If you're planning to cook prime rib for Christmas, our Food Lab master, Kenji, has you covered. His guide explains the difference between different grades of meat, why dry-aged beef is worth the steep price, and how to cook your rib to a perfect medium-rare. Of course, he's written a foolproof recipe, too (and let me tell you, I tasted the results, and they're delicious.)
What more could you possibly need to make your festive dinner complete? Wine. Here are a few recommended bottles to break open at your holiday celebration.
I'm usually leery of affordable California Cabernet, but Hayman & Hill's Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Selection (2008) really impressed me. It cuts the richness of prime rib while still offering up luscious baked blackberry and cherry flavors. There's just enough classic Cab iron in this wine to line up well with the beef, but hints of mint and eucalyptus keep it from overpowering. A steal for under $15. ($11-15, find this wine.)
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva (2006) has raisin notes and dusty purple fruit, with hints of clove and granite, and a splash of cleansing acidity. It's 80% Sangiovese blended with Cabernet and Merlot. This smooth mineral-rich wine is perfect with food; it has the perfect balance of rich blueberries and green herbs with the tartness that's needed keep things fresh. It would be great with an epic Christmas roast, but I'd happily pair it with pizza, too. (About $19, find this wine.)
Cathy Corison's Cabernets are like no others I've tried. They're elegant—not overblown—yet intense and a bit taut. I highly recommend the 2007 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet with prime rib; its plum and cranberry notes are wrapped with dusty cloves and chocolate, hints of charred eggplant and minerals. The balance is remarkable, these wines sing in a lush, husky voice. ($60-70, find this wine.)
If, by chance, you're going with leg of lamb instead of prime rib, consider Corison's Kronos bottling, which has a more herbal side, like lavender, thyme, and mint scattered on earthy suede. It's both full and focused, with silky cassis, mouthwatering acids, and crushed minerals. A pricey pick, for sure, but if someone else is cooking, this wine would make an incredible gift. ($90, find this wine.)
Disclosure: All wines were provided as press samples for review, but only the wines we truly recommend are included.