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Our guide to serving the best food and wine pairings this holiday season

Family, friends and food: Can you think of a more festive combination? While we all celebrate differently, most of us can agree that the holiday season revolves around sharing magical meals around the table. When it comes to pairing holiday wines with food, you might feel a tad overwhelmed. After all, holiday magic doesn’t appear out of thin air! Don’t stress, friends: we’re here to show you how to select the best holiday wines for that perfectly celebratory menu. Elevate any gathering with these fabulous holiday food and wine pairings designed for maximum “yum” factor. Read on for recommendations, real-world advice and recipes sure to inspire the most joyous and delicious season yet.

Choosing Holiday Wines

Special occasions call for special wines. That said, not all wines are cut from the same cloth. Choosing the right holiday wine is crucial and quality is king. Premium and boutique wines tend to trump mass produced offerings with a pretty label. Look for boutique selections from independent wineries and reputable producers. If a wine bottle fails to inform you where the grapes were grown or the wine was produced, it’s probably not the best selection. Remember: the right wine will not only complete the holiday meal, but elevate all the flavors on your plate.

Where to find holiday wine?

Online and brick-and-mortar wine shops curate the best wines from Tuscany and Bordeaux to Spain, South Africa, Australia and Croatia. Renowned American wine regions like Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Willamette Valley and beyond are also easily accessible, and each has its own unique terroir and charm. While premium wines tend to cost a little more than the alternative, you’ll find that the flavor, complexity and overall experience is unmatched. Plus, premium and boutique wines make great holiday gifts—even appreciating in flavor and value over time.

Holiday appetizers

Flavorful holiday appetizers are a must for any festive gathering, especially if dinner’s still in the oven. Make sure these snackable culinary offerings are bite-sized and enticing to the eye and the palate. Whether you present salmon and feta puff pastries topped with fresh herbs or glistening bacon-wrapped stuffed figs, appetizers should (yes—you guessed it) stimulate the appetite and gear up guests for the main event.

Sparkling wine pairings

The ultimate celebratory sipper, sparkling wine keeps the tone light and bright. Delight mingling guests with bubbles paired with an assortment of savory bites. When it comes to pairing, consider acidity and effervescence, sweetness levels and the food intensity and complexity. Lighter sparkling wine varieties will go great with smoked salmon canapes, oysters on the half-shell, stuffed olives, stuffed mushrooms and scallop ceviche while richer, fuller-bodied sparkling wines can handle indulgent  Gougeres (French cheese puffs made with Gruyere), truffle popcorn or gourmet deviled eggs.

Tip: For best flavor, ensure your sparkling hits the ice bath at least thirty minutes before guests arrive (you can also allow for three hours in the refrigerator). Opt for elegant, flute-shaped glasses when serving, especially if toasts are in order. Not only are flutes more fun to hold, but guests will better appreciate the wonderful effervescence and aromatic nuances in their glass.

Recommendation: Halter Ranch 2020 Libelle Sparkling Picpoul Blanc

Add a sparkle to your holiday celebrations with this 2020 Libelle Sparkling Picpoul Blanc from Paso Robles winery Halter Ranch. Crafted from 100% picpoul blanc grapes and meticulously vinified using the “methode champenoise,” this sparkling wine is a testament to elegance and innovation. Each sip bursts with a bright and crisp character, and the palate unfolds with lively flavors of lemon, guava and pear. It all culminates in a clean, balanced finish perfect for toasting to joyous moments or pairing with light holiday fare.


Cheese plates

Lean and crisp white wines pairings

Serving lean and crisp white wines brings a piquant punch to the party. Acidic and refreshing, these wines include sauvignon blanc, viognier and pinot blanc as well as dry grüner vetiliner, among others. Whether accompanied by Thanksgiving cranberry sauce or an epic cheese and charcuterie board, these versatile whites can brighten the entire meal as well as cut through fatty brie and prosciutto hors d’oeuvres. Tip: need more help with holiday cheese and wine pairing? Check out our wine and cheese pairing guide, here.

