Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are opportunities to dig into the cellar and pull out the perfect wine for each occasion.
I LOOK FORWARD to the holiday season, not necessarily as a time to receive gifts, but rather as an opportunity to dig into my cellar and share wines with family and friends.
Planning for a holiday meal provides a chance to bring a wide variety of wines to the table. I like to open several bottles because of the plethora of dishes and flavors being presented and the varying preferences of those in attendance.
With all of this in mind, here are suggestions for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve with three dozen superb wines I tasted this year.
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If your Thanksgiving feast is like most, it features nearly a dozen dishes with a roasted turkey as the centerpiece. I tend to recommend wines that are high in acidity and fruit flavors and low on tannins, which can battle Thanksgiving dishes rather than complement them. That’s why you’ll find no cabernet sauvignons here.
Westport Winery NV Rapture of the Deep, Washington, $26: Why would I recommend a sparkling cranberry wine? Because it is right for Thanksgiving and because it uses cranberries from the Washington coast. It’s a seriously perfect way to launch your Thanksgiving feast.
Coral Wines 2014 rosé, Columbia Valley, $20: Seattle somm-turned-vintner Christopher Chan has a winner with his first release, a Provence-style rosé that will pair with nearly everything on the table.
Tsillan Cellars 2014 estate gewürztraminer, Lake Chelan, $14: Gewürztraminer is fantastic with dark turkey meat, and this is one of the best made in Washington.
Seven of Hearts 2012 Armstrong Vineyard pinot noir, Ribbon Ridge, $35: Thanks to its mild tannins and elegant flavors, pinot noir is a great choice with just about any meal. It’s especially good with Thanksgiving dinner.
Henry Earl Estates 2013 riesling, Wahluke Slope, $20: Riesling is the world’s most versatile wine grape, as it can be made bone dry to super sweet. This is a steely, fruit-driven example that easily fits on your holiday table.
Plumb Cellars 2012 estate sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, $24: Sangiovese is the ultimate food wine, thanks to great acidity, bright red flavors and moderate tannins. It’s like pinot noir with sass.
Coyote Canyon Winery 2013 albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, $22: This white Spanish variety is known for its brightness of acidity and fruit, and this example has just a kiss of sweetness to bevel any sharp edges.
Beaumont Cellars 2014 tempranillo, Wahluke Slope, $27: With each passing year, I get more excited about Washington tempranillo, and this example of the rustic Spanish red comes from the arid and remote Wahluke Slope.
Lopez Island Vineyards & Winery 2014 siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $25: Hard to pronounce, easy to love, this cool-climate white is one of the few grapes that can thrive in the chilly Puget Sound region. This example from a winery in the San Juans is simply stunning.
14 Hands Winery 2013 merlot, Columbia Valley, $12: An easy-drinking red such as merlot (and a bargain like this one) will be appreciated by many of your guests and pair beautifully with many dishes on your table.
Wind Rose Cellars 2013 Lonesome Spring Ranch malbec, Yakima Valley, $20: Unlike its Bordeaux siblings, malbec tends to be stronger in acidity than tannin. This is a yummy, food-friendly example from an Olympic Peninsula producer.
Patterson Cellars 2012 late harvest roussanne, Columbia Valley, $22: A dessert wine such as this luscious white from a top Woodinville winery pairs beautifully with cheesecake, pumpkin pie or cranberry cobbler.
Christmas is the holiday that keeps giving. Those holiday get-togethers now run pretty much every weekend in December, with big meals coming on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This gives you plenty of opportunities to share wines, whether you’re bringing a hostess gift to a party or breaking out several bottles for the main event.
Michelle NV brut rosé, Columbia Valley, $14: For price and quality, this is consistently one of the smartest sparklers in America. It’s pink, it’s dry, it’s beautiful, and it is perfect for putting everyone in a holiday mood.
Apex Cellars 2013 sauvignon blanc, Columbia Valley, $20: Lean, bright and bursting with orchard flavors, this sauv blanc will go with seafood and side dishes (or the main course at vegan feasts).
Gordon Estate 2014 rosé, Columbia Valley, $20: A dry rosé is a must for any holiday meal because of its versatility and festive color. This is one of the best I tasted this year (and I tried a lot).
Pacific Rim Winemakers 2013 Hahn Hill Vineyard chenin blanc, Yakima Valley, $14: One of the classic white wines of France is making the slightest of comebacks in Washington, thanks to producers such as Pacific Rim and L’Ecole. This has a beautiful balance of fresh acidity and luscious fruit.
