No 'Wining' About Holiday Dinner Pairings

Friday, December 19th 2008, 1:41 pm
By: News 9

By Gina Petruccelli,

OKLAHOMA CITY -- interviewed two local wine shops to get their recommendations for wine pairings with traditional and non-traditional holiday meals.

"Traditional holiday meals are some of the hardest to pair because they're not easily enhanced," James Woodward, Chief Operating Officer of Woodward's Wines UNcommon said.

Woodward said it's important to avoid heavy red wines when you're eating turkey, ham, stuffing and dressing. That's because tannins, which are chemical compounds found in stems, seeds, grape skins and oak barrels, can cause wine to be more astringent, which doesn't pair well with dryer meats.

The least tannic reds are Pinot Noir because that grape has a delicate, thin skin. Woodward said Pinot Noir is nicknamed the 'lady's grape' and it's the most difficult to grow. It's also a great red to pair with turkey and ham. Woodward recommends these Pinots for red fans: Girasole Pinot Noir Mendocino, Cali., an organic wine, $15. Barra is another great organic wine from Mendocino, $22. The Opolo Pinot Noir from Paso Robles, Cali., $29, is an inky black wine that Woodward said is an absolute knock out. The Lafond Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara, $29, makes for another great pairing.

Stan Stack with Beau's Wine Bin and Spirit Shoppe recommends dryer wines to pair with turkey.

For red fans who are planning a traditional holiday meal, the Smoking Loon California Pinot Noir, $10, is a bargain. Stack also said the Moobuzz Pinot Noir from Sonoma, $20, is a nice wine, and a classically delicious Oregon A to Z Pinot Noir is a steal at $18.

Stack said Pinot Noirs also make a good pairing for roast beef while he would stick to a Cabernet Sauvignon for a pork dinner. He doesn't recommend Merlot, unless the grape is part of a blend because its original intention was to soften a cabernet sauvignon, not stand alone.

For whites with turkey or ham, it's important to avoid wines that are too sweet or too dry. Muscat varietals are very sweet, and may be paired ok with ham but not turkey. The high acidity in Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay is a classic contradiction to holiday fare, Woodward said.
Viognier, which is not too sweet or dry, is ideal.

"If you're wanting to take a gift bottle, and all you know is they like white, you're taking a chance with a dry or sweet wine, but Viognier is an easy choice," Woodward said.

Woodward recommends the Perry Creek Viognier, $15, from El Dorado, Cali.

If you enjoy something fruitier, Riesling is a good bet. Woodward said what makes this sweeter wine a good pairing is the sweetness comes from a fresh fruit flavor not a sugary sweetness. Naked Wineries Tease Riesling from Oregon, $15, is a fun choice.

Gewurztraminer is a cross in flavors between a Viognier and Riesling and also makes a good pairing for turkey or ham. The Madrona from El Dorado, $15, is a steal.

Stack gave his three picks for the perfect whites with traditional holiday fare. The Pine Ridge Viognier Chenin Blanc from Napa is a fruiter wine, $14. If you're not opposed to a French wine, the Lucien Albrechy Pinot Blanc, $15, is a simple choice. If you want to support an Oklahoma wine maker, this Oklahoma owned Napa Valley Honig vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is a great pick, $16.

"Wine is a food group. The French truly believe that," Stack said, and so does he.

For heartier meats Stack recommends richer reds. The Dead Letter Office California Shiraz is well worth its $36 price tag. Stack said the Tamber Bey Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa is just wonderful, $34.

For a less pricey Cabernet, go with the Medalla Real from Chile. It's a top-rated single estate wine and it's a bargain at $20. Vertex from Napa Valley is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot and Syrah, $18. The Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena, Cali. is also great choice for a non-traditional meal, $20.

The Joullian vineyards in Carmel Valley, Cali. are also Oklahoma owned. Their 2005 Zinfandel, $18, is a great wine for pork roast, Stack said.

Red Zinfandel is the way to go for a pork roast, Woodward believes. Calcareous Vineyards Twisted Sisters Red Zinfandel from Paso Robles Cali., $29, is a wine you can't beat. It's bold and peppery flavor is stunning, Woodward said. He also recommends the TBD Mendocino Red Zinfandel, $10, or the California Zinfandel R&B Swingsville, $14.

Woodward said what's great about many of these wines is they won't break the bank and they're easy to drink and enjoy.

"It's difficult to buy a $10-20 gift that people will enjoy, but wine is easy," Stack agreed. "How many ties and belts can you have?"

The current trend in wine is going toward blends, which is a wine that combines different grape varietals. Blends are an excellent choice for a more non-traditional holiday meal like a rib roast, roast beef, steak or red meat meal.

Miramont Eclipse from California is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, $14. This blend bring out the best in each of the grapes Woodward said, illuminating the fruity flavors in Zinfandel, the spiciness of Syrah and the rich density of a good Cabernet Sauvignon. The fun part is the label, which features photographs of an eclipse from NASA's Hubbel Telescope.

Lava Rock from Napa, $15, refers to the volcanic soil that makes wine growing so easy in California. It's a blend of mostly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Stephen Vincent Crimson, $15, is a spicy wine blend of 75 percent syrah and 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

And for a more balanced wine, Woodward recommends Paso Robles, California's Midnight Cellars Full Moon Red, $16, a richer wine blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you're looking to spend a little more during the holidays, Stack recommends these wines as the bottles to treat yourself or someone else to.

Shea Wine Cellars Willamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Noir, $52 is unbelievable, Stack said. For cabernet sauvignon fans, the Laura Zahtila Vineyards Beckstoffer Vine Georges III from Napa is a wonderful full bodied wine at $55.

Stack said selling wine is about trying to make people happy. He often gets call on Christmas from wives thanking him for helping with the perfect gift for their husbands, and husbands calling to also give him a "thank you."

"It's very personal, subjective," Stack said, adding that wine is supposed to add something to the meal.

After all, no one's palette is the same.