Recommendation: Onx 2022 Field Day

Dominated by Paso Robles-grown sauvignon blanc, Onx 2022 Field Day white blend showcases 2022’s warmer climate through complex tropical aromas and flavors. Golden hued in the glass, this celebratory offering explodes with aromas of lemon juice, passion fruit, ripe lychee and vanilla flower. On the palate, enjoy sharp lime pith and Meyer lemon, balanced by rich notes. This richness, combined with a moderate acidity, leads to a delightful finish. Nestled in the heart of Paso Robles, ONX Wines & Vineyards strives to craft wines that stand among the world’s finest, reflecting the unique soils, varieties, and history of the region. This wine is a testament to that commitment. 



Heavy and textured white wines

The bird is, indeed, the word. Holiday turkey is a versatile, mild-flavored meat that pairs well with a variety of wines, especially heftier, fuller-bodied whites. Heavy and textured whites include classic oaked chardonnay, grenache blanc, viognier, marsanne-roussanne blends, white Rhone blends and matured semillon, among others. The wine’s richer mouthfeel and more complex flavor profile really plays up a turkey’s delicate vibes (and you thought turkey was boring). Even better: these rich whites are adaptable to whatever sides you decide to go with, including buttery garlic green beans and duck fat mashed potatoes.

Recommendation: Robert Hall 2021 Cavern Select Carignan

Indulge in the award-winning Robert Hall 2021 Cavern Select Carignan, an elegant, crowd-pleasing dinner red from Paso Robles. A blend of traditional fermentation and innovative carbonic maceration offers a rich tapestry of aromas, including black plum, pomegranate and herbal notes. On the palate, savor the luscious flavors of raspberries and peppercorn, culminating in a smooth finish with velvety tannins. Perfect for connoisseurs seeking a sophisticated yet approachable red, this wine is a testament to winemaking craftsmanship.



Light-bodied red wines

If delectable ham leftovers don’t make the holidays, we don’t know what does. This briney, sometimes sweet spiced meat pairs wonderfully with lighter red wines like pinot noir, gamay, chianti, grenache, cinsault or zweigelt, to name a few. These higher acid wines are able to cut through ham’s richness easily without going overboard. Classic red fruit flavors found in pinot noir (such as cherry and strawberry) are sure to harmonize with the savory and slightly candied character of holiday ham recipes, creating a balance that feels comfy-cozy. Additionally, the lower tannin levels contribute to a smooth mouthfeel, and any herbal or spice characters in the wine are welcomed alongside holiday-spiced dry-rubs. Whether your holiday ham is honey-glazed or smoked, these lighter reds provide a refreshing contrast that allows the entire meal to shine.

Recommendation: Alta Colina 2020 Carbonic Grenache

This holiday, delight your guests with this 2020 Carbonic Grenache, produced by Paso Robles Winery Alta Colina. A spectacle of winemaking artistry, this light brick-red gem is best served slightly chilled. Its unique carbonic maceration process imparts a bouquet of rhubarb pie and cherry fruit roll-up, leading to a velvety palate of fresh strawberries and dried hibiscus petals. With a long, seamless finish, this wine is perfect for those who cherish a twist on the traditional. Pair it with laughter and an overflowing cheese and charcuterie board for an unforgettable toast to the festive season!


Recommendation: Cordant Winery 2021 Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir

Serve an irresistible pinot noir this holiday season and watch the sparks fly around the table. This small-lot production wine produced by Cordant Winery in Paso Robles has been crafted with meticulous attention to detail and highlights the distinctive terroir and micro-climate of its coastal vineyard. With the 2021 vintage, expect a delightful party trick: While maintaining its hallmark traits of nori, iodine and light, nimble character, this pinot noir surprises with a darker, haughtier fruit profile. Your guests will savor a sophisticated dance of flavors perfectly embodying the vineyard’s cool, foggy environment. After pressing, the wine matures in a blend of new and neutral French oak barrels, culminating in a harmonious cuvée that’s bottled unfined and unfiltered.



