Entertain guests with winery visit

Parker Carlson pours a taste of his gold medal-winning 2010 Dry Gewurtztraminer at his winery tasting room on East Orchard Mesa. Carlson Vineyards will celebrate its 20th annual open house Friday though Sunday,

It’s that time of year when days are short and the time to do everything that needs done before the holidays is shorter.

Many in the wine business know this period as O-N-D, the three months when wine sales peak and customers literally come out of the woodwork looking for something to share with family, friends and holiday guests.

It’s also a busy time for local winemakers, who saw harvest this year run about three weeks later than normal.

All that fruit now is in tank or barrel and there is a bit of a respite from those hectic days when grapes needed to be picked “right now” and no, we can’t wait, thank you.

Now, there’s the matter of selling the wine on hand.

Looking for a gift for the hostess? Many wineries also carry wine-related tchotchkes in case the “red or white?” decision weighs too heavily.

Also, since you can sit through only so many holiday movies (really, how many times can you watch tap-dancing penguins?), entertain those out-of-town guests with a visit to the local wineries.

Most Grand Valley wineries are closed Thanksgiving Day but are open Friday and the weekend, although surprisingly few have advertised special events this week.

You and your holiday visitors are saved with Parker Carlson’s 20th annual Open House from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Carlson Vineyards on East Orchard Mesa.

Guests can enjoy Parker’s award-winning wines, including the 2010 Cougar Run Dry Gewurtztraminer, winner of a gold medal and Best of Class at the 2011 Indy International Wine Competition.

Information: 464-5554 or http://www.carlson vineyards.com.

The weekend of Dec. 3–4 marks the fifth annual Barrel and Wine Tasting at Alfred Eames Cellars in Paonia. This is a fun event, with plenty of Alfred Eames’ terrific pinot noirs, including new releases and those still in the barrel.

If your only experience around wine-making involves spaceship-like steel tanks and dusty oak barrels, you’ll get a real education when Eames explains his open-topped concrete fermentation vats.

The always popular Madrigal Choir (featuring Alfred Eames himself) promises to make its yearly appearance, a holiday tradition in its own right.

Information and directions: 527-3269 or alfredeamescellars.com.

Also, Dec. 3 is the annual Wine, Buffalo and Chocolate Holiday Trail featuring Leroux Creek Vineyards, Liliputian Winery and the High Wire Ranch, all near Hotchkiss. There will be fine wines, tasty food and a tour of the High Wire’s buffalo and elk ranch. Hours are 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Information: 872-3019.

And what will I be drinking this Thanksgiving? We’ll start the festivities with either a Prosecco or a Cava, light, refreshing and low in alcohol, to go with the assorted aperitivos.

Then comes either a French or South American chenin blanc, an unoaked chardonnay or a dry gewurtztraminer (Carlson’s Cougar Run, $12.99).

The red (so many choices, so little time) likely will be a pinot noir (Alfred Eames 2005 Estate Reserve or the Gary Farrell 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir) or a Steve Rhodes 2005 cabernet franc.

Or maybe a Chianti or Valpolicella, if I can’t dig the others out of the basement.

If you choose to go inexpensive, fruity and universally appealing, the just-released 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau runs about $10 and pleases a wide range of palates.

The key is to have a white and red for your guests, since some people won’t drink one or the other.

Remember, drink what you like and enjoy the day.

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