Holiday wine pairing made easy

Palate-pleasing picks that won’t break the bank

Jenny Walker

“Good wine, good food, good company – life’s most civilized pleasures.” – Michael Broadbent

With the holidays quickly approaching, we will all be doing our fair share of entertaining and socializing. Whether it’s a grand Thanksgiving Day feast, a jazzy cocktail party or a simple evening with friends, why not feel like a pro when guests are over and break out one of these no-fail wines that retail for less than $25.

So, you’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the trimmings. Here are three suggestions that are sure to please your hosts. Two of them are produced in the Finger Lakes region, just a few hours from the north country. Ravines Dry Riesling from Keuka Lake is a well-done and masterfully balanced Riesling that screams to be paired with poultry. A truly dry and intensely mineral Riesling that is lip-smacking good.

Another gem I enjoy every year is Montezuma Cranberry Bog from Seneca Lake. This wine is quirky and fun. Best of all, it is produced from 100 percent cranberries. What better to match with a traditional Thanksgiving spread? It’s an off-dry and unusual crowd pleaser. It starts out sweet then balances out, leaving you with the distinctive tartness of cranberry.

For the red lovers, a Pinot Noir is sure to compliment a turkey dinner. Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir is a sure winner. You absolutely will not find a better value on the market. This youthfully displays aromas of raspberry, strawberry and cranberry with hints of rose and leather. The palate offers soft tannins that give a creamy texture and a long fruit-driven finish.

As much fun as it is to host a holiday party, it can sometimes be overwhelming trying to decide what wines to serve. From a cocktail reception to an informal get together, choose a lively Rosé or perhaps a spunky New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. A Rosé can sometimes be overlooked and under appreciated. Traditionally enjoyed in warm weather, this wine leaves room for year-round appreciation. A Rose will pair beautifully with cheese, salty nuts and cured meat. It is a wine that you should drink while it is young. A fine choice is Etude Rosé. This Napa Valley Pinot Noir Rosé is bold and flavorful with notes of fresh cherries and a touch of orange peel.

Jenny’s Top Picks:

  • Kim Crawford Mariborough Sauvignon Blanc, priced from $15 [ASW]
  • Montezuma Cranberry Bog, Seneca Lake, priced from $12.99 [ASW]
  • Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir, priced from $20 [ASW]
  • Etude Rosé, priced from $25 [ASW]
  • Ravines Riesling, priced from $15
  • Gruet Blanc de Noirs, priced from $14.99

[ASW] denotes wines stocked at Arsenal Street Wine & Liquor, 940 Arsenal St., Watertown, especially for NNY Living. 

A consistently outstanding Sauvignon Blanc and one of my all-time personal favorites is Kim Crawford Mariborough Sauvignon Blanc complete with the no-fuss screw cap that is becoming more and more politically correct these days. For anyone who is new to the New Zealand wine scene, this is a must try. Bursting with fresh fruit flavors like passion fruit and cut grass.

So what about New Year’s Even? If you’re like me, you automatically think about champagne. The usual suspects with high price tags are always fabulous, but I like to have a few entertaining secrets up my sleeve.

Here is a particularly phenomenal sparkling wine that ones from the most unusual location: New Mexico. Gruet Blanc de Noirs is a steal and one that drinks like a million bucks. All joking aside, it will stand up to your Vueve Cliquot or Moët any day.


Jenny Walker is a culinary school-trained chef. She and her husband, Brian, are proprietors of the 1844 House restaurant, 6885 Route 11, Potsdam. Visit them at or call 268-1844.