The holidays, for many, are a time to be with friends and family. It’s the time of year when we can all get together, be thankful for each other, and enjoy the finer things in life. And for many, that has meant the giving and drinking of wine.
However, there can be a lot riding on selecting the right wine this time of year. For some, that means trying to find the right bottle (or bottles) to pair with that multi-course Christmas dinner you spent weeks preparing. For others, it means finding a gift that’s a perfect match for its recipient, and passes along all the joy and generosity with which it’s given.
As such, we got a chance to talk with Christine Collier, the Winery Director for Willamette Valley Vineyards, an Oregon-based family of vineyards producing superior cool-climate varietals with the goal of truly capturing the elegance of Oregon wine-making. Christine delved into how she approaches making those critical wine selections around the holidays and what goes into the perfect food pairing or the ideal gift.
Balance Holiday Feasts with the Right Wine
The holidays are frequently a time when amateur chefs get a chance to pull out all the stops. With your friends and family making up a captive audience, one can really show off with everything from a beautiful roast to mouth-watering deserts. However, that can also make finding just the right bottle of wine to accompany what might be the best meal of the year all the more difficult. With such myriad flavors and dishes being served, how do you find the right wine?
“Holiday meals tend to involve multiple dishes, which puts a lot of competing flavors on the table,” says Collier. “Well-balanced wines with moderate alcohol, unoaked or integrated oak influence, smooth tannins and lively acidity to cleanse the palate and invite another sip or bite are the most versatile when it comes to food pairing. Good choices include pinot noir and Rhone-based varietals for red wines, pinot gris, lightly-oaked chardonnays and dry rieslings for white wines, and a dry rosé, which is a perfect hybrid.”
Holidays can also mean the largest dinner gathering of the year, frequently marking one of the only times a home chef has to prepare a meal for a dozen or more people. With so many people to appeal to, Collier suggests varying selection as the night continues.
“For a larger gathering, I enjoy opening a sparkling wine, dry white wine and red wine during as a welcome wine to pair with appetizers,” Collier continued. “Then, for the main meal, I like to set my table with a white wine and red wine glass to invite my guests to pour three-to-four ounces of each to pair with their meal. For dessert, if I am serving fruit-based desserts, pairing with a late harvest riesling or semi-sparkling muscat is a perfect companion and finale, and if I am serving chocolate-based or cheese courses, I opt for a rich and smooth port-wine. “
A Unique Wine for Everyone on Your List
Choosing a wine to give as a gift can be an equally harrowing task for the uninitiated. Wine makes an excellent gift, but it’s also one that presents challenges. Each person, and each wine, is totally unique, making it incredibly difficult to find a perfect match. Collier, though, believes that, like with most gifts, it’s the personal touch you can add that really makes the gift.
“The most important part about gifting a bottle of wine for me is the story that I am passing along. I love to share wines that communicate their sense of place or the special people who made them. Examples of this would be a single vineyard designate like our Bernau Block Pinot Noir that is sourced from one 15-acre block at our Estate Vineyard or our Vintage 40 Pinot Noir made by Oregon wine pioneer Bill Fuller, celebrating his 40th vintage in Oregon and return to winemaking at the age of 78.”
For Collier, combining a great bottle of wine with a personal narrative is just the way to finding a treasured gift that will be long remembered.
“A story shows considerable thought, is an excellent conversation starter and easily overcomes the intimidation factor of wine,” said Collier. “If you have a personal connection to a particular bottle of wine, like having discovered it while barrel tasting at your favorite winery or ordering it at your favorite restaurant, there are many ways to provide storytelling meaning to your gift. Ordering wine directly from a winery can also enhance the gift if you request to have the winemaker or owner sign it to your recipients.”
Wine can be the Secret Ingredient to Holiday Cheer
The holidays is a wonderful time to be with the people we love, and a wonderful wine can become a beautiful part of that memory. And, as daunting as it can be to get that bottle that says exactly what you want or makes an ideal match to your special meal, it’s often not as hard as it can feel. A little knowledge and understanding goes a long way, and ultimately it’s the personal connection that you develop with a wine that matters the most.
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