If I have learned one thing in the wine business, it is that the best wine pairing is the company it keeps. Much is written about wine and food, wine ratings, wine tasting, and wine accessories, but little on the relationships of wine. Most of us don’t really think about why we enjoy wine. When folks come to our tasting room they don’t spend most of their time talking about wine They try the wine and make a decision about which one they like. The more sophisticated palettes may describe the flavors and ask some questions about where the grapes come from or ask about the winemaking process, but this conversation is mostly just cursory and secondary to the pairing that they are really looking forward to, which is the conversation. For example, I love wine and I talk about it everyday from an evaluative, scientific and artistic standpoint. However, when I come home from work and sit down (doesn’t happen very often these days) Nancy and I will invariably have what we call a ‘little repas’—a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers. We recap the days events and as the wine kicks in, we could fly to the moon and back. We talk about how much we love the grandkids, we make travel plans (in theory, of course), and we try to solve the worlds problems if only we were in charge.
We are in the middle the so-called holiday season, a term invented by those who hope to make a killing by selling us things we don’t need. They call it a season because they want us to focus on spending for a very long time. I propose that we counter this emphasis by doing another kind of spending. How about spending the most precious thing we have. Time, of course. And what better way to do it than to pair it with those we love? These days we can get great wine for under $20, and memorable wine for $30. Whether you invite someone to your house or meet them at your favorite hangout, you can be sure that wine will add to the experience, and if it is good, it will stay in the background as a silent partner in your conversation. That’s what it’s all about.
So what makes a good conversation wine? The short answer is one that doesn’t demand attention. Too much of anything can be interesting for awhile, but balance is what makes a good wine. Too much acid, tannin, alcohol, and dryness may get in the way. My three go-to wines for celebrating holidays with friends are sparkling wine like Prosecco or champagne (if you want to splurge), or Washington Merlot, and Oregon Pinot Noir. All three taste good with food. Don’t bring out your fancy older wines that you have been saving for awhile because they may try to hog the conversation. Save those for special wine tastings or occasions. The holidays are for relationships. Here are a few of my favorites all available locally.
Mumm Brut Rosé $24 Soft fruity flavors with just the right amount of acid to taste great with Thanksgiving dinner
Ruffino Procecco $12 Crisp, clean and delicate with fine bubbles. Intense apple and peach flavors slide into floral aromas on the finish. Wonderful addition to holiday conversations.
Columbia Winery Merlot, Columbia Valley $14 Its aromatic profile shows freshness with red-toned fruit of cherry and cranberry backed by accents of blueberry. An easy going wine that will taste great with holiday meals or sipping with friends
Erath Pinot Noir $16 Delicious and approachable! Bursting-with-berries aromas. A silky mouthful of bing cherry and pomegranate are woven together with a smooth caramel flavor. Won’t get in the way of the important things in life.