While the adage of drinking what you enjoy always rings true, it’s also true that the perfect wine and food pairing can be transcendent. Take it from us: understanding grape varietals and which meals match them best is sure to create a flavor explosion that you won’t soon forget. Whether you seek to match textures, or balance out flavors, pairing wine with intention can take your dining experience to the next level.
Here are a few guidelines for pairing your next holiday meal, using some Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas classics to get you started.
Cranberry baked brie bites: We love a nice medium-bodied chardonnay with a cheese plate like this. The richness of the brie and the tartness of the cranberries finds its ideal match with a chardonnay that has both body and acidity.
Stuffed mushrooms: Savory and scrumptious, stuffed mushrooms embody the flavors of Thanksgiving—all in one bite. Consider a full-bodied Sonoma Valley chardonnay to match texture and flavor or a light pinot noir with enough acidity to help marry all the flavors.
Potato latkes with sour cream and chives: The possibilities with latkes are endless! Enjoy anything from a sparkling wine and sauvignon blanc to whet your appetite or a chardonnay or viognier to complement the starchy, creamy profile of this dish.
Hassleback butternut squash: Nutty, sweet and buttery, this new vegetarian classic is a mouthful of seasonal flavors. Consider a fruity and floral viognier or a medium-bodied pinot noir to make the flavors pop.
Noodle kugel: Rich, creamy and decadently starchy, this Hanukkah favorite speaks of winter comfort food. Opt for a medium-bodied chardonnay with just enough brightness to not get weighed down by the heaviness.
Vegetarian lasagna with marinara sauce: Whether you love your lasagna with veggies or meat, finding balance in your wine pairing is key to marrying all the amazing flavors in every bite. Choose a pinot noir for its zingy acidity, which cuts through the fattiness of the cheese, or something richer like a merlot or cabernet to stand up to richness and balance out bolder flavors.
Salmon with lemon and dill: Such a full-flavored dish, even if delicate in texture! Salmon is a natural pairing with pinot noir, but it also goes beautifully with a richer white like a full-bodied chardonnay or a floral viognier.
Cioppino seafood stew: This Bay Area holiday dish is iconic with its hearty helping of seafood, garlic, tomatoes and white wine. While whites like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and viognier make delicious pairings, also consider a fresh rosé or a light pinot noir for something a little bolder.
Cracked crab: Another holiday Bay Area favorite, cracked crab is one of the simplest dishes with the least preparation needed—just a little hot butter to dip it in, some crusty bread and salad. Keep your wine equally on the lighter side with medium-bodied chardonnays, albarinos, or vermentinos.
Turkey with stuffing and gravy: Nothing says a turkey dinner like pinot noir or zinfandel! Opt for the pinot noir for a lighter, smoother pairing, or zinfandel if you want the wine’s flavors to pop. While sourced from Croatia, and planted by Italians, Zinfandel has become the true All-American grape!
Duck confit: One of the easiest but fanciest preparations, duck confit is made by slowly cooking duck legs in their own fat, then removing the duck and searing it over high heat. Rich, savory, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, it goes best with a medium- to full-bodied pinot noir, a light-bodied grenache, or even a medium-bodied merlot.
Roasted chicken and potatoes: Simple but elegant, there’s nothing like a roast chicken, in all its juicy and savory flavors. If you use the drippings to make a gravy, we recommend an unoaked chardonnay or viognier and then use the rest of the bottle to drink alongside the bird. Red wine drinkers should opt for pinot noir or grenache.
Glazed ham and candied sweet potatoes: There’s nothing like the holiday season to stir up an appetite for the salty and sweet flavors of a glazed ham! Choose a ripe riesling to match its sweet undertones with the sweetness of the glaze or a full-bodied chardonnay to match the rich texture of the ham. For a red, go with a medium-bodied pinot noir or grenache to marry the sweet and savory.
Pork roast with potatoes and carrots: Savory, rich, and satisfying, a roasted pork roast feels the very essence of the holidays. A riesling adds lightness and brightness, a full-bodied chardonnay will match the roast texture for texture, and a pinot noir will marry the flavors together seamlessly.
Millionaire’s bacon: This decadent holiday appetizer is something of a marvel! Rich bacon, basted with sugar and spices, becomes a sweet and savory candy. Serve with a sparkling chardonnay or a bright riesling to cut through the fat, and bring the flavor sensation of the bacon to new heights or a spicy syrah to match it spice for spice.
Braised beef brisket: This beloved holiday dish is everything meat-lovers adore with smoky notes, tender texture and succulent fat. Opt for a tannic, medium-bodied merlot or cabernet sauvignon to stand up to the flavors and cut through the heaviness of the dish or a spicy syrah to give it some gusto.
Prime rib with horseradish sauce: Tender and soft in texture, succulent and savory in flavor, prime rib is always a special treat. Given its gentle texture, make sure to choose a red that won’t overwhelm with flavor. A medium-bodied pinot noir or merlot make an ideal match.
Beef Wellington: A decadent treat of filet mignon, prosciutto and duxelles wrapped in puff pastry is special enough to only enjoy once a year. Treat yourself to an aged merlot or cabernet sauvignon, decant and serve alongside this dish. The richness of both the wine and the beef will melt in your mouth for the perfect pairing.
Sufganiyot: Hanukkah’s celebrated jelly donut offers up sweet flavors of the fruit filling, surrounded by a sugary doughy exterior. Serve this alongside a fruity and floral viognier to match richness with richness or alongside a sparkling wine to cut through the bold flavors.
Pumpkin or sweet potato pie: Beyond the seasonal spicing, the best things about sweet potato or pumpkin pie are the creamy texture and the buttery, flakey crusts. Try these pies with a sweet riesling, a medium-bodied viognier, or a white fortified wine.
Assorted Cookies: What to do when you have an assortment of cookies of all different flavors and textures before you? Keep things simple. Opt for a fortified wine for a sweet grand finale, but there’s nothing quite like a sparkling wine to celebrate the end of the meal!
When in doubt, drink what you like, but if you give a little thought to your pairing, get ready to take your holiday to the next level. Make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to get to know the wineries of Sonoma Valley, or browse them on our website.