Ask an Expert: Talking Holiday Wine Pairings with Chris Lobo of Native Wines
Thinking about wine during the holiday season can be tricky. There are a lot of factors to consider— is the event casual or a formal sit-down dinner? What’s your budget? Are you attending or hosting? No matter what, a wine pairing should enhance the meal and guest experience.
So, I sat down to talk wines with Chris Lobo, the owner of Native Wines, a marketing firm focused on representing wines from the California Coast. He works with local restaurateurs, chefs and private labels to curate their wine programs, and is passionate about getting great California wines into more glasses. He broke down his general rules of thumb for holiday wine pairings, which gave me all the tips I need to confidently shop for wines this year.
START WITH BUBBLES
Champagne and sparkling wine might be the perfect wine for the entire holiday season. When you think about celebrating what do you think of as the wine? Yup, Champagne or sparkling. You can never go wrong here. They can be enjoyed before dinner or during the main event, and they are an essential at the stroke of midnight when ringing in the new year. These wines offer a touch of elegance and are a symbolic of celebrations.
Stephanie's Local Pick: Thornton Winery’s Cuvee Rouge or NV Brut
WHEN YOU’RE ATTENDING, BRING A BLEND
In general, if you’re thinking about bringing a white and a red to cover a variety of food dishes, then I would suggest choosing something that is broad in nature, which means choosing a wine that is not over powering on either side of the flavor spectrum.
Blends are fantastic in this area as they are extremely versatile and can be very crowd pleasing.
Bringing something esoteric can be fun but don’t forget you are bringing wine for everyone. Not just the geeks in the corner. Knowing a bit about the producer and or the varietals also can enhance the wine experience for the guests.
WHEN YOU’RE HOSTING
When you know exactly what’s going on in the kitchen, then you can select wines to enhance the offerings. As was once explained to me, wine should enhance the meal not over or underwhelm it. Balance, weight and texture all can play in integral part.
Whites are great with light, citrusy and bright dishes. Rich, marbled meats need a tannic red. Think about pairing your wines with the accompanying sauces. And when it comes to pairing, you can either combine like flavors (bright white with a citrusy seafood), or select wines that will provide a nice counterpoint to a dish’s flavor (acidic wine to cut through heavier meats). Earthy wines paired with earthy dishes are always a slam dunk.
Lamb is a classic dish during the holidays. Pair with bigger bolder varietals like Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, and Zinfandel.
Stephanie’s Local Pick: Wyatt Oaks 2013 Zinfandel
Prime Rib has a good dose of marbling (fat) within the meat, so pair it with a wine that has a good amount of tannin structure. Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Zinfandel or even Grenache will do the trick.
Stephanie’s Local Pick: Fallbrook 2016 33N Cabernet Sauvignon
Turkey on it’s own is extremely lean, but the gravy that can play games with you and the many other dishes on the table. Pinot Noir is a fantastic choice, as is a dry Gewürztraminer or sparkling wine.
Stephanie’s Local Pick: Carruth Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir
Tamales or Mexican food in general have become a huge holiday tradition here in San Diego. White wines work well here as a counterpoint to spicy flavors. Go for a clean, vibrant, refreshing wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, Pinot Gris or sparkling wine.
Stephanie’s Local Pick: San Pasqual Winery 2017 Seabreeze White Blend (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc + Viognier)
Seafood can go so many directions, from a rich textured fish or shellfish to something a little more delicate. For the former, look to light bodied wines like an Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc or Rose. For fuller flavors or rich sauces, you will need something with a bit more backbone, like Viognier, Roussanne, Chardonnay, or Marsanne.
Stephanie’s Local Pick: Vesper 2016 McCormick Ranch Rose or 2016 Sunrise Ranch Grenache Blanc.
BUY YOUR WINE LIKE A LOCAL
We have some fantastic wine shops in San Diego County, and the knowledgeable folks who run them are sure to have suggestions as well.
The Rose, 2219 30th Street, South Park, San Diego
Meritage Wine Market, 6308, 162 S Rancho Santa Fe Road # A10, Encinitas
Wine Connection 2650 Via De La Valle # C130, Del Mar
Seaside Market 2087 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff
The 3rd Corner 897 S Coast Highway, Encinitas | 2265 Bacon Street, Ocean Beach