Season to sip

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Christmas dinner's juicy baked ham, cheesy scalloped potatoes, fruit salad and sweet Christmas cookies call for a drink that complements. Whether you're celebrating on a budget or splurging this year, House Wine owner Donnie Austin has some suggestions for you.

The shop's 250 labels are presented by region along the main wall and stacked on towers around the floor, each labeled with the meals they'd match with best.

Of these, Austin chose three suitable for the different phases of a celebratory holiday meal: toasting, eating and sitting contentedly around the fireplace. Each is a presentable bottle to bring along to a holiday party.

And if you'd like to try before you buy, House Wine serves dozens of its offerings by the ounce or glass at the Enomatic, a self-serve wine bar that dispenses according to an amount on a pre-purchased card.

Have a seat in one of the clear green acrylic chairs, have a sip and get yourself in the mood with some holiday tunes.

Jean-Louis Denois Brut Chardonnay

Cost: $18

Region: Limoux, Southern France

Flavors: Fruity, with the mineral, chalky character of champagne

Pairs well with: Salty or fried appetizers

Who'll enjoy it: Champagne drinkers will enjoy this version of bubbly

Donnie Austin's advice: "This is a little bit more of a celebratory wine at the fraction of the price of real champagne. It is from France, getting rave reviews. It's really, really good."

Bastianich Rosato (2006)

Cost: $14

Region: Friuli, Northeastern Italy

Flavors: Strawberry, light cherry and slightly peppery notes

Pairs well with: A ham or poultry dinner; also works well alone before dinner

Who'll enjoy it: Its dry-yet-fruity nature appeals to both sweet- and dry-wine drinkers

Donnie Austin's advice: "Dry rose is really versatile with food, but this has a lot more fruit, a little more intensity to it. So it can hold up to the Christmas ham or the holiday ham, if you're going with that route."

Orin Swift Cellars' The Prisoner (2007)

Cost: $37

Region: Napa Valley, California

Flavors: Dark fruits and heavier tannins, but still has a smooth taste

Pairs well with: Heartier main dishes like beef tenderloin, or it can be served alone during a relaxing after-dinner chat

Who'll enjoy it: Wine lovers or holiday party hostesses will love this as a gift

Donnie Austin's advice: "It's really intense and bold, but it's one that you can lay down for a few years or enjoy it now. A lot of wines can just go one way or the other. For the price, you're getting a stellar wine."