When it comes to serving an impressive holiday seafood dish, prepare to pour a vibrant, acid-driven wine alongside. Reach for the vermentino, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, albarino, or pinot grigio, all great options. These fresh wines are known for bringing notes of apple, pear, citrus, and tropical fruitiness to the table—always a hit. If you’re already dreaming about how these lush flavors will elevate delicate, flaky fish, you’re on the right path. With a crisp, dry texture and adaptability to a range of sauces (especially citrus-based), you’ll find these clean, austere whites bring out the subtle nuances of seared halibut with chili gremolata or caper-studded salmon meuniere

Tip: If you’re a fan of chardonnay and seafood, try uncorking a modern version of the varietal that offers plenty of acid and minerality.

Halter Ranch 2022 Vermentino

Halter Ranch’s aromatic 2022 Vermentino is fresh and vibrant, with aromas of white peach, lemon and a hint of honey. At first sip, the palate is soft and rich, with flavors of orange zest, citrus and marmalade. The wine finishes ultra-clean with subtle hints of salinity and minerality, gifts bestowed by Paso Robles’ limestone-rich soils.


Still Waters Vineyards Chardonnay 2022

California chardonnay lovers, rejoice: You can now have your cake and eat it too. Steel-fermented and lightly aged in new French oak, Still Waters Vineyards has cracked the code, crafting a balanced chardonnay that displays both refreshing crispness and a touch of oak. Full-bodied and loaded with lemon zest, baked apple and warm vanilla notes, this wine is spectacular on its own or paired with citrusy lemon-butter sauce.


Filet Mignon & Duck


Invite your loved ones to revel in the richness of the season. Decadent filet mignon and rich duck calls for a medium-bodied, juicy red wine like merlot, zinfandel, carmenere or Australian shiraz, among others. These fruit-forward reds tend to present softer, more approachable tannins—ideal for pairing with more tender, juicier cuts of meat. The wines’ moderate acidity and round texture complements the lush quality of filet mignon with rosemary-thyme butter without clashing or overstaying its welcome on the palate. Plus, the wine’s velvety mouthfeel elevates sumptuous cranberry-orange glazed roast duck

Tip: Don’t be afraid to pair these balanced, fruity red wines with heavy, smokey and sauce-accompanied dishes. They’ll only add to the dish’s overall richness and complexity. That’s a good thing!

Recommendation: Austin Hope Merlot 2021

While Merlot may have fallen out of favor in California in recent years, it remains a grape with a noble Bordeaux heritage—and it holds immense promise in Paso Robles. Rich, chewy and vibrant with supple textures and a velvety tannin structure, Austin Hope’s 2021 offering promises to inspire you to fall in love with mighty merlot all over again.


Prime Rib

Cabernet Sauvignon

Layered with rich, dark fruit flavors, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, syrah and Bordeaux-style red blends stand up against beefier holiday dishes. The wine’s famously high tannins cut through prime rib’s sultry richness, cleansing the palate between bites (nice). Plus, luscious flavors in the wine like blackberry and plum bring out exciting umami elements in the meal. As you might imagine, the herbal, spicy, peppery and sometimes oaky nuances commonly found in these bolder red wines contribute to the overall “wow factor” of traditional holiday offerings like prime rib and oven roasted potatoes. To say nothing of the wine’s substantial body and strong structure, which—especially in aged varieties—align with beef’s depth. This is a true classic holiday pairing showcasing the synergy between luxurious cabernet sauvignon and succulent steak. How could you go wrong?

Recommendation: 2019 Oso Libre Quixotic Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Looking for a beast in a bottle? Try this alluring 100% cabernet sauvignon from Oso Libre’s sustainably-farmed westside estate vineyard. Aged in French oak barrels for three-and-a-half years, savor dark fruit, cherry notes and a silken finish that simply screams “Paso Robles Cab.” Yes, you could say that meat has met its match.



