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Our Top 3 Tips for Holiday Dinner Wine Pairings

12.11.15

Our Top 3 Tips for Holiday Dinner Wine Pairings

Throughout our more than three decades of making distinctive Napa Valley wines, we’ve hosted our fair share of holiday dinners. We’ve had the pleasure of working with, and at times hosting, some truly great chefs and wine professionals, and in the expert hands of our Executive Chef Trevor Eliason, our own culinary program has evolved and expanded.

Over the years, we’ve learned that finding those almost transcendent food and wine matches can be exhilarating – yet, for many, it can also be extremely intimidating. As the holiday entertaining season reaches its peak, we’d like to help take the pressure off, with a few of the best wine and dinner pairing tips we’ve learned along the way.

Wine Pairing Tips: Our TOP 3

broiled lobster tail, lightly brushed with herbed butter
Wine Pairing Tip #1: When entertaining a crowd, keep the flavors simple but exquisite.

Holiday entertaining is hard enough, without breaking out Julia Child’s three-page recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. In truth, a complicated list of ingredients can often result in a complicated set of flavors with which to pair your wine. After more than 30 years of entertaining, we’ve found that broiled lobster tail, lightly brushed with herbed butter, is still one of the loveliest complements to our Napa Valley Chardonnay. And it takes less than 15 minutes to cook!

Wine Pairing Tip #2: Decide if the wine – or the food – is to be the star.

If you want to highlight truly special wines, plan the menu around the wine, rather than vice versa. Obviously, that’s our typical modus operandi when we host dinners at our Oakville wineries. We want our menu not to just to pair well with our wines, but to elevate them. Sometimes, though, we don’t have weeks to plan, prep and taste in advance. So, a basic pairing cheat sheet never hurts. We’ve shared some favorite no-fail pairings below. But, first…

Wine Pairing Tip #3: Don’t forget dessert.

There’s a whole category of fortified and late-harvest wines, each of which make a delicious dessert all on their own, provide a sweet contrast to an end of meal cheese course, and harmonize beautifully with a variety of desserts. Just remember to keep the dessert less sweet than the wine.

For more holiday wine pairing ideas, explore our holiday wine catalog here.

Wine and Holiday Dinner Pairings Cheat Sheet

Crab Salad on Brioche
For Fresh White Fish, Rich Shellfish, or Smoked Salmon Wine Pairing

A well-made Chardonnayhas the textural richness to cut through shellfish dishes, and the delicate minerality to complement an array of holiday appetizers, like thinly sliced Smoked Salmon Canapes or Crab Salad on Brioche.

For Roasted Game Hen, Duck or Pork Tenderloin Wine Pairing

The bright acidity, ripe berry tones and fruit-floral aromatics of great Pinot Noir, like those from our sister winery in the Russian River Valley, can be a compelling match for medium-weight mains like crispy-skinned Holiday Duck or Pork Tenderloin.

pan-seared New York Steak
For Porterhouse, Prime Rib, Filet Mignon or ANY GREAT CUT OF BEEF…

The body, structure and broad bold flavors ofCabernet Sauvignonmake it our favorite accompaniment to holiday Prime Rib or a pan-seared New York Steak. There’s just something extraordinary about the interplay between beef’s complex proteins and fat and the dark fruit and tannins in a great Napa Valley Cabernet.

As for Dessert…

far niente Holiday Collection

We love pairing the honeyed notes and refreshing acidity of late-harvest wine with traditional Flans and Custards,Vanilla Poached Pears, and Pumpkin Pie. Occasionally, we’ll skip dessert and go straight to the cheese board. A salty Bleu d’Auvergne, a drizzle of honey and a wine evocative of citrus blossom, apricot and clove… Is it time for dessert yet?

For more holiday wine information, come explore our holiday wine catalog.

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