Wine Experts Share Their Favorite Bottles for Holiday Gatherings

Lauren Wicks
·9-min read
Photo credit: Simon Upton
Photo credit: Simon Upton

From Veranda

Julia Child famously said that "a party without cake is just a meeting," and we believe a dinner party without a good bottle of wine is, well, just another meal. While we love designing a beautiful tablescape, crafting a crowd-pleasing menu, and surrounding ourselves with those we hold dearest, a dazzling bottle of wine is the icing on the cake, sparking conversation and awakening the palate to a delicious night ahead. But how many times has your local wine market or section of your favorite grocery store left you overwhelmed with choices when prepping for your next gathering?

Seven wine experts from around the country have shared some of their holiday favorites—and what to pair them with—to help you check one thing off your holiday to-do list this year. From a zesty, $25 Gewürztraminer to a cellar-worthy, $400 red, there is something for every palate and type of celebration to keep the vino flowing all season long.

8 Red Wines to Serve This Holiday Season

Photo credit: Courtesy of Spire Collection
Photo credit: Courtesy of Spire Collection

Maggy Hawk Jolie Pinot Noir 2018 ($65)

Mollie Battenhouse, a Brooklyn-based sommelier and Jackson Family Wines's national director of wine education says this vino is a "new pinot-lover's paradise." This wine is woodsy and subdued yet fruity with a high acidity, while being light in body and tannins. Battenhouse says this is an excellent option for holiday dinners as it's versatile for whatever main dish you're serving, be it meat, fish, or vegetarian.

Recommended food pairing: Fatty fish, spicy flavors, winter squash, and mushrooms

Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve 2017 ($145)

"[This] is a wine that is steeped in history," San Francisco-based sommelier and wine educator Tonya Pitts says. "Its the history of California Cabernet Sauvignon, the Bordeaux blends of California."

Pitts says these wines used to be much more cool-climate wines, but as the grapes ripen sooner due to our changing climate, they are still delicious and can actually be enjoyed sooner. This full-bodied vintage is fruit-forward with aromas of aromas of blackberry, dark plum and black currant. It's perfect for a holiday meal with its flavors including blackberry, cassis, dark plum, mocha and molasses, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and baking spice.

Recommended food pairing: Prime Rib with mashed potatoes and salsa verde

Beringer 8th Maker Cabernet Sauvignon ($400)

Produced from the estate's most prestigious vineyards, this 99-point wine well-balanced and full-bodied with complex layers of flavor.

"It embodies everything the wine drinker knows and loves about Beringer Cabernet Sauvignons and is a celebration of the Beringer Family heritage in wine making," Pitts says. "This wine is rich, lush, complex with concentrated aromas of blackberry, chocolate, star anise, and espresso crema."

Recommended food pairing: Grilled tomahawk with black truffle

Stags’ Leap Winery Ne Cede Malis Petite Sirah ($150)

This wine is one of Pitts's all-time favorites from the vineyard's portfolio and can handle the heft of your holiday feast.

"The wine is a blend of Petite Sirah with a bit of Malbec, and it is the quintessential example of old vine Petite Sirah." says Pitts. "It has all the elements of a bold, meaty, savory, dark berry wine."

Recommended food pairing: Braised lamb shank with purple marbled potato, root vegetables and braising jus

Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($55)

Carriee Wynkoop, founder of Cellar 503 wine club in Portland, Oregon, says opening a classic bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon brings a special element to any meal, especially at the holidays. This offering from Faust offers hints of dark chocolate mixed with spiced herbs layered with silky tannins and lifting acidity to dazzle the palate.

Recommended food pairing: Roasted meats and poultry, lamb, or a dry-aged ribeye

Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($325)

Battenhouse says this stunning red is the perfect accompaniment to stand up to your favorite indulgent holiday dishes and is a treat in and of itself. While it's certainly age-worthy, this vintage is full of freshness and ripe tannins with notes of blackberries and Black Forest cake (yum!) balanced with hints of baking spice, menthol, and cigar box. Plus, it has a rich, purple-black color and an intense floral aroma to wow your table before their first sip.

Recommended food pairing: Beef tenderloin, porterhouse steaks, lamb shanks, and farmhouse cheddar

Flowers Pinot Noir ($55)

“Pinot Noir is a Thanksgiving classic for a reason," says Wynkoop. "This wine is also a wonderful crowd-pleaser when you’re staying to satisfy multiple palettes around the table.”

Flowers's unique coastal proximity and high-elevation vineyards on the Sonoma Coast lends itself to a distinct minerality and fresh acidity with nuances of graphite and sea salt representative of the terrain. This Pinot Noir offers expressive aromas of red cherries and raspberries with hints of ground cloves and graham cracker for a satisfying holiday vino.