Diets be damned—dessert is always on the menu during the holidays. Come prepared with a hostess gift to top them all: a decadent dessert wine that tows the line between sweet and complex. Premium dessert wines procured from boutique wineries display compelling layers of flavor as opposed to just one note. Look for a fragrant muscat to pair with holiday lemon bundt cake or a rich, chocolatey port to pair with addictive chocolate crinkle cookies. Tip: Matching the sweetness levels of the wine and dessert is crucial. If the wine is sweeter than the dish, it’s sure to overpower the entire experience. Conversely, if the dessert is much sweeter than the wine, the wine might taste tart or “off.” Aim for a balanced dose of sugar on both ends.

Recommended: Sculpterra J. Jagger Primitivo Port 

This port-style wine is the epitome of “holiday dessert” in a bottle. Packed with winter aromas of ripe fig, rich chocolate, raspberry truffle and toasted jam, serve after dinner or wrap the bottle and place proudly under the tree. With a bouquet of caramel apple and nuts and a sweet yet balanced finish, this gift keeps on giving for up to fifteen years of delicious aged goodness.

New Year’s Wines

New Year’s Eve Wines

While sparkling wines are a no-brainer for New Year’s Eve, go for something with a little added interest or zest. Why not shake things up and start the New Year on a fresh note? A sparkling rosé can be a fun, fizzy choice for New year’s Eve bashes, balancing traditional bubbles with flirty, fruity flavors. When it comes to pairing, keep appetizers light and simple, allowing the unique sparkling wine offering to shine (if everyone is expected to dance till midnight or later, they mustn’t nap after eating). Try a virtuous crudite platter, authentic Mexican shrimp cocktail or filo-wrapped spanakopita

Recommended: Rava Wines – Sparkling Grenache Rosé

Rava Wines’ Sparkling Grenache Rosé is a standout Paso Robles offering that brings a playful-yet-sophisticated twist to your holiday shindig. Greet guests with fresh, lively aromas of cherry and strawberry, intertwined with delicate floral hints of rose petal. The meticulous “méthode champenoise” process, complete with one-year en tirage and state-of-the-art riddling and disgorging, reflects a commitment to quality you can see, smell and taste. On the palate, a smooth texture is perfectly countered by crisp, natural acidity, creating a lovely dance of savory richness and refreshing crispness. 


New Year’s Day Brunch


Did someone say brunch? Semillon’s balanced acidity, textural complexity, citrusy, “orchard fruit” flavors and chameleon-like nature make for the ideal brunch date. From simple fruit and cheese plates to crab cake benedict, there’s a super special semillon to tie it all together. Yes, these uniquely adaptable wines range from light and crisp to full-bodied and lush (a throughline of herbaceousness and minerality unifies them all).

Tip: In sweet or late-harvest semillon wines, the balanced sweetness plays well with sweet breakfasts like Brioche French Toast. Go on, reach for the whipped cream.

Wine Gifts for the Holidays

Great wine never goes out of style. Whether you purchase a case and gift the bottles out to the various do-gooders in your life (the mailman truly appreciates it) or stuff those stockings with gift certificates for wine tastings and experiences, you’ll feel good knowing you supported your favorite winery. Plus, ageable wines make fantastic gifts for those serious wine aficionados who don’t mind waiting five-to-ten years to pop that cork. Not only are thoughtful wine gifts favored by friends and family, they’re also highly customizable. From wine and cheese baskets to quirky wine accessories, there’s a wine gift with their name on it. Check out our guide to gifting the best Paso Robles Wine experiences for more tasty holiday ideas.

Happy holidays!

Pour on the festivities. Now that you’ve uncorked the best holiday food and wine pairings, take a moment to give thanks for all that’s in your cup. After taking stock, we’re sure you’ll find that it truly is a glass half full. This holiday season, stay hydrated, consume responsibly and don’t forget to savor each moment ‘till the last drop.

Cover Photo by Jay Wennington

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