Great Holiday Pairings With Rogue Valley Wine

By Margarett Waterbury

Think of it as the great annual trade-off: As the days get shorter, the parties get livelier.

 As we head into the season for holiday soirées, we consulted with Rogue Valley food and wine experts for their favorite pairing tips, from appetizers to desserts. Here’s your handy guide to planning festive dinners — complete with Rogue Valley wines from your fall Discovery Club package — all winter long.

 Red, White or Rosé? You Don’t Have to Choose

Some wine regions are known for specific styles of wine. Not the Rogue Valley. With over 70 grape varieties thriving in here, there’s a wine to match every style of festive meal.  

 With so many amazing small farms, vegetables often occupy a place of honor on holiday tables in the Rogue Valley. Winter salads with ingredients like squash, apples, chicories, kale, nuts, pears or citrus pop alongside well-rounded medium bodied white wines like Del Rio Vineyard’s 2021 Vineyard Road Cuveé with its beautiful texture, vibrant floral notes, and elegant fruit that ends with a creamy finish. Heartier vegetarian mains like stuffed portobello mushrooms can benefit from a white wine with a little more weight, like DANCIN Vineyards 2019 Capriccio Chardonnay, which spends 6 months in French oak barrel.

Rosé wine just goes with Thanksgiving dinner. It’s crisp and palate cleansing, and it can stand up to turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, but doesn’t overpower any of these dishes. Hummingbird Estates deep-pink rosé made from Pinot Noir brings plenty of fruit and acid to the meal and can stand up to everything a traditional Thanksgiving table dishes out. Another great choice is a rosé from Quady North Winery, including the 100% Grenache Rosé, which was included in the summer club shipment and is available at the Discovery Club wine shop.

 Festive meals featuring lamb or beef call for a red wine with enough structure and body to stand up to rich flavors. A braised lamb shank, for instance, would pair really well with a bigger red like Red Hill’s Cellars Syrah, which spent 20 months in 100% French oak. Other great picks from your Fall Discovery shipment are the 2017 Tempranillo Grand Reserve from Trium Wines, which is a full-bodied well-balanced wine that stands up perfectly to meat dishes; or the 94 point 2019 Mourvèdre from StoneRiver Vineyards – a perfect pairing for braised, roasted or stewed meats as well as hearty fish and vegetable dishes, like salmon, tuna, lentils, eggplant, mushrooms and root vegetables.

End on a Sweet Note

It’s not a holiday without a little something sweet — and fortunately for dessert lovers, there are plenty of Rogue Valley wines that complement our favorite festive treats. If you have an apple pie or pear tart in the oven, reach for Foris Vineyards 2016 late-harvest Gewürztraminer. Floral aromatics and a honeyed character make it a beautiful match for orchard-fruit flavors or looking for something with just a hint of sweetness, try the 2017 Muscat from Trium Wines – a perfect accompaniment to fruity desserts.

 If chocolate is more your speed, try a sweet red dessert wine like Naumes Family Vineyards’ 2017 Garnacha Port-Style Wine, or Weisinger Family Winery’s Barile. At 20% ABV, this fortified wine has enough body to stand up to chocolate torte or truffles. Plans call for a cookie swap? Bring along a bottle of chilled 2017 Sister’s Dream from Paschal Winery. This slightly sweet, delicately effervescent sparkler pairs so well with everything from shortbread to snickerdoodles, you might even be tempted to give up milk for good. 

Ring in 2023 with a Rogue Valley Bubbly and an Epic Cheese Board

Nothing signals, “it’s New Year’s Eve” like the pop of a sparkling-wine cork. Rogue Valley sparklers include traditional “Champagne-style” bottlings as well as playful bubbly made with unusual grapes and different techniques. That means there’s a bottle to pair with every imaginable hors d’oeuvre, from oysters on the half shell to Aunt Carol’s famous pigs in a blanket.

 Whatever form your new year’s party takes, what better than a cheese board to help that your bubbles truly shine? “Sparkling will go with any cheese,” says Marguerite Merritt, cheese emissary and marketing manager at Rogue Creamery. “The tradition is to pair it with a bloomy- or washed-rind cheese, because it will cut through funky flavors or the fattiness of a triple-cream cheese, but sparkling wine is also beautiful with blue cheese.”

 Ready to build your own show stopping cheese board? It’s all about variety. Merritt says to choose cheeses that vary in texture and intensity. Select a combination of fresh cheeses like mozzarella or queso Oaxaca, soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert, firm cheeses like cheddar or Gouda, flavored cheeses like Rogue Creamery’s Rogue’s Mary rosemary-flavored cheddar, funky cheeses like Époisses or Taleggio, and blue cheeses like Rogue River Blue.

 But don’t stop there. Merritt says there are five other elements that shouldn’t be overlooked when building the perfect board: “Sweet like honey or preserves; salty and savory like charcuterie, crunchy like nuts or crackers, and juicy like fresh fruit or olives. When I’m building a deluxe cheese board, I like to add one element from each of those categories to create diversity in texture, flavor, and lots of mix-and-match opportunities for pairings.”

 Try Wooldridge Creek Winery and Creamery’s 2020 Sparkling Brut made from Chardonnay or the 2020 Sparkling Rosé – a blend of  Tempranillo, Syrah and Zinfandel, paired with their farm-made cheeses, olives and pickled vegetables. For a fun and colorful alternative, the 2021 Sparkling Grenache from Rellik Winery is a great choice. For a more traditional approach seek out Naumes Family Vineyards’ Pinot Noir based Diamond Cuvee 2 or Blanc de Noir sparkling wines. Prefer a still wine, check out the 2021 Rogue Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Peter William Vineyard (in your fall Discovery shipment) for a bright and crisp yet floral and complex wine that brings acid and fruit balance to both creamy and salty cheeses.  

 Fruit-forward sparklers like Troon Vineyard’s Piquette! or Sound & Vision Wine Co.’s Lady Luck Sparkling Zinfandel also stand up beautifully to these complex flavors. Or, if you’ve leaned toward stronger-flavored cheeses like blue cheese or washed-rind cheeses, you can also pick a red wine with bright fruit and moderate acidity. Quady North’s GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre) blend or Goldback Wines 2021 Carbonic Grenache, which uses carbonic maceration to keep fruit notes lively, are both excellent options.