Tag Archives: Wine Parings

Christmas Wines at My House

Every year, I see a ton of people doing a “What to pair with your Holiday Meal” post.  Therefore my blog would not be complete without a similar post to finish off its first calendar year of existence.  However I’m just going to do a run down of what is being served at my house this Christmas and what I’m pairing with it. Perhaps you can glean some ideas from it. 


Assorted cheese including Humbolt Fog, Manchego, and Brie.

Stone ground wheat crackers

Veuve Clicquot N/V Champagne

 Light and Bubbly: I really love this Champagne.  It’s consistently a good value and widely available.  It is also a perfect intro to Champagne for people who don’t drink it on a regular basis as it focuses on pure fruit with hints of lemon curd and toasted brioche with a fine mousse and nicely balanced dosage. 

First Course

Pumpkin Bisque with holiday spices garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay

Buttery Beauty: Now I helped blend this wine so just be aware that I have a personal interest in it however I really like pairing it with this soup because the wine has such great intense flavors and it complements the intensity and the thickness of the soup.  It has intense notes of tropical fruits, brown baking spices and is dry with a full body.  The wine finishes cleanly with spices and toasted walnuts lingering.

Main Course

Brown Sugar Glazed Baked Ham

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds and Caramelized White Onions

Roasted Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes

Stuffing with Onions, Herbs and Spices

Homemade Cranberry Sauce.

Robert Mondavi Winery 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Spicy and Smoky: I love the Mondavi Reserve Cabernets and have several vintages in my cellar.  The ’99 is drinking very nicely right now and I wanted to share it with my family.  The notes of black currants are highlighted by some lovely fig and date notes that are beginning to develop adding to the complexity of the wine.  The tannins are soft and plush and the spices on the palate it makes a nice complement to the holiday meal. 

Philippe Raimbault “Mosaique” Pouilly-Fume 2008

Fresh and Grassy: With that much herbs being thrown around in my kitchen I must have a Sauvignon Blanc somewhere.  We found this wine on our last trip to France and I really love how the flavors of dried herbs, limes, and chalk mix together to create an old world wine with hints of new world styles in it. 


Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

Seasonal Yellow Pears with Salted Caramel Sauce

Beringer Nightingale 2006 Napa Valley

Sweet and Luscious: Again, in the interest of disclosure I work for the company that makes this wine however I have nothing to do with the production directly and I wasn’t working for them during this vintage.  I just really like it as a well balanced late-harvest wine that conveniently comes in a 375mL as there will not be enough people at my house to finish off a 750mL bottle of dessert wine. The grapes are affected by botrytis which gives the wine beautiful honey and sweet yellow pear aromas to complement the full, sweet body and lingering finish. 

As you can see it will be a busy weekend in the kitchen for me but I hope it will be an enjoyable meal for my family as we celebrate the Christmas Season.  For more information about how to pair wines with food see my earlier Blog post The Pirate’s Code of Wine and Food Pairings  (http://www.novacadamatre.com/?p=72).

Finally, Merry Christmas to you, my readers, and a wonderful and happy New Year’s as well.  Please drink responsibly and enjoy what you drink because life is too short not to drink great wines!

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it… :)

Every now and then there are days where I get frustrated at the world in general but those are fairly rare.  There are also days where I have to pinch myself that I get paid to make wine.  I had one of those days this week where the other winemakers and I were able to sit down, open a couple of bottles of wine, and pitch around tasting notes for marketing.  First I love writing tasting notes and it’s not often when you get a couple of people in the same room just discussing the wine for the sake of writing a single note.  It’s fun.  The power of suggestion definitely comes into play as distinctive descriptors are thrown around and mulled over by everyone else.  The wines are already in the bottle so we’re not trying to decide if we need to blend something in or make another addition.  It’s purely the winemakers trying to pull out the best ideas as to how to describe our wine now.  The four wines’ notes are listed below.

Souverain 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley

Zesty and Fruity

A clear lemon core with moderately intense aromas of key lime, passion fruit, mango, and wet chalk introduces this wine.  A dry palate with moderately high acid, Med + alcohol, and a tiny bit of oak tannins for texture finishes with flavors of lime zest, guava, wet chalk, and passion fruit with a moderate and clean length. Pair with fresh salads, herb crusted salmon, or roast chicken with tarragon sauce.

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay, Russian River

Buttery Beauty

A medium-gold core and intense aromas of pineapple, honey, and caramel are accented by a wisp of smoke on the nose.  A dry, creamy palate filled with poached pears, cardamom, caramel, and honeycomb balances a toasted French oak backdrop. Drink now or hold for more development of honeyed notes on the palate. Enjoy with blue cheese, creamy sun-dried tomato sauce over pasta, or cinnamon poached pears.

