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Wine Pairings for Santa

Wine Pairings for Santa

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Treat Santa with wine pairings for your holiday cookies

Shutterstock/ Lara Clarence Photography

What wine to leave out for Santa?

If Santa's not even drinking as much milk anymore, what should hebe drinking? After all, something has to be drunk with the dozens of holiday cookies made this month. We're sure you — er, we mean Santa — would appreciate a glass of wine or two after a long night of sleigh rides and delivering presents.

Click here for the Wine Pairings for Santa Slideshow

We know you've already begun to prepare your best holiday cookies for Santa, but what's the best wine to leave out for him? The key for pairing wines and cookies is to pick sweet: if the cookie is a tad sweeter than the wine itself, the wine will turn bitter or sour when paired. You can't go wrong with a dessert wine, or some of the sweeter, aromatic wines, such as a riesling with gingerbread cookies. A riesling or gewürztraminer will bring out the spicy notes of a gingerbread treat with its hints of peach and honey.

But we know that Santa travels all over the world, and needs some pairings for fare from Chile to Denmark. The team at Velvet Palate, a wine retailer that specializes in artisanal wines, shared their picks for cookies, cakes, and more pairings for Santa — beacuse he needs all the help he can get while delivering joy and happiness. Click here to find wine pairings for all of Santa's favorite treats, including your sugar, gingerbread, and chocolate chip cookies.

Recipes from Wine Country – Napa Valley

Many of us are cooking at home. We are learning, creating, and wine pairing. One of our favorite ways to discover recipes and match with a bottle of wine are recipes from wine country. Many wineries provide fantastic recipes on their Websites. We will start with the Napa Valley and see which dishes are worthy of a try in your home. These are just a few of the wineries in the Napa Valley that post recipes from their resident chef or family members. It is a terrific resource for foodies, home cooks, and wine lovers. If you like a recipe, why not order some wine from the winery’s online wine shop. Treat yourself you deserve it!

The garlic and herb cheese has sharp and tangy flavors. When paired with the Merlot, which is a dry red wine that is medium to full-bodied, the cheese brings out notes of black cherry, plum, and black tea. The garlic and herb cheese flavors are more heavily emphasized because of the Merlot’s dry fruitiness.

Reserve or vintage cheese has robust flavors, which need a red wine that can hold up against it. Malbecs are medium to full-bodied red wines that have black fruit, anise, and herb notes. The strong flavor of the Malbec complements the vintage or reserve cheese.

The Hippest Restaurant in Santa Barbara

Image Source: Yelp

The Lark
131 Anacapa St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 284-0370
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 40 reviews
Reservations: Not required

A buzz every night with an energetic and posh crowd, The Lark is Santa Barbara’s hottest restaurant in the cool and lively Funk Zone. With dim lighting, superbly-crafted cocktails, a fabulous outdoor patio, and a former rock and roll chef, the atmosphere is decidedly fun, and the food is amazing (the roasted chicken is a showstopper). But first things first: you’re greeted with complimentary spiced popcorn upon arrival. A ploy, perhaps, to get you salivating and thirsty, for which they have a solution: thirst quenching artisanal cocktails. Ask for the Cutler Stagecoach Whiskey, a cocktail made with local fig jam. Insider tip: The menu is really inventive, and can be a little overwhelming, so order some deviled eggs with crispy pancetta off the bat, before decision fatigue sets in.

3. Mayo Family Winery

The Reserve Room tasting ($50, available Thursday-Monday) from Mayo Family Winery runs the gamut, with seven reserve selections, including lesser-found wine varietals like viognier, old vine zinfandel and a late harvest gewurztraminer. Chef John Locher, formerly of Sonoma’s The General’s Daughter winery kitchens Beringer and Viansa, matches each glass with a seasonal, tapa-sized bite, like a Moroccan lamb shank encased in a puff pastry, or Sonoma Foie Gras atop Brioche toast with cranberry-orange compote.

Even if you're not currently on the slopes you might want to take your chance to make one of the great ski-food classics, fondue, raclette or tartiflette.

