IN MANY CASES, our 2020 holiday celebrations will be more intimate, yet distant, and more memorable than perhaps any in our lifetime.
For the Northwest wine lover, we can hope that a table featuring some of our region’s best work will provide a delicious complement to the festivities, and maybe offer a moment or two of needed diversion.
However, here’s a suggestion for those in more fortunate circumstances as this painful year draws to a close — consider supporting one of your favorite independently owned restaurants, and order at least one of these three holiday meals for takeout and/or delivery. Earlier this year, family-owned Quilceda Creek Winery in Snohomish donated $365,000 to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. The philanthropy by the Golitzins, among the Northwest’s oldest and most famous producers, meant 730 displaced restaurant workers received a check for $500.
Quilceda Creek’s history as an elite producer continues, and the 2017 vintage of its introductory red ranks among the top Northwest wines I’ve tasted this year from Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
Making a case for Thanksgiving
In recent years, my folks turned the tables on turkey for Black Friday Eve by special-ordering a rib roast from their local butcher. As a result, this case was built around cabernet sauvignon from the Puget Sound’s most famous winery.
Quilceda Creek Winery 2017 CVR red wine, Columbia Valley, $70: Legally, this could be labeled cabernet sauvignon, because that variety makes up 96% of the final blend from the Golitzin family’s four estate vineyards. Dusty bing cherry and a sense of elegance reflect the Horse Heaven Hills, and age-worthy tannins show the influence of their site on Red Mountain. Enjoy with a slab of prime rib.
Coyote Canyon Winery 2019 Coyote Canyon Vineyard El Chispear albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, $32: This Spanish white grape is skyrocketing up the charts, and its inherent brightness makes it a natural for bubbles. And it will pair with any appetizers, including clam dip.
King Estate Winery 2019 rosé of pinot noir, Willamette Valley, $20: Pretty in pink, it revolves around strawberry and sweet melon with a refreshing finish.
Cedergreen Cellars 2017 gamay noir, Columbia Valley, $27: Pomegranate, cranberry sauce and a splash of summer rain are met by sublime tannins and raspberry juice, a recipe for success with lamb, roast turkey or salmon.
Cinder Wines 2019 off-dry riesling, Snake River Valley, $23: It took years for Melanie Krause to embrace Germany’s noble grape, but this Washington State University graduate is now an ambassador. Enjoy it with a cheese plate before dinner and a savory cheesecake afterward.
Underwood 2020 Nouveau pinot noir, Oregon, $14: Union Wine Co. uses pinot noir, not gamay, harvested just a few weeks ago and takes it to bottle — and aluminum can — to toast Beaujolais Nouveau on Nov. 19. Its fresh-fruit punch approach will be ideal with turkey. It’s available for online sales only.
Maryhill Winery 2017 Elephant Mountain Vineyards carménère, Rattlesnake Hills, $50: Richard Batchelor’s velvety carm from Joe Hattrup’s stellar site brings smoked paprika, black fruit, bell pepper and a vixen’s soul. Enjoy with carne asada or paella.
DeLille Cellars 2017 Doyenne, Yakima Valley, $45: With an A-list of growers behind him — Boushey, Holmes, Sauer and Shaw — Jason Gorski blends syrah and cabernet sauvignon into a wine with tannins so supple, they melt in your mouth.
Lydian Wine 2018 GSM, Columbia Valley, $25: This new sister project of Avennia offers fresh-picked, sun-warmed cherries and strawberries, backed by fresh herbs and white pepper. Pass the dressing and gravy.
Palencia Wine Co. 2016 El Viñador Petit Verdot, Wahluke Slope, $40: Victor Palencia made the 2020 Top 20 list with Malbec, and he’s back with another red Bordeaux variety that’s ideal with lamb or braised meats.
Domanico Cellars 2019 Eclectic Vineyard malvasia bianca, Yakima Valley, $20: Jason Domanico’s work with this fascinating Mediterranean white grape is a glass of Ambrosia salad sans sweetness.
Tahija 2018 Candy Mountain Vineyard sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $28: Mark Lathrop at Liberty Lake Wine Cellars has a sweet spot for this Italian red, and the bright acidity that cradles the candied red fruit can be the ticket for that ubiquitous green-bean casserole.
Making a Case for Christmas
A 16-pound turkey on the Traeger with applewood pellets turned into tradition for my family, so here are some suggestions to pair with a smoked bird or Christmas ham.
Battle Creek Cellars 2017 Yamhela Vineyard pinot noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $64: Sarah Cabot graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and sold a lot of Oregon pinot noir while tending bar before returning home to Seattle and learning to make wine. Few in the Willamette Valley produce more than she does now, and this vineyard designate sings with raspberry and pie cherry notes in a structure that lends itself to a smoked turkey drumstick.
Domaine Serene 2018 Estate Evenstad reserve chardonnay, Dundee Hills, $65: The 2014 vintage of this wine was ranked No. 2 in the world by Wine Spectator, and the profile of white peach, Meyer lemon, vanilla and marcona almond has this in similar territory. Sadly, the winery’s patriarch, Ken Evenstad, died this fall at the age of 77.
DAMA Wines 2016 cabernet franc, Walla Walla Valley, $50: Mary Derby’s work is a tapestry of black cherry pie, raspberry and sweet herbs with a sandy structure that is charming and balanced.