Souverain 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Power Punch

A deep ruby core is highlighted by intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, chocolate, cedar, and baking spices.  The dry palate and moderate acid are perfectly balanced by velvet textured tannins.  Flavors of chocolate, cloves, black cherry, ginger, cigar box, and lavender tease the senses leading to a long luxurious finish.  This wine will shine for years either by itself or paired with juicy steaks or Black forest cake.

Souverain 2006 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Power Punch

An amazing nose filled with black cherry, wild blackberries, cloves, and pomegranates highlighted by a deep ruby color is the introduction for this lovely wine.  Dry with dusty, fine grained tannins that mesh with baking spices, black fruits, and Tahitian vanilla for a long, lively finish is just the beginning of this wine’s life.  With the capacity to age over 15 years while developing richer notes of black mission fig and dates, this wine is a collector’s dream. When paired with the finest cuts of pepper crusted, aged beef this wine truly shines.

I love my job!!! 🙂

The “Pirate’s Code” of Wine and Food Pairings

One of the most common questions I am asked when speaking to consumers (other than “What’s your favorite wine?” which is #1) is what food would go with this wine.  The very basic “white wines with white meats and red wines with red meats” has served its purpose as a simple and easy way for the beginning wine consumer to learn about wine.  It is also generally (VERY generally) correct.  However at some point, people want to break outside the lines of the basic food pairing and experiment a bit.  So I’ve put together some thoughts on how I decide to pair wines and foods.  The following list is to be considered a “Pirate’s Code” of wine and food Pairing; more guidelines than actual rules.


The first thing I look at is the weight of the dish and try to pair that to the weight of the wine accordingly.  Salads and other “summer” foods tend to be very light so they pair well with light bodied wines. These are typically whites and light reds like Pinot Noir or Gamay.  Heavy foods like stews, cream sauces on pasta, and steaks need full bodied wines like Chardonnays, Cabernets, and Malbec.  Try to gauge the weight of your dish and find a selection of wines that are similar in weight.

Flavors, Aromas, and Intensity

Next I try and match the flavors and aromas in the dish to the predominant flavors and aromas of the wine.  If green herbs are being used then try a variety that leans toward the herbal side such as Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Merlot or Cabernet.  If it is a fruity dish try Gewurztraminer or Muscat.  Keep in mind however that the intensity of the food and wine must also match.  If you have an herb crusted salmon dish and pair it with a Semillon, the Semillon will probably be overpowered by the intensity of herb flavors.  Smoked foods and strongly flavored cheeses need very powerfully flavored wines to match with them.

Acid Levels

Acid is tricky.  Acid in food is hard to pair wine with because the wine can be over powered by the acid and taste flabby.  Again balance is the key.  Try to match acid levels by using acidic wines to pair with acidic foods.  In foods with high citrus flavors such as lemons, limes, or grapefruits try Riesling, especially from cooler climates so that the acid will balance.  For Tomatoes or tomato sauces think Italian reds.  Vinaigrette is very tricky and if you must have wine to pair with it, choose a high acid variety in the same color as your vinegar that is being used.

Protein and Tannins

The more protein a dish has, the more tannin can be in the wine without it being harsh.  The astringency (or drying sensation) that people experience when drinking wine by itself is due to tannins in the wine binding with the protein in your mouth.  When you drink the same wine with protein (i.e. cheese or meat) the tannins bind to the protein you’re eating and not the protein in your mouth.  This makes the wine appear softer on the palate and can be a good way to enjoy that big red in your wine cabinet without having to wait for it to soften on its own.

Desserts and Sugar

Again balance is the key here with similar sugar levels in both the wine and the food. This is why sweeter wines are usually called “Dessert wines”.  They pair well with dessert.  If wines are served with an imbalance of sweetness, the wine can seem too sweet or sour if not sweet enough.  Although I follow this rule generally I do love a good full bodied red with chocolate cake regardless of sugar levels.

Artichokes and Asparagus

I had to put a quick note in about these two special veggies.  Artichokes make whatever you are eating with them taste sweeter so I typically choose a very dry, high acid white wine for these.  If they are grilled then make sure the wine has the intensity to hold up to the smoke.  Although a herbal Sauvignon Blanc is the obvious choice, Asparagus can be lovely with sweeter wines.  One of my favorite pairings is grilled Asparagus with a hollandaise sauce paired with Sauternes. Trust me, it’s awesome!

So I hope this helps ease the stress of the next dinner party.  Don’t forget to experiment on your own with wines and dishes that you like.