a Holiday Case of Northwest Wines

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By Jamie Peha

The holidays are filled with decisions, from gift giving to party planning, and the last thing you want
is to agonize over which wines to serve. The wide variety of flavors in holiday menus make pairing wines tough, even for the savvy wine aficionado. Here’s a little secret: you don’t actually have to decide which wines to pair. Instead, offer a selection, and let your guests sip and sample their way to the combinations they like. Having several different bottles open on the table opens the door to lively conversations.

In the Northwest, we’re blessed with amazingly diverse appellations and a plethora of high quality wines. I’ve rounded up a perfect case of wines to mix and match with your holiday meals.

Sparkling wine is a must-have for every holiday table, and not only for its festive and celebratory qualities: it pairs extremely well with all kinds of foods, from salty to sweet. At just $15, the 100 percent chardonnay Brut Blanc de Blancs from Treveri Cellars in Wapato, Washington, is a terrific bottle, and with its yeasty, toasty profile, it will work well with everything from turkey to pumpkin pie.

So will the elegant Argyle Brut Rosé. Made in the Dundee Hills of Oregon of 75% pinot noir, 15% pinot meunier, and 10% chardonnay, the barrel aging of this $50 sparkler gives it a creamy mouthfeel to go with its complex flavor profile.

Want light and refreshing, but without the bubbles? Try the $20 Long Shadows Poet’s Leap from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Slightly off-dry, but with a strong acid component to balance its sweetness, this riesling is a good introduction for those guests who might be just learning to enjoy wine, as well as for your serious wine guests who already know that riesling is a perfect food wine.

A bottle from award-winning Brian Carter Cellars is a strong choice anytime and especially for the holidays. An aromatic blend of viognier, roussanne and riesling, the Oriana, at $22, has a great balance of fresh fruit and acidity, making it an excellent match to many of the dishes on your table.

Bridging the gap from white to red, rosé is a great food pairing choice especially at Thanksgiving. Gilbert Cellars’ Wahluke Slope Rosé, at $20, has a bright, vibrant profile to go with its vivid color. Cold-fermented from 78% mourvèdre and 22% grenache, this wine will sing alongside salads and bring a good balance to rich meats and sauces.

Going further into the red realm brings us to the round, soft flavors of pinot noir. Westrey’s Willamette Valley wine offers a broad flavor spectrum of fruit and spice, with well-integrated tannins, that will add a note of grace to your table for only $26.

Oregon pinot noir makes a statement in Adelsheim Vineyards’ “Breaking Ground” from the Chehalem Mountains AVA. With 91 points from Wine Spectator, this $45 wine has a dark, chocolate-and-spice profile and is silky and lingering on the palate.

Add a bottle of Kevin White’s Yakima Valley Rhône blend, La Fraternité, a great foray into the slightly bigger and more luscious category. It’s a bright and fruity wine, leading with 60% grenache, that works with both meat and seafood and is just $28.

If the G is your favorite of the Rhône’s GSM blend, I recommend Sparkman Cellars’ Wonderland Grenache, $32, also from Yakima Valley. With a third of the grapes fermented in whole cluster, it has interesting tannins and textures with its soft fruity flavors.

Finally, if you (or your guests) like a big, zesty red, I suggest Maryhill’s Zinfandel, at $24. This Columbia Valley wine, aged in 60% new oak, has dark fruit flavors over a medium body. It’ll pair well with rich dishes, beef and pork, and you can drink it with that decadent chocolate dessert, too.

Some folks prefer just to drink their dessert and that’s where ice wine comes in. Kiona Vineyards’ Ice Wine, from Washington’s Red Mountain appellation, received 93 points from Wine Spectator for a reason. Made from chenin blanc picked during a deep freeze, and with over 17% residual sugar, its tropical fruit flavors and excellent balance of acidity are the perfect finish to a meal.

What about that rare guest who—gasp!—doesn’t really like wine? Tieton Cider Works Cidermaker’s Reserve is the answer. This bourbon-barrel-aged bittersweet cider pairs beautifully with just about anything and has a festive holiday scent and feel.

No matter which bottles you choose, the most important pairing rule is this: drink what you enjoy! Conversation and camaraderie will develop naturally from the assortment of bottles on your table, and that’s what the holidays are all about.