Armstrong Family Winery 2016 The Scotsman syrah, Columbia Valley, $38: Fruit from highly touted Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills makes for a theme of black cherry and black currant that’s joined by tobacco for an expensive mouthfeel.
Callan Cellars 2019 Boushey Vineyards picpoul, Yakima Valley, $25: This obscure Rhône variety offers a mixture of creamy citrus, tempered acidity and bright melon notes that might make this your new favorite white.
Seven Hills Winery 2017 merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $25: Casey McClellan’s marvelous touch with tannin management makes this an easy drink of cherry pie, blueberry taffy and elderberry.
Hedges Family Estate 2019 Descendants Liégeois Dupont Le Blanc, Red Mountain, $38: A vibrant blend of marsanne and viognier, made with certified organic grapes, creates a sense of grassiness and white orchard fruit that’s backed by a hint of brioche and lemon oil. Enjoy with lobster bisque, trout, risotto or dense white cheeses.
Tertulia Cellars 2019 Whistling Hills Estate Vineyard viognier, Walla Walla Valley, $25: Sweet notes of honeysuckle, fresh peach and apricot are met by zesty citrus, marzipan and a light oaky finish. Pair with a tropical fruit salad laced with fresh basil.
Camas Prairie Winery 2019 raspberry mead, Idaho, $14: There’s a Renaissance surrounding the production of honey-based wine in the Northwest, and tangy raspberry gives this the proper balance for an after-dinner cheese plate.
itä wines 2019 sémillon — 2 of 2, Walla Walla Valley, $25: Kelsey Albro Itämeri graduated from Walla Walla CC’s wine program, and her work with this white Bordeaux shows lovely weight with hints of brioche, apple, lemon and melon.
Ginkgo Forest Winery 2018 late harvest gewürztraminer, Wahluke Slope, $35: This spicy German white grape is an ideal pairing for turkey, regardless of the sweetness level, but try this nectar from the dark meat through dessert.
Three of Cups 2016 Heart of the Hill Vineyard Le Croyant petite sirah, Red Mountain, $28: Fans of PS scream for inky black qualities, and this brags massive intensity. Here is your prime rib Christmas wine.
Making a case for New Year’s Eve
There are three angles to this day: the prefunction, the hootenanny surrounding the dropping of the ball and the day after. Take it easy on New Year’s Day by recovering on the couch surrounded by tailgate fare with a smorgasbord of football and basketball to watch.
Foundry Vineyards 2019 Acadia Vineyard Pét Project: Field Blend, Columbia Gorge, $32: It requires a bit of witchcraft to dial in sparkling wine using the ancestral method. Jay Anderson does it in Walla Walla with a sense of tropicality and without leaving a mess. Enjoy with popcorn topped by a dash or two of truffle salt.
2Hawk Vineyard & Winery 2017 grenache, Rogue Valley, $32: One of my resolutions is to drink more grenache. Kiley Evans conjures notes of cherry and cane berry with a turn of baking spices and a pleasing texture. Enjoy with pancetta-wrapped chicken thighs.
Eternal Wines 2019 Eternal Lust albariño, Columbia Valley, $29: New York somm Brad Binko is another Walla Walla CC winemaking alum, and this first-time effort from Tudor Hills Vineyard is loaded with lime, stone fruit and minerality.
Cave B Estate Winery 2019 Cave B Vineyards chenin blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $22: Clean, fresh and redolent of quince, pear, honey and orange zest makes for a compelling example.
Koenig Vineyards 2018 Lanae Ridge Vineyard Sangiovese, Snake River Valley, $28: Greg Koenig, the dean of Idaho winemakers, studied architecture in Italy, and he’s produced a very Chianti-like red with sandy tannins and a lip-smacking finish.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2019 Pinot Grigio, Columbia Valley, $15: Tropical notes of guava, papaya and pineapple finish with a bit of fleshy stone fruit.
14 Hands Winery NV Limited Release Unicorn rosé bubbles, Columbia Valley, $5.99: This delicious sparkling wine comes in a handy can, perfect for sliding into the koozie and taking outside.
Vine 46 2017 tempranillo, Columbia Valley, $27: This early-ripening Spanish red is the third-most-planted variety on the planet, and this producer in Lewiston, Idaho, has bottled one of the Northwest’s best examples. Enjoy with tapas or smoked ham.
Telaya Wine Co. 2018 Scoria Vineyard malbec, Snake River Valley, $40: Bright marionberry, blueberry preserves and moderate intensity prove the promise of this grape in Idaho.
Reustle — Prayer Rock Vineyards 2018 Green Lizard grüner veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $32: Stephen Reustle pioneered this Austrian white grape in the United States, and it’s sophisticated, understated and remarkably versatile at the dining table.
Indian Creek Winery 2008 Tawny Port-style, Snake River Valley, $45: A decade in barrel gives this notes of poached cherries, boysenberry and vanilla with nuttiness and spiciness throughout the rich and juicy profile. Enjoy with a wedge of Stilton cheese and toasted hazelnuts.
Westport Winery 2018 Kraken, Yakima Valley, $49: This reserve cab hails from two of Washington’s top vineyards. Besides, it’s fun to say “Release the Kraken!” when pulling the cork on this.