December means one sumptuous meal after another. People tend to think of winter as a time for heavy red wines and they certainly have their place alongside prime rib and other fatty meats. But ham, duck, pork loin, and salmon call for something with a lighter body and more acidity. Here are five Pacific Northwest wines to get you through the holiday season. Cheers!
Columbia Valley; $50
A clever nod to Bordeaux’s right bank, Valery is named for the patron saint of the Saint Emilion region. The wine is predominantly Merlot (70%) from Boushey Vineyard, lending velvety soft tannins, plum, and cocoa. The remainder of the blend, Cabernet Franc (30%) from Champoux Vineyard, supplies violet, berry, and dried flowers. Winemaker Chris Peterson utilizes only native yeast and doesn’t filter or fine the wines. The result of his winemaking techniques and fantastic fruit is nothing short of a warm fuzzy winter blanket — soft, silky, and delicious. Pair with a nice medium-rare prime rib, roasted chicken with herbs, pork loin, or a brie-cheddar-gouda cheese plate.
Yakima Valley; $40
Grown mid-slope in one of Washington’s best vineyards, this single varietal wine expresses Grenache’s true character — medium-bodied and redolent with strawberries and raspberries, a little white pepper on the back end. Winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen’s approach is to let the vineyard do the talking. To that end, he adds very few things to Mother Nature’s work, ferments using some whole clusters to add savory notes to the wines, and utilizes neutral oak barrels to let the fruit shine through. Pair with ham, turkey, and all those yummy roasted caramelized winter vegetables (stay clear of citrus pairings like lemon juice on a salad and lightly steamed vegetables and fish).
Chehalem Mountains; $45
From one of the Willamette Valley’s pioneer wineries, Breaking Ground is an attempt to formulate a Chehalem Mountains flavor profile combining grapes grown in the appellation’s three distinct soil types. The basalt soils lend red fruit aromas, the marine sediment lends spicy notes and black fruit, the loess an earthy, bramble, floral quality. On the palate, this wine conveys cherry cola notes with soft cocoa tannins. Pair with delicately cooked salmon, pork, or duck breast.
Red Mountain; $58
Red Mountain’s finest vineyards fill this bottle with big bold Cabernet Sauvignon (91%). In contrast to its bold reputation, the fruit is treated quite gently during the fermentation and press process. Ripe red fruits, black currants, with a flinty, dusty character, and a touch of milk chocolate on the nose, this wine packs some heat (15.1% ABV) so let it open up for a bit. Pair it with unctuous fatty meat like bone-in prime rib roast or ribeye steaks topped with blue cheese or a mushroom gravy.
Dundee Hills; $30
On the forefront of Oregon’s Willamette Valley having just earned a Reader’s Choice “Best Tasting Room” from USA Today’s 10 Best, Stoller Family Estate produces Pinot Noir that helps keep Oregon on the wine map. Red cherry, cola, tea, and a little earthiness are hallmark Oregon Pinot Noir characteristics and this Dundee Hills estate fruit wine nails them all. A lighter to medium-bodied red, pair it with duck breast or pork loin — especially if served with a fruit sauce or stewed fruits like cherries, cranberries, or plums. This would also work well with appetizers and a cheese/charcuterie spread.