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Winter Wine Pairings for Every Occasion

Did you know winter is the most popular time to buy wine? There’s something we all love about pairing a glass of vino with your favorite comfort foods and holiday dishes. But finding the right winter pairings isn’t always easy. Next time, instead of roaming the local wine shop and selecting a bottle for the cute label, ask for one of these recommended bottles to accompany one of these favorite winter dishes.

Turkey with Gravy

“Riesling is a classic choice for Thanksgiving as it pairs well with turkey, stuffing and other Thanksgiving sides,” advises Blake Leonard, certified sommelier and vice president at Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits, which has locations in Danbury and Norwalk, CT, and a location in Yonkers, NY, which is owned by Blake’s aunt Beth Leonard Hollis. She recommends Von Winning Winnings Riesling, an off-dry white wine balanced with great acidity. “The family’s vineyards are organic, and they started making wine in Germany in 1849.”

One-Pan Crispy Roast Chicken

“When I’m with my family in France, this is always what we drink with a beautiful roasted chicken,” says Leonard of her favorite pinot noir, Nic Rager. She recommends pairing pinot noir with roast chicken because it’s a light- to medium-bodied wine with bright fruits and a touch of earthiness. “The bright fruits can complement the meat and the earthiness can act as a natural seasoning for the chicken.”

Manhattan Strip Roast

“The Manhattan strip roast or NY strip loin roast is a culinary adaptation of the loin cut used to produce the NY strip steak. This roast has a little more texture than a beef tenderloin with a bit more flavor, and it’s perfect for roasting. It’s becoming more popular as an alternative to beef tenderloins or rib roasts for the holidays.” says Mark Caraluzzi president and CEO of Caraluzzi’s, a family owned and operated supermarket with locations in Danbury, Wilton, Bethel and Newtown, CT. For the perfect pairing, Frank Avallone, store director at Caraluzzi’s Wine & Spirits in Bethel, CT, recommends La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza, which has an intense garnet red color and complex blend of balsamic, vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee and red fruits. “There’s almost nothing better than rioja for red meat. Especially rioja made in the old way, with long aging in American oak. Ardanza is a wine of both richness and elegance, a perfect balance of fruit and earthy flavors. One of the world’s great wines,” says Avallone.

Mac and Cheese

There is nothing like a side or bowl of homemade mac and cheese on a cold night. When you’re having all that cheesy deliciousness, Leonard suggests Gaston Chiquet Brut Champagne to cut through the creaminess of the dish. This can make a great pairing for a New Year’s cocktail party or an intimate Valentine’s Day.

Roasted Rib Rack of Lamb

This is a classic favorite for special occasions. Caraluzzi recommends preparing it with a simple yet flavorful herb and garlic seasoning. For a budget-friendly wine, choose the Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso, a red blend of all the classics from Piedmont: Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo. If you’re looking for something more special occasion-worthy, opt for Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel with an intense cherry fruit entry, ripe plum, lively acid, exotic spices and barrel toast. “A Zinfandel dominated red blend is just perfect for a lamb roast with its vibrant fruit and spice,” says Avallone. “It has lots of layers that unfold against the lamb’s richness.”

Pork Medallions with Mushroom Sauce

A riesling is the right pairing for this savory winter dish, says Avallone at Caraluzzi’s Wine & Spirits: “Selbach Saar Riesling Kabinett is an off-dry German riesling and the perfect white wine pairing due to its richness and balance of fruit and acidity that holds up to pork and other meats.” The wine has intense aromas of apple and peach, “with a long and persistent finish halted by a sudden punch of minerality,” adds Avallone.

Filet Mignon

“Because filet mignon is a lean and delicate cut of beef, you’ll want to choose a wine that won’t steamroll your steak,” says Leonard. “A good rule of thumb when pairing filet mignon is to look for a dry red wine with soft tannins and earthy flavors, including right-bank Bordeaux, rioja reserve or pinot noir. She recommends Chateau Pontey Bordeaux Medoc.

French Mussels

While rosé is often considered a summer wine, work this into your winter rotation when you are having seafood. “I urge people to enjoy it year-round, especially since there are so many winter dishes it goes great with,” says James Ewart, Diora Wines winemaker. He recommends his Diora La Belle Fete Rosé of Pinot Noir, a favorite of celebrity chef and Diora partner Gail Simmons, to pair with French mussels, seafood risotto, fresh cooked shrimp or scallops. “The Diora rosé is fantastic with this dish because of its bright acidity that enhances the vibrant flavors of the seafood, and the wine’s delicate red fruit notes bring out the shrimp and scallops’ subtle sweetness while balancing out the saltiness of the risotto.” 

Mushroom Risotto

With blackcurrent, clove, walnut and dried lavender notes on the nose, Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon is a medium-to-full-bodied wine with firm tannins and a precise finish of dark berries and cocoa. It’s weighty enough to hold up to a flavorful pairing but not too overpowering to take away from your dish. “This is a big, rich, fruit-forward wine,” says Brian Gelb, Total Wine & More’s vice president of wine about 2020 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon . “It pairs well with almost any winter dish—mushroom risotto, grilled steak or roast pork.” It also goes great with flavorful hard cheeses, so it makes a delightful option for cocktail parties.

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