All, of course, involve melted cheese which isn&rsquot the easiest thing to match with wine, especially reds. In general I&rsquod go for crisp or aromatic white wines of the kind that are popular in the regions from which these dishes originate and avoid full-bodied, tannic reds. Here are a few suggestions:

Cheese fondue

The best choice I've found is a crisp dry white such as Swiss Chasselas or a Chignin or Roussette from Savoie. These wines are relatively hard to come by, however, but other crisp dry whites such as Muscadet, Chablis, dry Alsace or Austrian riesling or a young grüner veltliner would also be fine. If you fancy a red make it a fresh, light-bodied one like a young red burgundy, gamay or Dole. Or a poulsard from the Jura

Here potatoes and sometimes cold meats are involved which mitigates the intense cheesiness. I&rsquod still go for a similar crisp white as the above but it could take a slightly more robust red like a gamay from the Auvergne or even an inexpensive Côtes du Rhône.


Tartiflette is like a super-charged gratin dauphinoise, with added bacon and Reblochon cheese. It originally comes from Savoie so again those wines I recommend with cheese fondue will work well. You could also try a savagnin or a Coteaux du Jura. (There&rsquos a good recipe here in Felicity Cloake&rsquos excellent &lsquoThe Perfect&rsquo series for the Guardian. It is one of THE most delicious cheese dishes.)

There&rsquos a longer article about pairing wine with fondue and raclette on the Alpine Wines website. They basically stock exactly the kind of wines you might be looking for.

Image © tsuboya at

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Success! Inside Wine - Santa Barbara

My "baking buddy" Lila and I started a new Meetups group called Inside Wine - Santa Barbara and we had our first event last Thursday. It was a great success! 60 people attended, they loved the wines and the food. Here are some of there rave reviews:

What an amazing evening!! The organizers are very wine savvy, offering us a wide variety of choices and background with each wine. The appetizers were scrumptious, especially loving the fig topped brochetta!! -- Elvina

I had a great time looking forward to the next meetup! -- Robin

This was an absolutely wonderful event! Not only was it in a fabulous venue, but it was great to make some new friends AND learn about the wine being poured. PLUS - I won the "mystery wine" contest -- how cool is THAT! Thanks so much, Tama & Lila for a great event. I'm looking forward to future events! -- Pattie

Had a great time! -- Jennifer

Great evening out, Good wine, food and presentation. Very gracious sponser! Enjoyed the evening, nice group of people, First meet-up it was a great success! Glad I joined. -- Sandy

I made three kinds of focaccia: caramelized onion cooked with Passito, sun-dried tomato with Romano cheese, and olive oil and rosemary, also the cucumber/roasted beet/creme fraiche appetizers shown below. Lila made amazing crostini with sundried tomato and sweet figs in balsalmic. Yum!

Tama's Roasted Beet and Cucumber Appetizer:
Ingredients For the Roasted Beet:
1 large beet, peeled
approximately 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
spray olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Ingredients For the Appetizer:
1 cooked beet
1 Japanese cucumber (with edible skin)
1/2 cup sour cream (regular or Tofutti) OR 1/2 cup soft goat cheese OR crème fraîche
1 slice lox, minced
approximately a dozen chive stems
1 teaspoon dill
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon or more of salt, to taste

Directions For the Roasted Beet:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the peeled beet in quarters, then slice each half into 1/4" slices. Put on a baking tray (use a piece of foil between the tray and the beets for easier clean-up) and spray the beets all over with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Roast in a 350 degree oven for an hour or until tender on the inside and slightly caramelized on the outside, turning once or twice during the roasting process.

Directions For the Appetizer:
Slice the cucumber into 1/4" slices. Cut off the top 2" of the chives and set aside. Slice the rest of the chives thinly. Mix the sour cream, lox, chives, dill, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings--the mixture should be slightly on the salty side. Spoon a bit of the sour cream mixture on each cucumber slice and top with two slices of roasted beet. Slice the reserved chive tops lengthwise and use to decorate the appetizer.