Recommended food pairing: Thanksgiving favorites—turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce

4 White Wines to Serve This Holiday Season

Photo credit: Courtesy of Spire Collection
Photo credit: Courtesy of Spire Collection

Capensis Western Cape Chardonnay 2016 ($80)

South African wine is really having a moment, and Battenhouse says this vibrant Chardonnay is the perfect wine to celebrate the holidays with. She says there are plenty of jolts of acidity to pair well with all your comfort food favorites, thanks to notes of meyer lemon, tree fruits, and saline. Aromatics of bergamot, white truffle, and vanilla bean make this bottle a far cry from the typical buttery, oaky Chardonnay and something that those who don't prefer the varietal to reach for a second glass.

Recommended food pairing: Shellfish, lobster, and a traditional Thanksgiving spread

Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer ($25)

Affectionately nicknamed "GunBun," Gundlach Bundschu is the oldest family-owned winery in California, with more than 150 years of history and heritage. Its well-priced Gewürtztraminer makes a great addition to your holiday table—no matter how untraditional your dishes may be—and is an excellent hostess gift for your next holiday gathering for that reason.

“Gundlach Bundschu has been producing this wine for a very long time and it’s a benchmark Gewurztraminer for California," says Lalo Vela of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco. "This wine is great to pair with a variety of foods because of its ripe fruit aromatics, zesty acidity, and dry style"

This bottle is extremely versatile, with aromas of star jasmine, lychee, and honeysuckle and is dry enough to pair well with sweeter fall vegetables.

Recommended food pairing: Pumpkin, squash, roasted poultry, Asian food, and cranberry sauce

Darioush Viognier ($52)

Vela says this Viognier is aromatic and versatile, perfect for whatever menu you're serving up this year. Viognier is a rarity and Napa Valley, and this bottle in particular is fragrant, alluring, and exotic with flavors of summer fruits, ginger, and tropical flowers.

Recommended food pairing: Anything from seafood and shellfish to veal, pork, and spicy flavors. It's also a great option for vegetarian holiday meals, salads, and hard or soft cheese courses.

Post & Beam Chardonnay 2019 ($35)

Fans of Napa's Far Niente winery will love their latest venture—Post & Beam. This new-to-market Chardonnay will make even the most skeptical into Chardonnay's biggest fan. Cas Herwaldt, a sommelier based in Hermosa Beach, California, says this bottle is exactly what a classic Chardonnay should be: balanced and elegant, with notes of mango and gardenia, and not too buttery or oaky. Plus, it's great to serve right away.

Recommended food pairing: All types of seafood, oysters, grilled vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and desserts like fruit cobbles and crème brûlée

4 Sparkling Wines to Serve This Holiday Season

Photo credit: Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot
Photo credit: Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

Yayoi Kusama x Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame 2012 ($195)

Let your bottle serve double-duty as a celebratory beverage and table decor with this gorgeous new collaboration from Veuve Clicquot. This classic Champagne brand partnered with renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama to create beautiful gift boxes and floral sculptures to hold the brand's newest 2012 vintage and enliven your holiday table even more.

This lively vintage toes the line of playful and delicate with a strong minerality and vibrant freshness. While this is certainly an age-worthy and collector-worthy bottle, it's also a fabulous excuse to host an impromptu holiday gathering and make your intimate feasts feel more special. The Veuve Cliquot team advises serving La Grand Dame 2012 with .

Recommended food pairing: Lobster, sea bass, poultry, hard cheeses, and lightly candied citrus

Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Brut Rosé ($60)

Oregon's Willamette Valley has the ideal climate for crafting sparkling wine, and this option from Gran Moraine is no exception. This bottle is the epitome of balance, between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, as well as a blend of the winery's vintages. This rosé has aromas of white peach, strawberry shortcake, and lightly toasted brioche, and flavors that include watermelon rind, lemon meringue pie, and nectarines.

Recommended food pairing: Oysters, fish roe, fried chicken, salty foods, and traditional Thanksgiving dinner

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara ($16)

This Italian red sparkling wine is a less common but equally as celebratory option for your holiday festivities. Brandi Carter, sommelier and beverage director at Elvie's in Jackson, Mississippi, says she loves Lambrusco di Sorbara for fall feasts and celebrations.

"Lambrusco gets a bad rap because of the sticky-sweet style that is fairly easy to find in the U.S., but Lambrusco di Sorbara is only made in the rosé style," she says. "It's more of a dry, light, sparkling red than a typical sparkling rosé, and it would be great with most holiday favorites."

Recommended food pairing: Any dish that also pairs well with a raspberry-like sauce, like a roast chicken, broiled salmon, or duck breast

Françoise Bedel Origin'elle Champagne ($60)

Trent Stewart and Brandon Loper of Golden Age Wine, a natural wine shop in Birmingham, Alabama say this French sparkling is going to be their featured bubbly for the holiday season. This biodynamic wine is crisp and dry with aromas of stone fruit and cooked pie crust with a fresh and buttery taste.

Recommended food pairing: Oysters, shellfish, and fried chicken (Say no more!)

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