Three big holidays are lining up over the next few weeks to cause you stress. Allow me to relieve a little of it with some wine selections to help you through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Pairing wine with the Thanksgiving feast can be a thankless task. I’ve found that opening several bottles will make it easier, because everyone will find something they want to drink. Go with half reds and half whites, and be sure to start the meal with a sparkling wine. Remember, the focus is on the turkey, so don’t sweat the wine selections too much. In fact, this is the time I leave my most expensive bottles in my cellar — with one exception.
• Michelle NV Brut Rosé, Columbia Valley, $11: Every meal should start with bubbles, especially Thanksgiving. It is the perfect food wine, and it turns everything into a celebration. (This winery is formerly Domaine Ste. Michelle.)
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• Wild Goose Vineyards 2012 gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley, $19: Gewürztraminer is the perfect wine for Thanksgiving because it pairs so well with dark turkey meat. You’ll need to go to British Columbia to find this one, but the trip will be worth it.
• Barnard Griffin 2012 rosé of sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $12: Year in and year out, this is simply the finest dry rosé in America. Its flavors of strawberry, cherry and rhubarb will be perfect on your Thanksgiving table.
• Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: This off-dry white wine is the world’s most popular riesling. Great acids and a touch of sweetness make it perfect for everything from turkey to pumpkin pie.
• Westport Winery NV Rapture of the Deep, Washington, $26: Snobs might turn their noses up at fruit wines, but this sparkling cranberry from bogs in Grays Harbor County is stunning with turkey and mashed potatoes.
• Lopez Island Vineyard & Winery sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $22: Sangiovese is the noble grape of Tuscany, and its higher acids and mild tannins help make its reputation for pairing with food.
• Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Tavola pinot noir, Willamette Valley, $25: Because of its lack of tannins, pinot noir tends to pair well with most food at your Thanksgiving table. This is a delicious and affordable example from Oregon.
• Grantwood Winery 2011 syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $16: Syrah can be a rich wine, but its relatively low acidity helps it transform into a perfect foil for many foods. This small Walla Walla winery is making superb reds at affordable prices.
• Sagelands Vineyard 2011 chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10: Chardonnay is America’s favorite wine, so it never hurts to have a bottle on the table. This affordable bottle from Precept Wine in Seattle is readily available and delicious with turkey.
• L’Ecole No 41 2012 chenin blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: Chenin blanc is an underappreciated white wine. This example from one of the original Walla Walla Valley wineries might change your mind about the grape.
• Leonetti Cellar 2010 cabernet sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $85: OK, it’s just wrong to serve this at Thanksgiving because it goes with nothing on the table. But my father-in-law likes drinking my Leonetti — and he did let me marry his daughter.
• Pacific Rim Winemakers 2011 Vin de Glaciere, Columbia Valley, $14: Ice wine from British Columbia will run you $50 or more for a half-bottle. The price of this delicious example from Washington will allow you to let it flow more freely with your pumpkin pie.
Christmas is a time for reflection, family, celebration and giving. For this case, I chose wines I want to enjoy, and this gives me the option of popping the cork during a holiday meal, wrapping up the wine to put under the tree or taking the bottle to a party as a hostess gift.
Throughout the year, I buy bottles I think I will want to share with special people in my life, and Christmas is the time to lighten my cellar, however slightly.
• Woodward Canyon Winery 2009 Old Vines Dedication Series cabernet sauvignon, Washington, $89: Simply put, this is one of the finest red wines made in Washington. Enjoy it with prime rib at Christmas dinner or give as a really special gift.
• William Church Winery 2010 2 Spires, Columbia Valley, $34: A syrah-based blend, it’s one of many great wines from this Woodinville winery. It will pair well with savory dishes in your Christmas feast.
• Erath Winery 2010 Prince Hill 115 pinot noir, Dundee Hills, $50: Winemaker Gary Horner is crafting crazy-good pinot noirs at this historic Oregon winery. This clonal-designated bottling will make a great gift for the wine nerd on your list or will pair perfectly with roasted meats.
• Treveri Cellars NV sparkling syrah brut, Columbia Valley, $19: Here is a bubbly that will put some ho-ho-ho in your glass, thanks to its dramatic red color and delicious flavors. Red sparklers are rare in this country, so this wine will be a visual treat.
• JoieFarm 2012 riesling, Okanagan Valley, $23: You’ll need to head north of the border for this gorgeous riesling that is on my “deserted island” list (as in, what I want 10 cases of if I’m stuck on a deserted island).