These pair with a number of wines--for a red, Pinot Noir, for a white, an Albarino.

Fiona’s best food and wine pairings:

Whether it’s the fossilised remains of oysters that can be found in the soil of the Chablis region or simply the severe steely dryness of the wine, there are few purer, more reliable combinations than oysters and Chablis. My own preference is for native oysters, totally unadorned with lemon, shallot vinegar or any other condiment, and young premier cru Chablis.

Other good options with oysters: Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, Picpoul de Pinet

Santa Ynez's Refugio Ranch Beauty

Refugio Ranch hosted a wine biz party last Thursday at their bucolic Santa Ynez ranch. Refugio Ranch owners Kevin and Niki Gleason were the generous hosts, providing a spit-roasted Berkshire pig, watermelon-and-tomato salad, cornbread, bread-and-butter pickles, and baked beans to pair with their portfolio of luscious wines. Wine industry folk enjoyed live music, great wine and the opportunity to soak in the views of the 415-acre estate, which were particularly compelling with the golden summer sun slanting across the vineyards.

In March, Inside Wine Santa Barbara hosted a picnic at the view point of Refugio Ranch (read post) on a picture-perfect day. Last week's Refugio Ranch Pig Roast was an opportunity to enjoy the sunset over the property and to see the ranch house. Kevin (at left) and his wife Niki spent two years scouring the Central Coast wine country for the ideal property and they found it in the south end of the Santa Ynez Valley, with diverse terrain and microclimates to grow a range of varietals.

Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Rousanne are planted along the river on the warmer valley floor. Sangiovese, Petite Sirah and two blocks of Syrah are planted on the hills near the largest pond. Four blocks of Syrah, Grenache, Malvasia Bianca and another block of Roussanne surround the ranch house, beautifully laid out to enhance the vegetation and curves of the natural landscape. The vineyards are meticulously tended by Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano the grapes are hand-harvested in the cool of night, hand-selected, then crafted into wines of finesse by winemaker Ryan Deovlet.

We had the chance to talk with winemaker Ryan, who was talking technique with winemaker Michael Roth of Martian Winery. We also were given a tour of the living quarters by Kevin Gleason, including the oil paintings of his son Max, Creative Director of Refugio Ranch and a professional artist, who designs the labels for Refugio Ranch wines. The master bedroom on the second floor and the kitchen look out to this panorama--a pretty nice place to sit and enjoy a glass of Refugio Ranch Barbareño!

Refugio Ranch was pouring their:
2012 Agua Dulce de Refugio (100% Malvasia Bianca), light and refreshing, with a bit of spritz
2011 "Refugio Ranch" Sauvignon Blanc (20% Semillon, 80% Sauvignon Blanc), one of my favorite Refugio Ranch wines, with a round, smooth mouth-feel
2010 Tiradora (100% Sauvignon Blanc), awarded 90 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
2011 "Refugio Ranch" Viognier, if you've found Viognier blowsy and over-ripe--try this Viognier--it's restrained and delicate
2010 Ineseño (60% Roussanne, 40% Viognier), awarded 91 points by the Rhone Report
2010 Barbareño (74% Syrah, 26% Petite Sirah) Syrah was given a bigger role in this vintage
2009 Barbareño (65% Syrah, 35% Petite Sirah) awarded 91 points by the Rhone Report a lovely sipping wine that develops well in the glass

As a slight evening chill began to set in, a fire was lit and we made our own s'mores. Nicole Carnevale, Refugio Ranch Sales Manager, brought out a special treat to pair with dessert--the Refugio Ranch 2012 Nectár. A dessert wine made from hand selected clusters of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Malvasia Bianca with a small amount of residual sugar, the wine is lightly sweet, aromatic, with a long finish. The wine is made with the Vin de Paille or passito method, where the grapes are dried for about 2 1/2 weeks on straw mats to concentrate their flavor. This wine is normally only available at the tasting room.

The next day, we stopped by the Refugio Ranch tasting room conveniently located in Los Olivos at 2990 Grand Avenue. The historic building dates back to the 1880s. Much of the construction material was re-purposed from the original building, keeping the rustic feel even with the modern updating.

