"Preparing dinner for the holiday was something that my entire family was involved in—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a big production. Everything was made by hand, including the wine," recalls Luca Rutigliano, executive chef at CordeValle, a Rosewood resort in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. On Christmas Eve, the entire family would rise early in the home built by Rutigliano's grandfather outside of Rome. "Everyone had their job. One of mine was to collect fresh eggs with my grandpa, then I'd head to the local market with my grandma and mother to pick up shrimp, and buy a bucket of sardines, or blue fish, as we called them. When we'd get back all of the kids would clean the sardines" for the traditional fried sardines with caramelized onions appetizer. Rutigliano strives to introduce his family to many of these traditions and dishes—"although, I must admit that there are one or two dishes that I just can't make the way my mom does, no matter what I try." Pair this dish with a rich, barrel-fermented Italian Pinot Grigio, like the St. Michael-Eppan Sanct Valentin, or a racy California Gris, like Buena Vista's. —Steve Heimoff
Wine pairing: A rich, barrel-fermented Italian Pinot Grigio, like the Sanct Valentin St. Michael-Eppan. Alternatively, a racy California Gris, like Buena Vista's.