Holiday Cheers: Wine and Spirits Pairings

Treat guests this festive season with wine and spirits pairing recommendations from local experts.

Holiday beverages to supplement every occasion
Photo by Tanya Shaw

With so many flavors hitting during the holidays, how do you pull the suitable sauce out of your sweater sleeve to host guests like a pro? We reached out to local libation experts for recommendations. If these prescribed wine and spirits pairings don’t satisfy your guests, there might be a Scrooge or two in your midst.

For Thanksgiving / Friendsgiving Feasts

Cazin Cuvée
Renaissance Cour-Chevern

“It’s [100%] romorantin, a grape exclusive to Cour-Cheverny [in France’s Loire Valley],” says Sophie Yoneoka, sommelier at The Broadmoor. She describes the 2015 vintage as “gorgeously textured … honeyed, with elements of pear and buttercups.” As for food pairings? “Think sweet potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole,” Yoneoka says.
Price range: $21-$23

Full-Bodied Whites or Soft Reds
If you’re eating traditional turkey and cranberry sauce, Michael Read, sommelier at The Warehouse, says aim for a full-bodied white or soft red wine. “Don’t overpower the food,” he says. Read’s recommended whites are Tangent Viognier, creamy and aromatic, or Hugel Gewurztraminer, dry, floral and spicy. For reds, he picks Eric Chevalier Cabernet Franc, a versatile Loire Valley bargain, or a Calera Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast.
Price range: $18-$30

Manhattan or Boulevardier
If cocktails are your preference, try these recommendations from Christian De Los Santos, bar manager at Almagre. “For spirit-forward drinkers, I suggest a Manhattan riff I stumbled upon,” De Los Santos says. The recipe in a nutshell: 2 ounces rye whiskey, half ounce sweet vermouth, half ounce Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, a dash of Angostura bitters and a Luxardo cherry.

When you’re in a food coma after the meal, De Los Santos recommends a Boulevardier, a digestif easily made with 1 ounce each: bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari over ice. “Garnish with an orange twist and enjoy by the fire,” he says.

For Holiday Parties

Michele Castellani ‘Cinque Stelle’ Amarone della Valpolicella
“To spoil guests, an amarone della valpolicella is one of my holiday favorites,” Read says. You’ll find black cherry notes and aromas of clove, nutmeg and maple, and the Italian red pairs well with cream sauces, cheese and roasted nuts. “This is Christmas in a glass,” Read says.
Price range: $47-$70

Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Frizzante Secco
“This wine is so fun and approachable,” Yoneoka says. “It’s dry yet fruity.” A sparkling red from Italy, she says this is the ultimate pairing for charcuterie.
Price range: $20-$24

For Christmas Dinner

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay
Yoneoka calls Aussie chardonnay profiles generously tropical with spice, and she’s partial to the 2018 Filius. For food pairings, she says, “Think gratin, roasted chicken and creamy pasta, such as truffle agnalotti or gnocchi.”
Price range: $23-$28

Cranberry Cocktails
“Christmas is great for a cranberry cocktail,” De Los Santos says. “The tart profile awakens the palette after a hearty meal.” Personal taste is the real goal when it come to mixing, but he suggests simply: “Play around with cranberry, gin, Campari, lemon and sugar.”

For the New Years Toast

Spanish Cava
“[For] a large guest list, a Spanish cava is the best value,” Read says. The affordable sparkling wine can be white or rosé, but Read recommends the white Codorniu Anna Blanc de Blancs Brut Cava.
Price range: $10-$14

Peter Lauer Brut Sekt Riesling
“For a traditional sparkling that carries itself  with purity and precision, this is great to start a festive night,” Yoneoka says, adding that it complements oysters, caviar and most hors d’oeuvres. Her preferred vintage is 2012.
Price range: $38-$45

Aperol Spritz
Prefer a cocktail twist to ring in the new year? De Los Santos suggests an Aperol spritz. “The cocktail offers a sweet, effervescent, slightly bitter alternative,” he says. It’s a simple build, only needing 2 ounces prosecco, 1.25 ounces Aperol and a splash of soda water.

Unique Champagnes
“For something nicer, a Franciacorta from Italy is my favorite bubbly,” says Read, recommending a Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige. Its   texture is soft and silky with very fine bubbles and a crisp, dry finish. Expect a price range of $35-$50. If you’re open to spending more: Egly-Ouriet Vignes de Vrigny. “It’s unlike any other champagne and costs around $80,” Yoneoka says.