Choose the right wine for holiday celebrations

By Scott Weybright, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

wine-pour-detailRICHLAND, Wash. – “During the holidays, we enjoy great meals with our friends and families,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program. “And great meals are accompanied by great wine.”

Henick-Kling offers a handy guide to Washington wine varieties that go with festive foods:

Cheeses, crackers, olives, cured meats, appetizers:

“Port wines, fortified red wines and sweet rieslings go nicely with basic appetizers. Many Washington wineries make excellent fortified red wines, and they can be stored for a long time if you don’t use all of them.”

wine-bottle-and-full-glassesHam and other pork:

“Ham is a traditional holiday meal, and whites and softer reds pair well with any pork dish. Rosé, pinot noir and grenache are good choices.”

Lamb and beef:

“You need a big red to go with lamb, and we make great reds in Washington: cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec and blends of these with petit verdot and petite sirah. These also go well with beef roasts.”

Spicy foods:

“I love Thai and Indian food during the holidays, but they don’t work well with red wines. Aromatic whites are perfect. Sauvignon blancs, rieslings and gewürztraminer are great with spicy foods.”


“You normally see beer or sake in a sushi restaurant. But if you have the option, try sushi with sparkling wine. It’s a great combination and one of my favorite meals.”


“There are some fantastic dessert wines, especially sparkling wines and sweet rieslings. Washington makes so many good rieslings. It’s worth looking for late-harvest rieslings: they’re sweet, but they balance the sugar with acids very well.”

And of course, sparkling wines are traditional on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s the wine for celebrations and welcoming friends,” Henick-Kling said. “It’s the perfect way to ring in the New Year.”

Student-made wines available

WSU has a line of student-made wines, called Blended Learning, sold around the state. Currently available are a 2012 Bordeaux-style red blend, a 2012 syrah, a 2013 barbera and two 2013 sparkling wines: a brut and a brut rosé.

Blended Learning wines can be purchased at WSU Connections stores, the WSU Brelsford Visitor Center in Pullman, the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser or by contacting Debbie Schwenson in the WSU viticulture and enology program at 509-372-7224 or

The wines can be shipped to Washington, Oregon and California. Credit cards and checks are accepted.


Thomas Henick-Kling, WSU viticulture and enology, 509-372-7292,