You gotta love the holidays. When else can smoked-salmon dip, sage stuffing, oven roasted turkey, country ham, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, tamales and vegan coconut-pecan pie all share the same plate?
This year we’re embracing the abundance of the holiday table and going all-out on wine, too. With red, white, rosé and sparkling to choose from, everybody gets to enjoy what they like best. Even better, the incredible diversity of grape varieties and wine styles in the Rogue Valley means you can surprise and delight your friends and family by setting your table with lesser-known–but still perfect–pairings for every holiday flavor.
When choosing white wines for holiday celebrations, look for bottles that are crisp and refreshing while still possessing a bit of weight.
Awen Winecraft’s 2019 Grenache Blanc is a perfect example of a white wine that’s both elegant and substantial. Made from 100% grenache blanc that is partially barrel fermented to add texture without overpowering the wine, it’s a sophisticated combination of orchard and tropical fruits with a mineral finish – think apple with hints of pear and mineral notes. “This beautiful wine can be paired with almost anything, from a fall barbecue of fresh halibut to smoked salmon,” says Kat Scott of Awen Winecraft. “It’s also perfect with fruit salad, grilled peaches or homemade apple pie for Thanksgiving.”
In the Rogue Valley, warmer summers coax out ripe peach and melon flavors from Viognier, making it a great choice for a fuller bodied white wine with lush fruit and bright acidity. Great bottlings include the 2019 Steelhead Run Vineyard Viognier from Quady North and the 2017 Pioneer Label Viognier from Valley View Winery.
Rich roasts, stews and braises beg for a wine with serious structure and plush fruit. Reds to the rescue! Dozens of red varieties grow in the Rogue Valley, but we love to reach for Spanish and Italian varieties for the holidays, which can balance the sweetness of festive dishes with ripe red fruit and a refreshing touch of herbal qualities.
DANCIN Vineyards’ 2019 Tribute Barbera delivers soft tannins and lush fruit, making it eminently drinkable with or without food. “We would choose a semi traditional sweet-potato casserole,” says Dan Marca when asked about ideal Barbera pairings. “Instead of a toasted-marshmallow topping, the Barbera would pair better with a toasted mixture of pecans, blue cheese and bacon on top. The sweetness of the sweet potato, the fattiness of the bacon and the herbaceous notes of the blue cheese all work together to bring out the best of the Barbera.” Looking for something truly unique, try the 2016 Icon Souspire from Belle Fiore Winery — a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Barbera – a perfect match for your turkey feast.
Sangiovese, an Italian grape variety made famous in Chianti, is another ideal choice for Thanksgiving in particular. It makes characterful, medium-bodied wines that show off earthy red fruit underpinned with moderate tannin. These wines are exceptionally versatile, pairing effortlessly with everything from pearl onions to pumpkin pie. Check out Rogue Valley Sangiovese’s from Cliff Creek Cellars, DANCIN Vineyards and Awen Winecraft.
Tempranillo is another great option for holiday tables that feature roasted or braised meats, where the earthy red-cherry notes of the wine can offer a resonant yet riper counterpart to the tart cranberry. It’s also one of the flagship red grapes in Southern Oregon, which means there are many options to choose from.
The 2018 Estate Tempranillo from Weisinger Family Winery, 2015 Red Blanket Tempranillo from Red Lily Vineyards, the 2016 Rock Reserve Tempranillo from Schultz Glory Oaks, and the 2018 Tempranillo Reserve from Schmidt Family Vineyards are all excellent places to start.
Nothing says “party” like the crisp pop of a bottle of sparkling wine — and lucky for us, Southern Oregon is fizzing with top-tier bubbly of every variety you can think of (and probably some you haven’t even imagined).
Naumes Suncrest Winery offers several traditional-method sparkling wines inspired by the Champagne region of France, including white and rosé bottlings.
Rellik Winery’s 2020 Sparkling Grenache and Quady North’s 2017 Q-Vee, a sparkling rosé of Cabernet Franc, are also refined, elegant choices for pairing with play-off night chips and dip, charcuterie, or other pre-dinner nibbles. When visiting Rellik Winery, enjoy a wood fired pizza and don’t forget to say hello to the alpacas.
Think red wines can’t sparkle? Think again. Troon Vineyard’s FIZZante will surprise anybody who’s still convinced all bubbly is pink or white. Inspired by Italian sparkling red wines like Lambrusco, FIZZante is dry and complex, with just the right amount of fizz to reset the palate for rich holiday meals.
“We love our FIZZante with pizza — which we think qualifies as a holiday meal!” says Troon winegrower Craig Camp. But, for a more traditional approach, he recommends serving it chilled with holiday hams and, in particular, Thanksgiving turkey. The bubbles and bright fruity flavors “pair equally well with light or dark meat.”
Looking for a bubbly that’s on the sweeter side? Try the 2016 Sister’s Dream from Paschal Vineyard and Winery. This slightly sweet and semi-sparkling blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling marries all the tried and true Thanksgiving wine choices into a single, perfect pairing white blend. Make sure to say hello to Kevin, the goose that thinks he’s a swan, when visiting Paschal. Jolee Rosé from Del Rio Vineyards’ is a Rogue Valley favorite. This sweet and lightly spritzy wine has lovely white flower aromatics with lush tropical fruit and citrus. Both are excellent pairings to your holiday table.
– Margarett Waterbury