For the family’s resident chef de cuisine, the holidays can be a stressful time, and since it’s difficult enough to produce a menu that pleases the entire lot, we thought we’d offer a bit of help with the wine. Because it’s a well-known fact that pairing appropriate wines with specific foods enhances the flavor of both, we tapped into the vast knowledge of Jay Johnstone, resident wine guru and Sales Manager at Carpe Vino, a family-owned boutique wine store, upscale (but not stuffy) bar, and acclaimed restaurant in Auburn, California.

Situated in a space formerly known as the Union Saloon ? an establishment famous for serving gold miners, soldiers, and various frontiersmen in the nineteenth century ? the original brick walls are lined with more than 500 distinct labels. The adults-only dining experience can mean grabbing an intriguing bottle off the rack (and only paying the retail price, rather than the traditional restaurant markup of 250%), or speaking to an expert about what is likely to pair best with the farm-fresh, locally sourced, seasonal cuisine.

For non-locals, Carpe Vino offers shipping, but if your winter travel plans include flying into Sacramento and making the two-hour trek to Tahoe for some fresh powder and après-ski, we highly recommend pit-stopping into this OR favorite. In the meantime, take advantage of Johnstone’s vast varietal knowledge, as we’ve asked him which wines are best to serve with a few classic holiday dishes.  We’ve linked to some of our favorites, and we hope both the recipes and pairings will serve as inspiration, ultimately helping you to avoid making pour choices.

Cabernet Sauvignon would be the easiest to pair with this dish. When it comes to something weighty like a prime rib, a hefty wine will be able to match it.

Choose an excellent GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend. Classically a Côtes du Rhône would work nicely because the earthy and gamey qualities of the hen match well with the wine’s similar characteristics.

Immediately, my mind goes to Chardonnay. Especially a Chardonnay that goes through malolactic fermentation (a winemaking process that turns tart-tasting acid into softer lactic acid), which will enhance and match rich, buttery flavors.

Pair this with a nice Rioja Reserva. The balance of being fruit-driven with just the right amount of tannin will make this combination play off each other nicely.

One can’t go wrong with a solid Port wine for any chocolate-based dessert. The slightly adventurous individual might opt for a Petite Sirah Port-style wine, as these have excellent intensity to match that of the chocolate.

With a straight, plain cheesecake, my all-time favorite is a late harvest Tokaji from Hungary.  This has the perfect amount of sweetness and acid to compliment the cheesecake’s silky texture. Add fresh strawberries, and you’re golden!!!