Last week, we discussed pairing wines with your Thanksgiving feast. Today, with Christmas approaching, it’s time to think about wines to enjoy with that holiday dinner.
There are two approaches to the meal, depending on whether it looks like. For Thanksgiving with turkey, uncork high-acid wines such as pinot noir and chardonnay. If you opt for prime rib, tri tip, lamb or duck confit, bold reds are more appropriate.
It’s always a good idea to present an array of wines across your dining table to provide choices. Here are a few sure bets — at various price points — that will work in either situation. All of these wines won gold or better at the annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, which took place last month at the always festive Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or buy them directly from the wineries.
Jones of Washington 2018 Estate Vineyards Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope, $14: Victor Palencia, who grew up in Prosser, continues to prove that he’s one of the leading chardonnay producers in the Pacific Northwest. His winemaking talents and Jones family fruit combined to earn this fresh 2018 release best of class at the Invite. This opens with classic aromas of apple and lemon/lime en route to delivering a clean mouthful of bright lemon, lime and green apple flavors that include a nip of apple peel in its juicy, bright finish. Earlier in the year, the Jones of Washington 2017 Reserve Chardonnay was voted as the best white wine of the Cascadia International Wine Competition.
Woodward Canyon Winery 2016 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon , Washington, $59: The Small family in the Walla Walla Valley continues to come up large in blind judging, and their flagship cab — which they first produced in 1992 — again shows off the considerable skills of winemaker Kevin Mott. Using fruit from famed Champoux Vineyard, historic Sagemoor Vineyard, Spring Creek Vineyard and their own estate, Mott crafted a red that shows off black cherries and blackberries in its nose, then rich black cherry, blueberry and plum fruit in its flavors. He skillfully managed the slightly sweet black cherry skin tannins.
Anne Amie Vineyards 2018 Cuvée A Amrita Sparkling White Wine, Willamette Valley $15: Earlier this year, Thomas Houseman earned the equivalent of double gold medal at a Wine Press Northwest magazine tasting for his 2017 Amrita Cuvée A Sparkling Wine White. This fall, his 2018 edition merited a gold medal at The Invite. The wide-ranging work, which grew its production by nearly 50 percent, leads with riesling but is trailed closely by a handful of other varieties. All the grapes came from their two estate vineyards, Twelve Oaks and Anne Amie, and it is easy to sniff out the influence of riesling, gewürztraminer and viognier. That nose is dominated by citrus, floral and mineral notes. The palate is zippy and bright with a plentiful fizz that’s texturally reminiscent to Moscato d’Asti. Fresh fruit and clean florals lead to a dry finish. This comes in a crown cap, which reduces the fear factor that a cage and cork bring.
Rain Dance Vineyards 2018 Grand Oak Vineyard Estate Riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $24: Oregon’s North Willamette Valley shines with cool-climate varieties. Sadly, efforts with riesling by their winemakers go overlooked far too often. Bryan Weil, an emerging star for Alexana in the Dundee Hills, skillfully splits his time with Rain Dance and the Austin family. His work here with the vineyard established by Nick and Sheila Nicholas is alluring with whiffs of lime and white peach. Those are mirrored on the bright and racy palate that’s capped by a sense of minerality.
Mt. Hood Winery 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, $34: Rich Cushman grew up in Hood River, Oregon, on his way to becoming one of the most skilled winemakers in the Willamette Valley. More than a decade ago, he returned home and the Columbia Gorge wine industry has benefited. For the Bickford family, he’s produced a pinot noir with aromas of coffee, toasted oak and cherry, followed by flavors of bright cherry and coffee, then finishing with cranberry-like tannins.
Seven Falls Cellars 2015 Merlot, Wahluke Slope, $18: This young brand for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is now led by winemaker Reid Klei, a biology graduate of Eastern Washington University. His merlot off the warm Wahluke Slope from the historically hot 2015 vintage opens with plum, red currant, leafy green herbs and vanilla bean. The palate is ripe and rich with those same black fruit tones that come swaddled in mocha, toasted oak, and vanilla, all backed by ample tannins.
Columbia Crest 2017 Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley, $12: A year ago, Katie Nelson took the reins from recently promoted Juan Muñoz-Oca, and her team continues its tradition of producing some of the most nicely priced wines in the country. This latest release of syrah begins with late-summer blackberries, rosemary, smoked meat and cedar. Its palate stains as it moves through intensely dark fruit, pepper and vanilla, slowing down for a lengthy textured finish.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.