Holiday Wine and Cheese

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By Robert Matsumura, Contributing Writer

Wine Guide

Have you ever stood in the wine aisle of your local grocers during the holidays, baffled as to the appropriate wine for meals featuring poultry, beef, pork, or seafood — not to mention the array of appetizers and side dishes? Our guide below will help simplify this process with six wines flexible enough to complement your holiday cuisines from autumn through winter.

Sauvignon Blanc

Also referred to as “Sancerre” in France, this medium-light bodied white wine is a winner. It features a crisp, herbal profile perfect for turkey, goose, chicken, or seafood.


A more full-bodied white, Chardonnay is an excellent partner to fish or roast poultry. Likewise, Chardonnay pairs beautifully with beef, should you have guests who prefer to drink only white. In this case opt for an oak-forward Chardonnay, as it will enhance the robust flavors of the beef.


Not as well-known as other whites, Viognier is a fantastic partner to roast turkey and other poultry dishes. Rounded in body with undertones of honey and spice, some of the best Viognier comes from the Rhone region of France, as well as Australia and South Africa. Like Chardonnay, Viognier can also play well with beef.

Pinot Noir

With its bright acidity and versatile nature, Pinot Noir is one of the best choices for the holidays. It excels across the board with poultry, pork, and hearty beef dishes. The Pacific Northwest and California offer many solid choices with fruit-forward characteristics sure to please even the most discriminating palates.


Red Zinfandel has long been considered a great Thanksgiving wine for its ability to compliment turkey while also blending well with cranberry sauce and other sides. Its fruit-forward profile, along with notes of cinnamon, clove and vanilla evoke the holiday season. Zinfandel also performs admirably with beef and pork, should your holiday dinner include a roast or baked ham.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, the “King of Reds,” is the ultimate pairing for beef. Cabernet’s dark, full-bodied character, often reminiscent of currants and black cherry, enhances the hearty flavors of such entrees as prime rib or crown roast.


Another fabulous red wine to pair with beef is Syrah (known as Shiraz in Australia). This luscious red bursts with complex flavors from pepper to cherry, smoky to floral. Syrah, made in France’s Rhone Valley, is generally known more for its elegance and complexity, while Shiraz is bolder and more fruit-driven. If beef is on the menu, you can’t go wrong with Syrah.

Which Wine to Bring to a Party?

Let’s say you’ve been invited to a holiday event and wish to bring a bottle of wine, but you’re uncertain of the menu. The safest choices might be Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Both wines have versatility across a broad spectrum of entrees, and will be welcome additions to the holiday table. All of these featured wines are readily available at your local markets, where helpful staff can assist you in determining the best selections and values for your particular budget.

Cheese Guide

As the holidays roll around, entertaining family and friends takes center stage. For many of us the holiday cheese board is a star player in the food festivities, yet with the plethora of choices available at local markets, assembling it can prove a bit daunting.

Basic Strategy

For presentation purposes, select cheeses of different colors, shapes, and sizes. When calculating the amount of cheese to purchase, three ounces per guest is a solid guideline. Thus, if you’re serving three types of cheese and entertaining 12 guests, you should buy at least 12 ounces of each type. If other appetizers will be served, the amount of cheese can be reduced to two ounces. In general, three varieties of cheese—a hard, a semi-hard, and a soft—will provide ample variety for most events.

Hard Cheeses

Aged Gouda

This Dutch cheese is always a strong player on any cheese board. If you prefer a sharper, nuttier flavor with those delicious salty bits, opt for a Gouda aged at least 10 months. Many of the premier Goudas will be aged up to 18 months or more. Top brands include Beemster, Parrano, and Rembrandt.


A full-bodied cheese made from sheep’s milk, this Spanish cheese from the La Mancha region is creamy yet nutty with toasty nuances. Aged Manchego has a wonderful granular texture much like aged Gouda, and will be a superb compliment to fruit or meats such as prosciutto, salami, and capicola.


A good aged cheddar is always a welcome member of any cheese board. American, English, and Irish cheddars are all fantastic choices, providing slightly different characteristics. In general, the longer a cheddar is aged the sharper the flavor. Tillamook, Kerrygold, and Cabot are all fine choices.

Semi-Hard Cheeses


Originally from Italy, this versatile cheese features a sweet and pungent character nuanced with tones of butter and roasted nuts. It is rich and creamy with an intensity of flavor that increases with age. Sartori, Stella, and Boar’s Head are all excellent brands.


One of the most popular French cheeses, this creamy, mil cheese is a pleasing addition to any cheese board as it blends well with bolder flavored meats and preserves while adding a luxuri
us undertone. Jura Flore, Fort Rousses, and St. Antoine are all quality brands.

Soft Cheeses


Soft and creamy, with a musky complexion, this French cheese is spreadable and delicious slathered on bread or crackers. Try it warmed and melted. Excellent brands are President, La Bonne Vie, or Dietz and Watson. Marin French is a quality domestic brand


Another soft spreadable cheese that hails from the Normandy region of France is Camembert. Not quite as creamy as Brie, it is less pungent, and pale yellow in color. Often celebrated as the most popular cheese of France.

For festive additions consider cranberry cheeses such as Wensleydale or Celebrity. Crave truffles? Explore the many truffled cheeses on the market such as truffled Brie and Gouda.