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Why You Should Stick to Classic Holiday Wine Pairings

The holidays are all about tradition and nostalgia. Even the most avant-garde chefs tend to stick to the classics when preparing a holiday menu—they might make a creative tweak or two, but the usual beloved suspects are always there. It’s only fitting that your wine pairings should follow suit.

The classics are classics for a reason; they’re tried and true, perfected over many decades of joyous celebration. Pinot noir and turkey, cabernet sauvignon and roast beef, sparkling wine and dessert—these are the pairings that work.

Skip the experimental pairings; this isn’t the time to try out a roast pork and petit verdot combo. Save your oxidized Jura whites and funky pét-nats for another occasion. Let the focus of your holiday meal be on long-held traditions, delicious comfort foods, and the wonderful company of your loved ones. These simple pairing tips for each course will make it easy!

When you welcome your guests, start with something light and refreshing to accompany appetizers like gougères, smoked salmon blinis, or an artfully arranged spread of cheeses and meats with a roasted garlic hummus with smoked paprika. You’ll want a crisp, high-acidity wine, like bubbles, rosé or pinot gris, to balance out the richness of your hors d’oeuvres. Try a silky Oregon pinot gris like 2020 The Four Graces Pinot Gris, which offers a burst of refreshing tropical and citrus fruit tinged with fragrant floral notes, or a vibrant rosé like 2020 Sebastiani Rosé that delights with juicy flavors of strawberry and watermelon and elegant rose petal accents.

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You can also give your guests options with our Double Bubble set. This duo includes Foley Sonoma’s creamy, lemon-zested Sparkling Wine and Banshee’s toasty, green apple-scented Ten of Cups Brut.

Everyone knows that the sides are the best part of the holiday meal! With so many varied options on the table, it can seem challenging to find a wine to suit them all—you may have brussels sprouts, green beans, soufflé, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and macaroni and cheese all being served at once, and perhaps a vegetarian entrée as well! The key is to find a mid-weight white or a light red that can support the weight and fat of the heartier foods without overpowering the lighter dishes. Chardonnay, chenin blanc, or a white Bordeaux-style blend are all ideal choices. The 2020 Three Rivers Artz Vineyard Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc Blend beautifully combines the crisp citrus and intriguing aromatics of sauvignon blanc with the creamy, elegant palate of sémillon.

Another great option is our Chardonnay Showstoppers set, which includes three textured, balanced Foley Family favorites: Ferrari-Carano 2019 Tré Terre Chardonnay, Chalk Hill 2019 Estate Chardonnay, and Sebastiani 2019 Patrick’s Chardonnay.

For red wine drinkers, you can offer a light red like pinot noir—2017 Lincourt Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir is a cool-climate beauty from the Sta. Rita Hills that shines with delicate strawberry and cherry fruit spritzed with an irresistible spiced floral perfume.

Whichever meat you choose to serve for the main event, there’s a perfect pairing to make it sing. If you’re going with lighter meat, like pork, ham, duck, chicken, or turkey, stick to light, fruity reds with soft tannins, like pinot noir or grenache. Try 2017 Chalone Vineyard Estate Grenache, with smoky berry notes, to complement barbecued or smoked dishes, or the earthy, strawberry-and-rose kissed 2017 The Four Graces Foley Family Vineyard Pinot Noir alongside more delicate preparations.

For lamb, up the ante with a warming, spicy syrah or a juicy petite sirah or zinfandel. 2016 Banshee Broken Leg Vineyard Syrah is an Old World-style stunner from the Anderson Valley that offers savory, complex dark fruit, floral fragrance, and spice.

If you’re serving roast beef or prime rib, you’ll want a sturdy, structured wine with deep, inky fruit, like cabernet sauvignon, malbec, or petit verdot. 2018 Chalk Hill Malbec Petit Verdot is an alluring option with dark, powerful fruit, sophisticated leather and cigar box accents, and dense, chewy tannins.

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If you’ll have several meat options, consider our Perfect Pairings set, which includes a great variety to match every dish: Ferrari-Carano 2019 Dominique Chardonnay, Chalk Hill 2018 Pinot Noir, and Foley Johnson 2015 Handmade Cabernet Sauvignon.

There are endless options for delicious holiday desserts, and many of them tend to end up on the table at once! Find a versatile wine that will be just as at home with your sweet potato pie as your chocolate torte, poached pears, fruit tarts, or cookie plate. It’s easier than it seems—skip the sticky sweet stuff (your dessert has enough sugar on its own!) and stick to creamy, delicious sparkling wine.

At the end of a long meal, the lively acidity and perky bubbles are the perfect pick-me-up. Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé Crémant d’Alsace is a festive choice, with a pretty pink hue and soft floral scent to complement the juicy apple and stone fruit notes.

If you must have something sweet, keep it light—like 2018 Kuleto Estate Moscato, a surprisingly refreshing, low-alcohol dessert wine with zesty lemon flavors and stunning floral aromatics.

You could also choose a table wine with just a hint of sweetness like 2017 Lucien Albrecht Réserve Gewürztraminer, redolent of sweet cinnamon spice, and supple tropical fruit, or 2020 Firestone Vineyard Riesling with fragrant honeysuckle and citrus blossom notes.

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