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Red Wine and Roast Beef to Ring In the Holidays

Helpful hints to make the most of the meat, plus 15 recommended Cabernets and blends

Laurie Woolever
Posted: December 8, 2009

We're well into the holiday season, and if you'll be hosting family and friends between now and the New Year, it's time to start thinking about wine and menus. Today's topic is roast beef, accompanied by a list of suggested Cabernet Sauvignons and blends; be sure to check back next week for some great shellfish recipes and a list of suggested whites.

We consulted Wine Spectator contributing editor Sam Gugino on how best to handle roast beef. "Roasting starts with a good piece of meat," says Gugino. "I urge you to buy a standing rib roast on the bone. It will have more flavor and stay juicier. And the bones are great to gnaw on. Ask the butcher to remove the chine bone from the bottom of the roast and to separate the meat from the rib bones for easier carving later. Then have the butcher tie the meat back onto the rib bones. The bones keep the meat moist and flavorful."

For a standing rib roast, buy about a pound-and-a-quarter (raw weight) per person. Season the roast with freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt and roast at 450° F for 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325° F and cook 13 minutes per pound from this point or until the internal temperature reaches 125° F for medium-rare. As in all meat-roasting scenarios, it's important to let the cooked meat rest at least 20 minutes (loosely covered with foil) to allow the juices to recede back into the roast. During this time the temperature in the roast will increase up to 10 degrees.

A boneless shell roast or tenderloin roast are two more elegant options for the holiday table. The advantage is that they cook more quickly than the standing rib roast and are easier to cut (though it should be noted that tenderloin tends to be less flavorful than rib or shell roasts).

"The tenderloin is tapered at one end, so ask the butcher to fold that part under and tie it to give the roast a more even size," says Gugino, adding that you'll want to buy about 10 to 12 ounces per person for a boneless roast. Cook either of these roasts at 425° F until the internal temperature reads 120° F for medium-rare, the temperature that Gugino says provides the maximum flavor and juiciness. A good rule of thumb on timing is 8 minutes per pound for the tenderloin, 10 minutes per pound for the boneless shell roast.

To complete the package, Gugino offers the following advice: "To make a simple pan-gravy for any of these roasts, remove the roast to a carving board and drain all but a few tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan. Straddle the pan over two stove burners and add a cup each of red wine and canned beef broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce for about 10 minutes or until lightly thickened."

We recommend rounding out the meal with classic accompaniments like creamed spinach and baked potatoes with sour cream—and, of course, Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet-based blend. Happy cooking, and happy holidays!

CABERNET SAUVIGNONS AND CABERNET-BASED BLENDS

RAMEY Claret Napa Valley 2006 Score: 91 | $38
Offers aromas of ripe plum and berry, with spice and sage. Though firm and full-bodied, this reveals a sense of elegance and finesse, ending with integrated tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Best from 2010 through 2016. 5,800 cases made.-J.L.

CONCHA Y TORO Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Marqués de Casa Concha 2006 Score: 90 | $21
Concentrated, with a solid core of black currant, fig and hoisin sauce notes, all layered with alluring bittersweet cocoa, espresso and roasted vanilla, followed by a long, fine-grained finish. Drink now through 2010. 73,000 cases made.-J.M.

THORN-CLARKE Shotfire Cuvée Barossa 2007 Score: 90 | $20
Ripe, focused and silky, with a mild bite of tannins to support the cedary black cherry and spice flavors, lingering effectively on the expressive finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. Drink now through 2014. 10,000 cases made.-H.S.

COLUMBIA CREST Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2006 Score: 89 | $11
Supple and inviting. A softer style of Cabernet that weaves milk chocolate and spice flavors through the dark berry and currant flavors, mingling effectively on the finish. Drink now through 2012. 200,000 cases made.-H.S.

VIÑA PALO ALTO Reserve Maule Valley 2007 Score: 89 | $13
Robust, almost brawny in style, this Chilean red offers a hefty layer of coffee and bacony toast fronting dark plum and currant fruit. Tobacco and loam notes frame the muscular finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Syrah. Drink now through 2011. 160,000 cases made.-J.M.

VIÑA SANTA EMA Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Reserve 2006 Score: 89 | $14
Solid, with a straightforward core of black currant, fig, coffee and loam notes that push through the full-bodied finish, while hints of grilled herb and tobacco hang in the background. Drink now through 2010. 25,000 cases made.-J.M.

BEAULIEU VINEYARD Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2006 Score: 88 | $27
There's plenty of up-front earthy currant, sage, anise and blackberry fruit in this full-bodied red, which shows touches of spice, black olive and sage, ending with integrated tannins that give this a tapered finish. Drink now through 2015. 30,750 cases made.-J.L.

ROBERT MONDAVI Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 Score: 88 | $28
Supple, elegant and well-balanced, mixing ripe currant, herb, anise and mineral notes. Ends with fine-grained tannins and a touch of green tea. Drink now through 2013. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 147,700 cases made.-J.L.

R WINES Cabernet South Australia Darby & Joan 2008 Score: 88 | $10
Smooth and round, playing its very ripe cherry and currant fruit against smoky, tarry, vegetal flavors that mingle on the polished finish. Drink now through 2012. 15,000 cases made.-H.S.

VIÑA SAN PEDRO Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 1865 2007 Score: 88 | $19
This has a noticeable streak of sweet vanilla toast, but it's surrounded by enough red currant, fig and coffee notes for balance. The solid, muscular finish has good drive. Drink now through 2011. 34,000 cases made.-J.M.

BODEGAS TERRAZAS DE LOS ANDES Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Reserva 2006 Score: 88 | $17
A fleshy, ripe style, with some heft to the mix of currant, fig and plum fruit, while the red licorice and spice notes stay in the background. The finish is toasty but integrated. Drink now. 20,000 cases made.-J.M.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006 Score: 87 | $16
Ripe and appealing for its pure currant and plum fruit, resting on a modestly scaled structure. Lingers gently. Drink now through 2012. 166,000 cases made.-H.S.

DE BORTOLI Cabernet Sauvignon Australia Deen Vat 9 2007 Score: 87 | $13
Soft and ripe, with a creamy texture to the spicy blackberry flavors. Drink now. 25,000 cases made.-H.S.

VIÑA KOYLE Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 2007 Score: 87 | $17
Solid, with a mix of red and black currant fruit, toasted vanilla and loam notes. There's good grip on the tobacco-tinged finish. Drink now. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 8,000 cases made.-J.M.

LOUIS M. MARTINI Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2007 Score: 87 | $17
Ripe and supple, offering plum and black cherry fruit that's elegant and polished, complex and easy-drinking. Drink now through 2013. 205,000 cases made.-J.L.

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