Tetherow Sommelier Kevin Gilman Makes Picking Holiday Wines a Snap

Whether you’re looking for a red, a white or something bubbly, he’s got you covered

By Kevin Gilman


The holidays are a special time of year for spending time with family, eating and drinking. People spend a lot of time looking for that one unique beverage to compliment the meal. But holiday dinners are a feast of diverse foods and ingredients, so picking the ideal beverage to impress your guests and family can be difficult. I picked out a few of my favorite holiday libations that I personally enjoy when the winter holidays roll around.

wineFor me the holidays mean celebration, and nothing says celebration like bubbles. Walking into a holiday party with a bottle of small-grower Champagne sets the right mood. Try Pierre Péters Cuvee Reserve “Blanc de Blanc” Champagne, Non-Vintage. It’s 100% chardonnay, and it’s downright chalky, doughy and delicious. If you prefer to make an impression with something a little more well-known, Pol Roger Brut Reserve “White Foil” Champagne, Non-Vintage, is awesome — mineral-driven, elegant and extremely versatile with food. Champagne is one of the great food wines, so you’ll always have a match in the glass no matter what your host is serving, from a plate of prosciutto and salumi to prime rib dinner.

While Champagne can take a toll on your wallet rather quickly, a couple other more price-friendly bubble picks include Domaine Romain Collet, Cremant de Bourgogne, Non-Vintage. It has an intense bubble structure with vibrant acidity and strong citrus notes. Also pop a cork on a bottle of California’s Chandon “Blanc de Noirs” Non-Vintage. It has deep spicy flavors with blood orange peel and baked bread and can easily be found in town for around $20.

When it comes to white wines for the festive season I love wines that are crisp, dry, aromatic and mineral-driven; wines that are great for social settings and great for light appetizers. One of my favorite wines right now is the 2014 Love & Squalor Riesling. Coming from northern Oregon vineyards, this Riesling is dry and crisp with a wonderful stone fruit profile along with citrus, green apple and a hint of tropical fruits and fresh herbs. Being a little lower in alcohol, this wine is very easy drinking. Another great one is the 2013 Domaine Castera, Jurancon Sec. Hailing from Southwestern France, this wine is a stunner for the price — acidic and briny with peach overtones and a golden pear finish. It’s great with virtually anything you can find to eat and around $11 a bottle retail.

Those who are looking for a little bigger, richer white wine to go with your holiday meals, try the 2013 Eyrie Pinot Blanc, from Dundee Hills, Oregon. One of the oldest wineries in the state, Eyrie makes amazing wine. The Pinot Blanc tastes like a mix of green fruits and fresh herbs, with crisp acidity and a very viscous mouth feel with a nutty finish. Very good with all aspects of holiday meals.

For the red wine drinkers out there, it’s very hard to go wrong with Pinot Noir over the holidays. In my opinion, Pinot Noir is the most versatile food wine out there, and in Oregon there are plenty of great ones to choose from. For classic holiday meals lean toward Pinots produced in the Eola-Amity American Viticultural Area, with their plum, currant and 5-spice flavors, or the Chehalem Mountains AVA for Pinot’s with flavors of cherry, black tea and cinnamon.

For the non-Pinot drinker, Barberas are really juicy, full-bodied wines from Piedmont, Italy that aren’t loaded in tannin, so they pair well with holiday birds like goose and turkey. The 2014 Cantine Valpane Barbera “Rosso Pietro”, is a wonderful easy-drinker. A natural wine made with native yeasts, the wine is aged in tank and bottle for 12-15 months, and has great flavors of spicy cherries and earth, with enough tannin to get your attention, but not over power.

If you are looking for a drink after your meal is finished try a sip of Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. A grappa-based digestif that is aged in French oak with a variety of herbs and botanicals. An ounce over a few rocks of ice with lemon twist is the perfect way to unwind after a big meal.