It's game time and I don't mean football. I love my football time too, but I am talking about getting my holiday game plan together and curating my starting lineup of wines for all the holiday festivities and feasts. My holiday wine collection always includes:
This is my go-to red as it pairs so easily with all the fall flavors and is also light enough to be served during cocktail hour as well.
I hold back several bottles from my spring/summer collection specifically for Thanksgiving. If you have not yet tried it, rose and turkey is a winning combination.
Unoaked Chardonnay or white Burgundy
To pair with lighter dishes, fish, oysters and cheese courses.
To pair with deeply flavored dishes such as beef roasts, braises, duck, and lamb. For me, I tend to splurge on ultra luxury bottles in this category. While I have nothing against Cabernet Sauvignon, I tend to gravitate toward lighter reds. As such, I only pick two or three bottles for my holiday collection and select truly spectacular examples of Cabernet to showcase at a very special holiday dinner.
Sparkling wine or Champagne
Sparkling rose will make an appearance from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve and pairs unbelievably well with buffalo wings, pizza, pumpkin pie, just about any appetizer and is super sexy paired with caviar. The versatility of sparkling wine makes it a must have for everything from casual game day fare to the most glamorous occasions. Always buy a few more bottles than you "think" you need as bubbly also makes a perfect hostess gift.
Of course the best way to find the wines for this very important collection is to go wine tasting. This is my preferred way to discover delicious new wines as well as be reintroduced to some long time faves. By now the bulk of the harvest craziness has subsided and tasting rooms are less crowded. Maybe it's just me, but I feel tasting experiences are so much more enjoyable and personalized this time of year. Perhaps it is because tasting room staff have more time to spend with guests and are in a festive mood as they count down to the holidays? Whatever the reason, there is a noticeable and much appreciated difference.
Recently, I spent the day touring the towns of St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa Valley's northern region. The weather provided a perfect backdrop for a cozy fall day just ahead of the recent storm that drenched the west coast. I started my day with the Signature Firepit experience at Trinchero Napa Valley. It really was hard to decide between tasting inside the gorgeous tasting room with plush sofas and stunning furnishings and the luxe firepit setting. Ultimately, the firepit beckoned. Hello relaxation! I wrapped up in the provided soft fleece blanket and sank back into the deep comfy chair. I blissfully meditated on the warm glow of the firepit while I sipped through a vertical flight of their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. I've sampled a lot of wines in my time, but I was truly blown away with these dark red beauties. But the Cloud's Nest Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon really stood out for me. I may have even drooled a bit when fantasizing about how nicely it will pair with our prime rib Christmas dinner this year.
Now that I had my stomach growling, I meandered up to the charming city Calistoga for lunch. Admittedly taking the long way to view fall colors along some of country lanes that run across the valley connecting highway 29 to the Silverado trail. I made my made way to Evangeline, for their signature Shrimp and Grits. This darling French bistro with an incredible seasonal menu and fabulous wine selection never disappoints.
Afterward, I jaunted over to Tamber Bey Vineyards for a few bottles of their Pinot noir. Second to the turkey, Pinot noir always plays a starring role in my Thanksgiving menu planning. It just pairs so beautifully with the savory autumnal flavors of all the traditional holiday dishes. Tamber Bey's tasting room is housed within their equestrian estate that imparts a warm and rustic elegance. may select from more traditional flight tastings or indulge with their picnic lunch and wine tasting. If you're lucky, you may even get to nuzzle noses with and receive some friendly "neeeys" from the resident horses.
The final stop on my itinerary was Schramsberg Vineyards. On what can only be described as an enchanting story book setting, Schramsberg Vineyards is nestled on Napa Valley's Diamond Mountain. I know exactly what you're thinking, a sparkling wine house on Diamond Mountain, how perfect is that? Joyous anticipation fills my soul at the first glimpse of the iconic toasting frog statue, whimsically greeting guests from the middle of the lily pad filled pond.
I reserved the Cave Tour and Sparkling & Red Wine experience. No matter how many times I have visited, I still get goosebumps as I enter the caves and the wonderful musty cellar scent invites me to surrender all of my senses to this very special experience. I am a long time fan of their Brut Rose it is truly my favorite bubbly, however, I was not familiar with their still wines. Since my most favorite sparkling wine is made from Pinot noir I absolutely had to get to know their still wines on this trip and it was love at first sip.
The northern part of Napa Valley is filled with fabulous wineries and tasting rooms eager to welcome you. Book your reservations soon as space is limited and you'll want to stock your cellar soon as the holidays are upon us.
-The Vineyard Vixen