Salt & Wind Travel

The California Guide To Holiday Food And Wine Pairings

There are a lot of potential stressors during the holidays: rowdy relatives, long shopping lines, new-to-you recipe. We can’t help with it all, be we can relieve angst regarding holiday food and wine pairings.

As in, you can peruse our advice on holiday prep, our pointers for entertaining, and our tried and true appetizers, and read on for our top tips for holiday food and wine pairings.

Holiday Food And Wine Pairings
Table of Contents

14 Holiday Food And Wine Pairing Tips

The good news about holiday food and wine pairings is that there are some overarching concepts and rules you can abide by.

If you followed along with the “What Grows Together Goes Together” Instagram Live series with Aida and California wine expert and sommelier Amanda McCrossin on California Grown and California Wines, then you likely already have a few pointers when it comes to food and wine pairings. 

Here are all 14 holiday food and wine pairings tips in one place for your convenience!

Oysters With Pomegranate Mignonette Granita Recipe

Serve A Statement Ingredient 

Yes, we’re primarily about low-stress, high-reward entertaining with make-ahead menus and relaxed decor. But the holidays are a time to up the ante with something a little special.

This year, many of us aren’t able to do a big holiday gathering, but trust that there is a silver lining. Specifically, you can take that budget and splurge on your small group if you have the means.

Do something that feels decadent, like serving caviar and bubbles, in-season seafood like Dungeness crab, or even this Oysters With Pomegranate Mignonette Granita (aka our current obsession).

Thanksgiving Holiday Food And Wine Pairing Tips

3 Holiday Food And Wine Pairings Best Practices 

We could write a book about holiday food and wine pairings best practices, but here is what to keep in mind. Oh, and before we go any further if you’re looking for wines to pair with cheese, you’ll want to head here

Up The Ante With Intensity

Think of flavors of wines like you do salt in a recipe; you can add more but not less. You can go forward–bigger in taste or texture–with the wines, but you don’t want to go more subtle.

If you start with a Sauvignon Blanc or Dry Riesling, don’t serve a lighter wine like a Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, as the flavor would be lost. Instead, turn to a white wine with texture – an oaked Chardonnay or a Viognier–  or open a medium-bodied red wine.

Opt For Lower Alcohol Wines

There are many reasons you want to opt for lower-alcohol wines during the holidays. First, high-alcohol wines will more quickly lead to palate fatigue (yes, that’s a real thing).

Also, holiday meals tend to be a multi-hour affair, so lower alcohol means people can drink for a long time without getting tipsy. Finally, there can be a lot of simmering family drama at a holiday affair, and having extra alcohol will only add heat to the emotional fire.

Don’t Decant Or Get Too Chi-chi

When it comes to wine, McCrossin says, “I don’t love anything too precious during the holidays, and that includes wines and glassware.” She urges you to save the unique wines for a less hectic occasion and instead to opt for quality wines that are crowd-pleasers. That way, you won’t need to pull out the decanter or valuable glassware but will still be able to keep everyone happy.

Wine Being Poured For Holiday Food And Wine Pairing Tips

Stemware To Serve At The Holidays 

Amanda’s mentality of eschewing all things precious also extends to stemware, and, as such, she advises you to use stemless glassware.  

Side note: stems are great for a cocktail party because they make it easier to hold a plate of food and a wine glass while standing. These Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal wine glasses are our go-to’s for entertaining because they are highly durable and machine washable.

But stemmed wine glasses are not ideal for a buffet or family-style meal as they crowd the table and block people’s line of sight.

Instead, opt for short-quality tumblers — they’re less likely to break, and so long as they have thicker glass, your hand won’t heat the wine while you hold them. These are our picks for durable, quality stemless glassware worthy of quality wine: 

Holiday Food and Wine Pairing Cheers

Three Wines To Serve At To Your Holiday Gathering

As California is the nation’s top producer of wine and the world’s fourth-largest wine producer, there are a ton of wines to choose from for pairing.

The Golden State’s varied terroir means more than 100 grape varieties can be grown across the state, leading to diverse styles. So, no matter your preference, there is most likely an excellent wine for you to sip. 

When it comes to wine at holiday gatherings, choose a crowd-pleaser, really food-friendly and is across-the-board delicious. Here are a few specific holiday food and wine pairings McCrossin recommends: 

Dry Rosé Sparkling Wine

Rosé is highly overlooked as a food pairing option, but a lot of food goes well with a dry rosé sparkling. It gives more of an impression of texture and will stand up to dishes better than white sparkling. Translation: you can drink it throughout the meal, from appetizers to the main course and even dessert. Also, it gives you something special to toast the holiday.
Our Pick: Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rose

Clean And Easy White

If you want to serve a white, go for something with a flavor profile that’s clean, lower alcohol, lower in sweetness (ie dry), and ideally screw top (to keep things even easier) like a Sauvignon Blanc. So resist the urge to pull out a white wine with a lot of oak as it may overwhelm the lighter dishes like soups and salads.
Our Pick: Dragonette Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc

A Versatile Light Bodied Red

A lighter-bodied, versatile red is the best bet with roast turkey, root vegetables, side dishes, and all the fixings. Think of a high-quality Grenache, Gamay, or Pinot Noir from Sonoma or Santa Barbara.
Our Pick: Westwood Annadel Gap Pinot Noir

Holiday Entertaining Tips Cheeseboard

6 California-Inspired Holiday Food And Wine Pairings

Now that you have a starting point, here are some holiday-worthy recipes (many of which we’ve shared in our Instagram Live series!) that use the top of seasonal flavors and are fabulous paired with wine!

Follow these tips, and your bases will be covered for holiday food and wine pairings. Get your holiday table ready, then share it with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social media! 

Have Us Plan Your California Wine Country Trip

Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency that specializes in California vacation planning? If you’re looking to plan a trip to California wine country, our California trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary. 

Sponsored Post: This article was brought to you by Discover California Wines. Thanks for supporting these sponsors who help us keep Salt & Wind Travel up and running!

Photo Credit: Opening photo, turkey photo, and group toasting by Cara Dolan; wine pour by Cameron Whitman; other photos by Team Salt & Wind Travel

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