AS WE ENTER the holiday season, you, as your home’s resident wine expert, might be asked to select wines for each of the holidays between now and the end of the year.
I know this because it is expected of me. So, I’ll recommend a case of wine for each of three major holidays and share my thought process behind each selection, so you’re able to use my ideas and/or logic in making your own choices. My strategy is to include a diversity of wines that will appeal to a variety of palates and pair well with holiday dishes.
These are top Northwest wines I’ve tasted this year, from Washington, Idaho, Oregon or British Columbia. You can ask for them at your favorite wine merchant, or contact the wineries directly.
Thanksgiving is a tricky meal to pair wine with, because there are so many flavors. I solve this by putting many bottles on the table. High-acid wines are part of the plan because they are food-friendly, Rosés also are part of the equation, and so is one dessert wine.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2018 Shepherds Mark, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: This rich white blend is loaded with aromas and flavors of citrus and tropical fruit. Ample weight on the palate makes this delicious and versatile.
Elk Cove Vineyards 2018 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, $18: Among Oregon’s top and most consistent producers, this tasty pink wine has all the acidity you’d want and is bursting with flavors of red fruits.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Eroica Ice Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, $60: I tend to think of great ice wines as coming from British Columbia, yet this is a worthy inclusion for an end-of-the-meal conversation starter.
Jones of Washington 2015 Carménère, Wahluke Slope, $30: This rare red Bordeaux variety will undoubtedly start a discussion about Washington’s ability to grow a diversity of grapes.
Two Vintners 2017 Grenache, Columbia Valley, $25: I love Washington grenaches’ ability to provide soaring red fruit backed by bright acidity.
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2015 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $32: This firm red is too big for turkey but will satisfy those seeking boldness.
Coyote Canyon Winery 2018 Albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This Prosser winery uses estate grapes to craft a delicious and versatile white wine.
Saviah Cellars 2017 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $32: I think of syrah as Walla Walla’s signature grape, and this example from a top producer is superb, and will be a favorite with your guests.
Wild Goose Vineyards 2018 Gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley, $18: The perfect Thanksgiving wine is this German variety, and this example from British Columbia is among the best. Along with aromas of clove and tropical fruit, it’s also backed by fascinating acidity typically found only north of the border.
Mt. Hood Winery 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, $34: I’ve come to love wines from the Gorge, if only because the climate is cooler, leading to more interesting and distinctive wines. This example of pinot is loaded with flavors of strawberry, black cherry and a hint of black olive and black truffle in the finish.
Warr-King Wines 2016 Gamache Vineyard Malbec, Columbia Valley, $38: This Woodinville winery has tapped into one of the best malbec vineyards in the state, and it shows, with aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry, blueberry and just a hint of black licorice, all backed with bright acidity and tamed tannins. Beautifully balanced.
Westport Winery NV Rapture of the Deep, $28: Perhaps the perfect Northwest harvest wine, this sparkling cranberry wine uses fruit from Washington’s Cranberry Coast. The bright flavors are a great foil for your Thanksgiving feast.
Growing up, Christmas looked like Thanksgiving. Now it involves more roasts, so my strategy is to pair robust reds with high-acid white and pink wines to go with all the side dishes. For dessert, I favor Port-style wines to calm any winter chill.
Treveri Cellars NV Blanc de Blancs, Yakima Valley, $15: This top bubbly producer crafted a stylish dry sparkler with aromas of yeasty bread, dried mango, crisp apple and the barest hint of sweetness.
Barnard Griffin Winery 2018 Syrah Port, Columbia Valley, $17: A perfect closer while gathered around the fire, this rich fortified wine is loaded with flavors of plum, blackberry, cassis and caramel, backed by warming alcohol and a sensual midpalate. Perfect with blue cheese and biscotti.
Airfield Estates Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley, $15: This Prosser winery has crafted a white with aromas of citrus, Granny Smith apple and lemon zest, all backed by crisp acidity.
Maryhill Winery 2016 Elephant Mountain Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $38: This bright red is loaded with aromas and flavors of cranberry, Rainier cherry, red currants and mild tannins, with a luscious, supple finish.
Woodward Canyon Winery 2016 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $99: A seriously tasty cab from a top Walla Walla producer, this is loaded with cassis, ripe plum, blackberry and a hint of French vanilla, all backed by sturdy tannins.
Renegade Wine Co. 2018 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $11: This pink from a Walla Walla producer is bursting with aromas and flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry and fresh strawberries with a hint of Christmas spices, all backed with bright acidity.
Westport Winery 2017 Charterboat Chick Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $29: A delicious cab from a coastal winery near Aberdeen, this comes filled with black fruit flavors with savory tannin. A modest red with lots of character.
