build up in levels of flavors and weight, so don’t pour something huge too early,” says Michael Fahey, resort sommelier at Cape Cod’s iconic Chatham Bars Inn. “Taste buds can’t backpedal, and you’ll lose the complexity of flavors if you go big prematurely.”

With hors d’oeuvres, introduce a light, clean vintage. Fahey recommends the 2014 Donelan Venus Roussanne Viognier, a white Rhone blend from Sonoma, Calif., that fires up taste buds with a round, smooth palate of ripe citrus like blood orange and melon. “It’s a really sophisticated alternative to a light Pinot Noir,” he adds.

For a seafood appetizer, such as scallops or oysters, Fahey suggests serving a bone-dry rosé Champagne. His pick is Champagne Drappier Brut Nature Rosé from Urville, France, a vivacious bubbly with zero dosage (no sugar added) and strawberry-cranberry aromas.

Fahey says wine pairings should reach a crescendo with the main course of turkey or other meat. Opt for the elegant 2012 Clarendon Hills Grenache from Barossa, Australia, which tastes smoky and full of multiple ripe red fruits with hints of herbs.

“This Grenache has the silkiness of a fine Pinot Noir from Oregon or Burgundy but also boasts a richer, wilder, more savage quality,” Fahey explains.

With the cheese course, Fahey advocates an artisanal red from Lyon, France, such as the 2014 Guy Breton Morgon Beaujolais. Considered a vieille vigne (old vine) wine, this delicious drop embraces a variety of cheeses with its deep black cherry and earthen flavors.

For the grand finale, pair dessert with any vintage of Isole e Olena Vin Santo from Tuscany, Italy.

“After a late harvest, wine producers hang these Malvasia grapes in clusters on the ceiling of ventilated barns, making their water evaporate and sugar concentrate,” says Fahey. “The result is a tremendous wine – a rich, amber-colored white with a palate of caramel, dried fruit and orange rind in its edge and aroma.”

His final words of advice: “Don’t be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone with these unique boutique varietals,” he says. “Wine is something fun to plan alongside a multicourse meal and brings magic to the dining table.”


For more information, visit