Crisp, Refreshing, Dry: All You Need to Know About Pinot Grigio

Pinot grigio, known as pinot gris in France, is a crisp, refreshing, dry white wine, with popular varieties grown in Italy, France and the USA. One of America’s favourite wines, this light, zesty grape pairs beautifully with fish, chicken and mild creamy cheeses.

Younger pinot grigio grapes yield notes of lime, green apple, and lemon, changing to pear, white nectarine and white peach as they ripen. Depending on where the grapes are grown, they may offer hints of almond, honeysuckle, honey, salinity, cloves, ginger or other spices. These wines also have a medium-high to high acidity, which cuts through the fruit, keeping things clean and crisp.

Although most commonly associated with Italy, the pinot grigio grape actually originated in France, where it is thought to have been a mutation of the pinot noir grape. Unlike most white wine grapes, it is not green, but a shade of bluish grey, which is where it gets the name ‘grigio’ or ‘gris’. Pinot gris grapes, as they are known in France, have been grown in Burgundy since the Middle Ages, and the wine is said to have been a favourite of Emperor Charles IV, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1355 to 1378.

Pinot gris is thought to have spread to Italy via Switzerland, and it soon took hold as a popular grape in northeastern Italy, where it became known as pinot grigio. From its early days in the vineyards of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige, pinot grigio went on to become Italy’s most popular white wine, and it was soon catching the attention of other countries, too.

The first American pinot grigio was planted in Oregon by David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards in 1965, but was slow to capture the public imagination at first. It wasn’t until the 1990s that homegrown pinot grigio became really popular, but from there it quickly grew to be one of America’s favourite wines. Today, the USA has over eight thousand hectares of plantings, primarily in Oregon and California, making it second only to Italy in terms of pinot grigio production.

Wines produced in different countries tend to have different characteristics due to differences in growing conditions, soil quality, and when the grapes are harvested. Most pinot grigio comes from Italy, where the grapes are harvested early for a crisp, refreshing acidity. These wines are totally dry, with a subtle fruitiness, notes of bitter almond and occasionally a hint of mineral salinity.

French pinot grigio, or pinot gris, is richer and more full-bodied, with notes of honey and spices. It also tends to have greater cellaring and ageing potential.

Although pinot gris is typically a dry wine, some growers from the Alsace region harvest their grapes later in the year for a slightly sweeter taste. These wines have a complex flavour, with notes of cinnamon, honey, clove, Meyer lemon and ginger, and a long, lingering aftertaste. Some Alsatian wineries harvest even later to produce pinot gris dessert wines, with labels marked ‘vendages tardives’.

American pinot grigio is typically harvested later than the Italian grape, but not so late as sweeter Alsatian varieties. These wines are still dry, but with more pronounced fruity flavours and less acidity than their European cousins.

Pinot grigio has gained something of a bad reputation over the years, with people tending to reject it out of hand as too simple and lacking in complexity. In this regard, the wine has been a victim of its own popularity, with cheap, inferior products flooding the market to meet demand. If you avoid cheap, sweet wines, however, there are some excellent quality pinots available, with plenty of good options from $15 upwards

Pinot Grigio Pairings

If you’re looking for the perfect dish to pair with your favourite bottle of crisp, refreshing pinot grigio, there are a few basic rules to follow. Wine matching can get quite complicated and technical, but if you stick to the basics you can still create some rewarding combinations.

In general, a wine should be both sweeter and more acidic than the dish it is paired with. Desserts, for example, are often accompanied by a sweet dessert wine. Both the wine and the food should have a similar intensity of flavour, with bold reds matching well with hearty meat and cheese dishes, and whites pairing better with light chicken and seafood dishes. For an instant guide to food-matching different types of wine, take a look at this handy wine and food pairing chart.

Light and uplifting, pinot grigio is a great wine for informal, lighthearted occasions. Generally considered to be fairly neutral, it also works well as a starter wine before the meal begins, with no overbearing flavours to draw attention away from the dishes to come.

