BY KATE MASTERS
The holidays are practically synonymous with food and booze, but hosts today may struggle with an overabundance of choice when selecting the perfect wine for their warm apple pies or perfectly basted turkeys. To help you choose, five Maryland vineyards offer inspired wine and food pairings to enjoy this season.
The wines: Big Cork’s 2016 Viognier ($26), a white wine with origins in southern France, or its 2014 Barbera ($32), a red Italian varietal
Pair with: Roasted turkey
How they pair: A full-bodied white, Viognier is “one of the great holiday meal-pairing wines,” said Jed Gray, general manager for Big Cork. A drier wine with fruity undertones, Viognier has the body to stand up to heavier foods, including turkey, without being overwhelming.
Big Cork’s 2014 Barbera also pairs well with hearty holiday cuisine, Gray said. Though it’s a red wine, barbera is light on tannins and retains notes of cherry and strawberry. That makes it juicier than other dark red wines, such as syrah.
“When you think about holiday dinners, you’re thinking about heavier items—herbs and cranberries and such,” Gray said. “And for a red wine, you want something a little lighter, so a lot of times, people will say a barbera.”
Gray recommended pairing Big Cork’s Barbera with the vineyard’s turkey stuffing meatballs, which are wrapped in bacon and brushed with a red wine glaze.
The wine: Vidal blanc ($20), a white French hybrid known for its hardiness in colder climates (limited availability at the vineyard)
Pair with: Baked Brie
How they pair: Mazzaroth Vineyard’s vidal blanc—a rich white wine with notes of pineapple, grapefruit and light peach—“would go flawlessly with an amuse-bouche or appetizer,” said Garry Cohen, who co-owns the vineyard with his wife Micki.
“It has a beautiful acidity that would cut through the cheese, especially a creamy cheese, like Brie,” he said. “It’s an absolute fabulous grape.”
Vidal blanc also appeals to a wide range of wine drinkers. Though it’s a dry wine, its fruity, fragrant notes still attract those who prefer sweeter, dessert-style varieties.
“Even people who like sweet wines have fallen in love with it because of those fruit aromatics,” Cohen said.
The wine: Maeve sparkling mead ($16), or Archer mead ($24)
Pair with: Salads, side dishes or desserts
How they pair: Mead, a honey wine that’s often cited as the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world, is becoming a major player in the world of craft beverages. Given its versatile pairing power, it’s also a good accompaniment for holiday dinners, said Dan Kennedy, the sales and marketing manager for Orchid Cellar.
The winery’s Maeve mead—a sparkling drink with notes of lemon zest and vanilla bean—can stand up well to traditional holiday side dishes like stuffing or sweet potatoes. It’s also a great pairing option for salads with oil and vinegar dressings, which tend to fight the tannins in traditional grape wine.
“Maeve is on the lighter side, so it would go with anything that has a good, robust flavor, like olive oil for the salad,” Kennedy said. “The lightness of the sparkling mead really complements that, and the acidity from the lemon zest really comes through.”
Kennedy also recommended Orchid Cellar’s Archer mead, an aged honey wine based off an old monastery recipe. With notes of cinnamon, clove and juniper, the mead pairs perfectly with holiday cookies and can be served warm in the style of mulled wine.
“When it’s heated up, the juniper falls to the back and the clove really comes to the forefront,” he said. “It’s an absolutely wonderful pairing.”
The wine: Loew’s Reserve Harvest Red ($26), a blend of chancellor and cabernet franc
Pair with: Beef dishes, including roasts and beef stews
How they pair: An oak-aged blend of cab franc and chancellor grapes, Loew’s Harvest Red boasts a smooth, rich flavor profile that pairs particularly well with robust, beefy dishes, said Lois Loew, co-owner of the vineyard.
“There are peppery notes, and some people pick up dark cherry,” Loew said. “It’s a really deep and intense bouquet.”
That strong body allows the wine to shine alongside hearty dishes, such as beef stew or pot roast. For a sweeter alternative, Loew recommended pairing the Harvest Red with after-dinner chocolates.
The wine: Aged Amber mead ($23)
Pair with: Desserts, particularly pumpkin and fruit pies
How they pair: Aged for five years in oak barrels, the Amber mead at Catoctin Breeze has strong notes of vanilla, allspice, cinnamon and cloves that pair beautifully with almost all holiday desserts, said Voytek Fizyta, one of the owners of the vineyard.
“It’s particularly suitable for something like pumpkin pie,” he added. “We use different recipes for all the meads, but this one is based off an old European recipe that monks developed over the years.”
For those who prefer traditional grape wine, Fizyta also suggested the vineyard’s 2016 Romance Rosé, made with syrah grapes and aged in stainless steel barrels. That particular rose, he said, has a stronger body than other varieties, which helps it stand up to rich poultry dishes.
“It’s a very dark rose, so it goes particularly well with turkey, in our opinion,” Fizyta said. “It’s not as cold as regular white wine, which helps with the flavor.”