Wine tips for holiday imbibers

Traditional dining centerpieces for American holiday tables are, by generations-long consensus, turkey for Thanksgiving and ham or roast beef for Christmas. Side dishes may vary, thus allowing for some individuality such as ethnic preferences or personal likes and dislikes. But, when it comes to the wines accompanying the feasts, we're all over the map.

Again, some of that has to do with personal preferences, but in my experience I've found that too often the wines are chosen to appeal more to people who rarely drink except at holiday gatherings. (As an oldtime comedian put it, I feel sorry for such people because when they get up in the morning that's as good as they're going to feel all day.)

I took an informal survey of wine vendors at the recent Pride of New York Harvest Fest held in Albany to see what New York State wines -- not necessarily made just with grapes -- they would suggest to appeal to such occasional drinkers as well as to people with more experienced palates sharing the meal with them. Here's what we came up with, along with my tasting notes from the event.

• Glenora Wine Cellars Cranberry Chablis ($9.99): This is part of Glenora's Fruit Series, and the cranberry aspect is perfect for a turkey dinner. The lightness of the chablis base is a nice starter before cranberry juice from concentrate is added. There is virtually none of the tartness one associates with cranberries; instead, there is a certain freshness and crispness to the concoction, with a slightly sweet and clean finish.

• Knapp  Loganberry ($9.95): The loganberry once was a staple of American home winemakers, but is a comparative rarity these days. Knapp, known for a wide variety of fruit wines, uses a Vidal Blanc base, then adds berry juice from concentrate. While the alcohol content is a touch higher than in many other fruit wines (6% vs. 4%), this is not a "hot" wine that might bother the less experienced imbiber. Fruit-forward taste, bold enough to stand up to those rich pies and cakes we serve as holiday desserts.

• Pazdar Blackberry ($15): This wine is strictly what its name says it is -- 100% blackberry, with no grape base. The deep, dark color and the crisp, satisfying taste of the berry makes this a great wine with heavier meats such as roasts, or even a good dessert wine that pairs wonderfully with chocolate.

• Anthony Road 2008 Cabernet Franc Lemberger ($17.99): This well-constructed blend has only been out a few weeks, and it is immediately drinkable. It will go with any menu, given its medium body, stone fruit notes and  hints of pepper and cocoa.

• Thousand Islands Winery Seaway Blues ($13.49): I was surprised by this wine, packaged in blue glass that gives no hint of the color or density before pouring. It's a potent blueberry style I'd recommend as a dessert wine that isn't terribly sweet (12% residual sugar) and has a clean finish one wants in a final wine note for the meal.

• Amici Vineyards Marechal Foch Frontenac ($13.99): This is an 80-20% blend of the two cold weather grapes. It provides both spice and tartness good in a main-dish wine. Smooth on the tongue, clean and lengthy finish.

• Heron Hill Eastern Wild Turkey Blush ($9.99): The winery's Game Bird Series offers red, white and now this delicate blend of Riesling and Cabernet Franc. It's a festive bright rosé pink color. Opening aromatic notes are a mix of florals, cranberry and citrus. Finishes clean with just a hint of spice.

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