• Thurston Wolfe Winery 2012 Second Chance rosé, Yakima Valley, $13: A dry rosé can help make your holiday table complete, because it will pair so well with nearly everything on the table. This is from a longtime Prosser winery that is consistently one of the best in Washington.
• Cascade Cliffs Winery 2009 reserve nebbiolo, Columbia Valley, $50: Nebbiolo is one of the world’s greatest wine-grape varieties, and while it fares best in its native Italy, this luscious version from a Columbia Gorge winery is a special bottling indeed.
• Gamache Vintners 2009 malbec, Columbia Valley, $30: Malbec is a hot variety in Washington, and this red wine from Gamache Vintners in Prosser is made by master winemaker Charlie Hoppes. It is a true treat.
• Dusted Valley Vintners 2010 petite sirah, Columbia Valley, $42: It is still rare to find a great petite sirah outside of California, but the boys at Dusted Valley in Walla Walla and Woodinville are managing to craft some of the finest anywhere.
• Smasne Cellars 2010 Lawrence Vineyard Block #3 syrah, Columbia Valley, $44: Winemaker Robert Smasne is one of the most talented in Washington, and this wine from grapes in the Frenchman Hills should make you an instant fan of his work.
• Apex Cellars 2010 merlot, Columbia Valley, $30: This longtime Yakima Valley winery is now owned by Precept Wine in Seattle, and the tasting room is in Prosser. This might be its top wine.
• Daven Lore Winery 2010 Forté, Snipes Mountain, $28: When the weather turns frightful, pour a glass of this fortified dessert wine, pull up a chair to the fireplace and get lost in the timelessness of winter.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Sparkling wine is the best way to celebrate days gone by and those about to arrive. Thus, I provide four bottles of bubbly to launch this list. My other strategy is to serve wines that pair with a broad range of nibbly foods, typical of year-ending parties.
• Veuve Clicquot brut, Reims, $45: The Widow Clicquot’s creation is one of the world’s most famous wines and, with its orange label, the most easily recognizable. This is a classy way to greet friends at year’s end.
• Hard Row to Hoe 2011 Good in Bed, Lake Chelan, $42: This classically produced bubbly wine from a memorable winery is delicious, and the name will certainly spark conversation.
• Argyle Winery 2010 brut, Willamette Valley, $27: This Dundee winery is Oregon’s top sparkling-wine producer, and this will pair perfectly with just about anything you want to serve for New Year’s Eve.
• Michelle NV extra-dry, Columbia Valley, $11: Just as you would at weddings, it’s always good to have a modestly priced bubbly that is on the sweeter side. Michelle will help stretch your party budget a bit further.
• Saviah Cellars 2012 The Jack riesling, Columbia Valley, $15: Richard Funk is the owner/winemaker for this top Walla Walla Valley winery. Though best known for reds, Saviah’s riesling is one of the best around, too.
• San Juan Vineyards 2010 cabernet-merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $14: For a party, you want some good red wine but don’t want to go crazy on price. This delicious blend from a Friday Harbor winery fits the bill.
• Airfield Estates 2012 unoaked chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $13: Keep your party flying high with this deliciously bright white from a top Prosser winery. It will satisfy those who do — and don’t — like chardonnay.
• Kyra Wines 2011 Purple Sage Vineyard dolcetto, Wahluke Slope, $20: Dolcetto is a food-friendly red traditionally from northwest Italy and will both pair well with party platters and liven up the conversation with your wine-geek friends.
• Holmes Harbor Cellars 2009 syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Washington’s No. 3 red grape is syrah, and this is a classic example from a Whidbey Island winery bringing grapes across Snoqualmie Pass.
• SuLei Cellars 2012 Spring Creek sauvignon blanc, Columbia Valley, $18: The bright acidity of sauvignon blanc makes it a must when you plan to serve crab dip, oysters or smoked salmon. This wine from a small Walla Walla winery is one of the best around.
• Forsyth Brio 2007 McKinley Springs Vineyard cabernet sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $50: This is a highly collectible red, but bring it out if your party is small — say up to four couples.
• Duck Pond Cellars 2011 pinot gris, Willamette Valley, $11: Oregon’s favorite white wine is versatile at a party that includes anything from crabcakes to chicken satay, and this widely available pinot gris is from a longtime producer.
• Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2012 Minus 9 ehrenfelser icewine, Okanagan Valley, $50: If you want one of the world’s great dessert wines, you’ll need to head to British Columbia. But if your New Year’s Eve party is just you and your honey, this will make it memorable.
Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.