As a delicate, neutral wine, pinot grigio pairs best with light, fresh flavours. Think summery dishes like salads, chicken and seafood, as well as light pasta dishes and risottos, and avoid heavy sauces in favour of creams and vinaigrettes.

The elevated acidity of pinot grigio makes it a particularly good match for seafood dishes. Remember to keep it light, avoiding meaty fish like tuna, or lobster dishes with heavy sauces. Crab or shrimp salad is a great choice, as are grilled halibut, poached salmon, sushi or calamari. If you’re a fan of shellfish, freshly-caught oysters and seared scallops also pair beautifully with a crisp bottle of pinot.

Pinot grigio’s neutral qualities also make it the perfect accompaniment for earthy garden salads and fresh summer vegetables. It works well with crunchy crudités, vegetable antipasto, and risotto dishes like risotto primavera or risi e bisi.

Other good pairing choices include various chicken dishes, especially when marinated in lemon or white wine. You can even add some pinot grigio to the dish as it cooks. Light pasta dishes are another favourite, especially dishes with vegetables or seafood.

If you want to try some cheese with your wine, be careful to avoid sharp, pungent cheeses like cheddar or stilton, as these can overpower the delicate flavours of pinot grigio. Instead, try soft, mild cheeses, like brie or mozzarella, as these will enhance the wine’s sweeter, more mellow notes.

Servings Wines at a Barbecue

Before you step into the heat of the moment (in multiple senses), there are three preparation points to consider for your wines:

1) Are you backyard grilling or making the party mobile (at a tailgate or in a park?)

2) How are you serving your carefully chosen wines?

3) How will you keep your wines at the right temperature based on your ultimate serving location?

If you’re hosting your BBQ at home, you’ve got more flexibility. If you’re transporting your BBQ feast along with your wines (and glasses), it’s worth making a checklist. Don’t forget the wine opener if your bottles aren’t closed with screwcaps!

Whether you’re serving wine at home or away, non-breakable glasses are a winner. Fortunately, you don’t have to retreat to your college days of SOLO cups. Shatterproof options like the Govino glass are compact yet elegant. (Just be sure you hand-wash them as the water in some dishwashers is hot enough to shrivel them!) Moreover, if you just can’t let your inner geek have a day off, Govino also makes decanters! A pricier option is the Corkcicle Metallic Stemless Glass, which will also keep your beverage from overheating.

Speaking of which, while it’s obvious that whites and rosés should be chilled, they can be too cold, especially after swimming for hours in the ice bath of your cooler. The good news, however, is that your wines won’t stay ice cold once they’re in the glass, assuming the weather is balmy.

In fact, it’s more important to consider the serving temperatures of your red wines when sipping outdoors in the summer. The ideal serving temperatures for red wines range between 60-65° F. (Lighter reds can also be a bit cooler while heavier reds can be a bit warmer.) So, when it’s 80° F in the shade, you definitely need to drop the temperature of reds or they’ll end up tasting flat and even leaden. Want to see for yourself? Check out some concepts of wine temperature control.

If you’re venturing away from home, a great way to keep reds at the right temperature for an hour or two is by using a chilling sleeve. Another trick is to pour your wine into an insulated bottle, like the 25-ounce S’well bottle, which perfectly fits a bottle of wine! Corkcicle also has many stylish 25-ounce options. Corkcicle offers one other option: an in-the-bottle chiller that doubles as a pourer. Stick this cooling “icicle” right into the bottle. It doesn’t cool as quickly as a sleeve as it touches less surface area of wine, but it’s less bulky and allows you to see the names of the wines you’re serving. Naturally, these two tricks work for whites, too, though they may not keep the wines as crisply cool as you’d like on warm days.

Hopefully this premier guide to picking and serving the best wines for a barbecue answers your questions! If not, we’re here to help. Your fellow readers might have the same questions, too. If we’ve got you covered, we’ll just sign off with a hearty “Cheers!

Watch the video: Mortons Wine Pairings from Tylor Field, III (June 2022).