Winter’s Hill Estate 2013 pinot noir, Dundee Hills, $39: If you’re serving roast chicken, squab or anything with mushrooms, then a pinot noir should take center stage. It also works well with duck or beef.
Seven Falls Cellars 2011 merlot, Wahluke Slope, $15: I like having an inexpensive red or two on the table. They tend to not be overbearing in tannins, which means they can become a favorite for those who prefer milder wines. This is a great example of a smooth, rich red.
Hightower Cellars 2012 reserve red, Red Mountain, $55: If prime rib is your main dish, you’ll be happy with a robust red. This cab-based blend is one of my favorites this year and is a special wine for a great meal.
Cloudlift Cellars 2012 Stratus petit verdot, Yakima Valley, $32: Petit verdot is a red Bordeaux variety that is starting to take center stage a bit more. It’s a big wine with bold flavors, meaning this is perfect for Christmas dinner.
French Creek Vineyards 2011 Wente Clone old vine chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $26: Winemakers are rediscovering this vineyard planted more than 30 years ago as one of the top sites in the Yakima Valley. Like chardonnay? You’ll love this wine.
Kontos Cellars 2012 Summit View Vineyard malbec, Walla Walla Valley, $42: An axiom of winemaking is you must start with great grapes, and this vineyard consistently is one of the best. Count on this malbec for a rich, bright, food-focused red.
Buried Cane 2013 cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: Between the classy label and the extraordinary flavors, this wine will fool your family into thinking it cost three times what you paid for it.
Abacela 2012 estate port, Umpqua Valley, $25: Is there a better way to enjoy Christmas Eve than to settle down in front of the fire on a wintry night with a glass of fortified dessert wine? Add a plate of cheeses such as Stilton or Rogue River blue and candied pecans.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is all about celebrating the year that is ending and anticipating the good times ahead. Whether you’re playing host to a gathering or going out, you’ll want a wide range of flavors that will pair well with appetizers and carb-heavy dishes.
Treveri Cellars NV Celebration Cuvée, Columbia Valley, $18: Bubbles are made for New Year’s Eve because they are the happiest of wines for the most celebratory of evenings. Thank the stars we have this terrific Yakima Valley bubble maker looking out for us.
Gamache Vintners 2012 reserve cabernet franc, Columbia Valley, $40: Gamache makes one of the best cab francs in the state, and this will work perfectly with sausage-stuffed mushrooms.
Sawtooth Winery 2014 Classic Fly Series grenache rosé, Snake River Valley, $20: This Idaho wine from Seattle-based Precept Wine is one of the best in the Northwest. Try it with oysters, cheese dip or crabcakes.
Stemilt Creek Winery 2010 Estate Boss Lady, Columbia Valley, $24: This Wenatchee Valley wine is dominated by syrah and merlot and will go perfectly well with meatball sliders or bacon-wrapped figs.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2014 Traditions pinot gris, Columbia Valley, $13: Washington pinot gris is bright, fruit-driven and affordable, and this is a classic example. Enjoy with shrimp, seven-layer dip or prosciutto-wrapped scallops.
Zerba Cellars 2012 zinfandel, Walla Walla Valley, $45: For years, we’ve had to lean on California for great zin. No more, thanks to a few intrepid Northwest winemakers. Enjoy with Italian fare or roasts.
Martin-Scott Winery 2013 Needlerock Vineyard Montepulciano, Columbia Valley, $28: One of the most-planted grapes in Italy, the red Montepulciano variety is rare in the New World. Serve this as a conversation starter that will be enjoyed with myriad meat dishes.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2013 The Expedition chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: You don’t necessarily want to bring out all your expensive wines for a big party, so this affordable white will work perfectly for your chardonnay-loving guests.
Northwest Cellars 2012 carménère, Columbia Valley, $48: The “lost Bordeaux red” is becoming somewhat more commonplace in Washington, and this delicious example will be appreciated by your friends who enjoy a sip of history.
Purple Star Wines 2013 riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $12: Perhaps even more than sparkling wine, riesling is the most food-adaptable wine. This white is bright, wallet-friendly and will work perfectly with seafood, cheese, dips and anything spicy.
Northwest Mountain Winery 2012 Dark Moon Rising, Columbia Valley, $26: This Olympia winery has crafted a delicious port-style dessert wine. Enjoy this with chocolates or a year-end cigar.
Maison de Padgett NV The Smoking Gun coffee port, Washington, $20: This is quite easily one of the most unusual wines made in Washington: a coffee-infused port-style wine. And it is amazing.