Great food and wine pairs for the holidays

It seems like lately I’ve been attending only food and drink related events on behalf of Best Health, but believe


It seems like lately I’ve been attending only food and drink related events on behalf of Best Health, but believe me, I’m not complaining. Yesterday I went to an intimate workshop with associate editor Lisa Hannam. It was hosted by Chef Bruce Riezenmen, one of California wine country’s top authorities on entertaining, and on food and wine pairing. We were treated to holiday cooking prepared by Riezenmen as he talked about each of the wines we would be trying. The idea was to teach attendees what to look for when pairing wines (specifically those from the Sonoma Valley) for the holiday season. I’m not a wine afficionado, I just know what I like (it’s usually red and between $8 and $15). This was going to be a real eye opener for me.

Our first tasting was cornish hen. This was paired with both a Pinot Noir by MacMurray Ranch (one owned by Fred MacMurray of My Three Sons fame) and a Sauvignon Blanc by Rancho Zabaco. I preferred the Sauvignon Blanc.

Next was a delicious turkey, served with a dried cherry and cranberry sauce and a balsamic vinegar glaze. The key to a great turkey, according to Riezenmen, is to marinate it in a brine in the fridge overnight. If you aren’t sure what a brine is, try this recipe provided by Riezenmen. Basically it’s a salt, water, sugar, ice and seasoning mixture (Bruce likes to add peppercorns to his turkey brine) that you marinate the turkey in. Fill a bag with ice, add the brine and turkey and let it sit for at least 12 hours. Our turkey was the moistest I’ve tasted so it’s a technique I’ll be trying at my house this year.

With the turkey we sampled Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay and Sebastiani Merlot. Both were really nice and worked well with the turkey. However, Riezenman’s personal pick for pairing with turkey is a Pinot Noir.

Our final dish was lamb with an Asian pear relish. We learned the key to a great lamb is to cut slits in it before cooking and push whole cloves into the pieces before cooking. Riezenman advised that when serving foods higher in fat, lamb for example, choose an acidic wine such as a Zinfandel (we tried Pedroncelli, Mother Clone Zinfandel and Ravenswood, Barricia Zinfandel) which helps to cut through the fat. I’m not a big fan of Zinfandels so these didn’t thrill me, but the lamb was excellent!

Some other great tips we learned:

Add wine to your cooking to make pairing it easier. Play up what is in the food with what you are serving to drink.

‘ Simple wines are best served alone; Complex wines are best paired with food.

‘ Try pairing a sauvignon blanc with buttery sauces as it will cut through the buttery taste.

‘ According to foodies, asparagus and artichokes are not good served with wine (who knew?), but toss them with some olive oil and they work well with almost any wine.

‘ Red and white wines cross lines when you are serving holiday foods. Don’t be afraid to mix and match, just buy and enjoy what you like.

For more info on pairing wines, you can check out the website

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