A Winery Chef’s Guide to Holiday Pairings

by | Dec 23, 2022

This season is the busiest time for professional chefs. Usually, we’re so burnt out from cooking for everyone else’s family that the last thing we want when we go home is to do it all over again. Yes, I often insist on not being the one to cook at family/friend gatherings but, because I’m well versed in the ways of food pairings, I kindly counteroffer to provide the wine instead. And as anyone well knows, the bottles at the table can either make or break the meal.

If you, too, have graciously taken on this task, here is some wine-and-food pairing guidance. And given that the following wines are both favorites of Sip staffers AND readily available at most markets, these suggestions are certain to make the planning for the holiday a bit easier — and a lot more delicious.

Sparkling Wine 

This is the world’s greatest aperitif and usually the easiest with which to pair. From prosecco, Champagne or even the bubbly from your favorite local winery, enjoy with a cheese board that sits on the table throughout the day, potato latkes, oysters, creamy soups and caviar.

Budget Friendly: Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut Zero | $16

Splurge: Argyle Winery 2018 Estate Reserve Brut | $50


With typical notes of pear, apricot, citrus and honey, this varietal makes the perfect match for those who celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes. Pair with your favorite white fish, mollusks or even lemony roasted chicken if you prefer poultry.

Budget Friendly: L’Ecole 2021 Sémillon | $17

Splurge: Amavi Cellars 2021 Sémillon | $28


Because rosés are made with different varietals, each can hold a very different flavor profile, so you’ll have to use your best judgment when pairing. For my favorite PNW wines with notes of strawberry, raspberry and floral notes, I like to stick to fresh salads with vinaigrette dressings, cured meats, salmon and any other pink seafood. 

Budget Friendly: Mark Ryan 2021 Mr Pink Rosé | $15

Splurge: The Four Graces 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir | $30

Pinot Noir

As a chef at a winery that specializes in Washington Pinot Noir, I’m a huge advocate for setting this wine on the dinner table for any occasion due to its ability to come in so many different types of styles. Mushroom dishes, winter vegetables, pork and hearty soups play perfectly with Pinots that have notes of red fruit and warm spices. 

Budget Friendly: Duck Pond Natural Path Pinot Noir | $19

Splurge: Torii Mor Winery 2016 Olsen Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir | $79

Bordeaux Varietals

For those of you who enjoy a holiday roast of beef, dust off those bottles of bold Merlots, Cabs (both Sauvignon and Franc) and Malbecs. Reserve the wines with heavier notes of oak, vanilla and tobacco for the steaks, while enjoying the more blue-fruit forward and vegital-tasting wines with things like stews, tamales and chocolate. 

Budget Friendly: Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain | $30
Splurge: Chateau Ste. Michelle 2018 Artist Series Red Wine – Rosas | $70

Port Style/Dessert Wines

Too full from your main course? Sweet wines make for a great finish on their own. But if you still have a bit of room left, bust out your chocolate yule logs, panettone, pies and sugar cookies to pair with them. Since there’s so many styles of dessert wines, here are a couple tips to consider when opening your favorite bottle: Keep lighter-colored wine with lighter-colored foods (and dark with dark), and most importantly, the wine you choose should be slightly sweeter than the dish you’re pairing it with.

Budget Friendly: Brian Carter Cellars 2014 Opulento Port | $22
Eola Hills Wine Cellars 2001 Colheita Port | $110

Happy cooking, happy drinking — and Happy New Year!

Tori Barr is a back-of-house native with a passion for people. Before becoming chef at Bayernmoor Cellars in Woodinville, Wash., she worked at various wineries to immerse herself in the art of pairing food and wine.   

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