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This is the time of year when many of us start looking for unique, yet intimate entertaining ideas. Unique doesn’t have to mean elaborate ice sculptures or expensive cuisine. ¬†Think about adding some sparkle with holiday wines.


It may not be to everyone’s taste, but Champagne or sparkling wine can be served throughout an entire meal or evening. Begin with brut non-vintage Champagne or sparkling wine as an aperitif as guests arrive. This wine will match with any food selection with a salty characteristic. For the main course, pair a fish (salmon, sole or sea bass), poultry or white meat topped with a beurre blanc, cream sauce or hollandaise with vintage Champagne or a premium sparkling wine. If a red meat or game dish is your preference, sparkling rose is an ideal match. When it comes to dessert, avoid chocolate or ice cream and serve a soft, creamy, fruity pastry with a sec (sweet) or demi-sec Champagne.


  • NV Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blancs, Washington (about $16 retail)


  • NV Moet and Chandon Rose Imperial, France (about $70 retail)


Offering a holiday party menu of dessert and wine pairings can keep the party planning minimal, and is ideal if guests will be attending other functions or dropping into several parties the same evening. One classic pairing is vanilla bean ice cream with the delectable rich and sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry poured over the top. Nut desserts like pecan pie, chestnut mousse or walnut tarts match well with fortified wines such as Royal Tokaji, Cream Sherry or Australian Muscat. Cream- or dairy-based desserts such as cheesecake are complemented by late harvest Gewurztraminers. Egg desserts such as custards or souffles pair well with Tawny Port.


  • 2012 Hogue Late Harvest Riesling, Washington (about $12 retail)


  • NV Osborne Tawny Port, Portugal (about $22 retail)


A meat and cheese tray takes on a special flair when it is composed of locally cured meats and hand-made cheeses. The menu sets itself up for an easy drop-in entertaining opportunity with minimal preparation, zero cooking time and a fun casual setting. Salami, sausage, prosciutto, chorizo and jamon serrano each pair ideally with red wines as do many cheeses. Consider adding a cheese board pairing of blue cheeses, aged goat cheeses, and nutty sweet cheeses like gruyere, cheddar and parmesan. Wines that pair well with most charcuterie and cheeses include cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, red blends, port and oloraso sherry. An added bonus — there’s no need to have specific individual wine and food pairing options. Let your guests (and yourself) explore the pairing choices.


  • 2013 Force of Nature Red Blend, California (about $17 retail)


  • 2013 Migration by Duckhorn Pinot Noir, California (about $43 retail)