Alexana Winery 2016 Revana Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $55: This Newberg, Oregon, winery crafts a gorgeous pinot bursting with aromas of black cherry, red raspberry, violets and spices, backed by mild tannins and bright acidity.
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2018 Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley, $13: This rare white wine is found in Germany and British Columbia. Part of its heritage is riesling, and that is revealed in the aromas and flavors of Golden Delicious apples, lime zest and distinctive spices.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Estate Selection Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $26: Stephen Reustle is among the Northwest’s most talented winemakers and was the first in the United States to grow and make wine from this white Austrian grape. Its bright fruit is backed by firm acidity. A sleek, food-friendly wine.
Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2018 Riesling, Columbia Gorge, $24: I adore Gorge riesling as among the best and most distinctive in our region, and this Hood River winery does a masterful job with it, revealing aromas and flavors of ripe orchard fruit, tropical notes, lime zest and alluring spices.
Thurston Wolfe 2017 Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: A classic Washington example of Bordeaux red, with flavors of black fruit, including black cherry, blackberry, vanilla and a whisper of smokiness, all backed by mild tannins and taut acidity.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is about celebrating the year that is ending, as well as starting the new year in style. This calls for bubbly, of course. Most New Year’s parties focus on appetizers and festivities, so I tend to select wines that are less expensive.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut Rosé, Columbia Valley, $13: This versatile bubbly is perfect at your year-end celebration because it combines the bone-dry sparkler with aromas of cranberry, strawberry and cherry. Delicious with spicy dishes as well as seafood.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Extra Dry, Columbia Valley, $13: This bubbly has a kiss of sweetness, which gives it a bit more universal appeal to those not used to brut-style bubbles. Perfect with spicy appetizers, such as jalapeño poppers or curried dishes.
The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2017 Dussek Malbec, Columbia Valley, $26: A French-born winemaker with time spent working in Napa Valley, Jean-Claude Beck crafts the wines for this Woodinville winery. His delicious malbec bursts with flavors of ripe plum, a hint of espresso, dark chocolate and spices, all backed by bright acidity and deep complexity.
Columbia Crest 2017 Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley, $12: This sumptuous and nicely priced Washington syrah will satisfy the red wine lover at your holiday party with flavors of ripe plum, dark chocolate, blackberry pie, smoky vanilla and a jammy midpalate.
Columbia Winery 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: From this historic Woodinville winery, purchased in 2012 by Gallo, comes a nicely priced red loaded with aromas and flavors of black currants, blackberry jam, vanilla and spices. A remarkable wine with depth that surpasses expectations.
INTRINSIC Wine Co. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $22: This red from the folks at Ste. Michelle has the advantage of being complex and affordable. It’s delicious and deeply interesting.
Seven Falls Cellars 2015 Merlot, Wahluke Slope, $18: Another Ste. Michelle brand focused on fruit from the warm and arid Wahluke Slope, this luscious merlot offers a theme of red cherry, raspberry, red currants and ripe strawberries. Smooth tannins help it go down easily while inviting another glass.
2Hawk Vineyard & Winery 2017 Grenache Rosé, Rogue Valley, $26: This boutique producer in Medford, Oregon, works with this southern Rhône variety to produce a pink wine bursting with aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry and vanilla, all backed by bright acidity. It’s a perfect wine to enjoy with roasted meats, shellfish and heavy appetizers.
14 Hands Winery 2018 Rosé, Washington, $12: This pink wine from one of the country’s largest wineries is a blend of Bordeaux and Rhône varieties that brings flavors of bright red fruit with broad food-pairing possibilities.
Colter’s Creek Winery 2016 Arrow Rim GSM, Idaho, $25: This winery in the Idaho panhandle crafts a delicious red blend loaded with aromas and flavors of raspberry, black cherry, pomegranate, vanilla and spices. A delicious red with rich complexity.
Anne Amie Vineyards 2017 Cuvée A Amrita Sparkling White Wine, Willamette Valley, $15: Two decades ago, Portland businessman Robert Pamplin purchased Chateau Benoit, and winemaker Thomas Houseman soon transformed the winery into a showcase for sparkling wines. Houseman’s work with his wide-ranging and wildly aromatic Amrita blends riesling, pinot blanc, viognier, Gewürztraminer, chardonnay and pinot gris with estate Müller-Thurgau plantings that date to 1979. Aromas of nectarine and apple make their way onto a palate that continues to reach out with fruitiness and underlying complexity.
Thurston Wolfe 2017 Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: A rare Northwest zin that has the opportunity to shine in most situations, pairing beautifully with roasted turkey, as well as most of the dishes of your feast.