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Great Northwest Wine: Plan ahead for holiday dining starting with Thanksgiving

Ryan Harms and his dog, Luke, walk the rows at Amity Vineyard. Harms and Union Wine Co. purchased the property from Myron Redford in 2014.  (Julia Saltzman/Union Wine Co.)
Ryan Harms and his dog, Luke, walk the rows at Amity Vineyard. Harms and Union Wine Co. purchased the property from Myron Redford in 2014. (Julia Saltzman/Union Wine Co.)
By Eric Degerman Great Northwest Wine

This will be an unforgettable holiday season for all of us, and it begins with Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, Northwest wineries, retailers, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each year, these businesses bank on October, November and December, which they often refer to as O-N-D, as their most critical time because of the celebrations and gift -giving that we all enjoy as part of tradition.

That’s changed for many of us.

As the virus has spiked throughout the Northwest this fall, tasting rooms and restaurants across the region are dealing with a return of restrictions. Some will continue to offer outdoor tastings in chilly yet festive surroundings, but many have closed for the next several weeks.

Meanwhile, look to see if your favorite wineries are offering cyber week specials. These might be deals on shipping, particularly for wine club members. Buying bottles and having them shipped to loved ones is a delicious holiday greeting and helps the Northwest economy.

Here’s something else to consider this season, particularly for those whose personal incomes and budgets haven’t been damaged: Support one of your favorite independently owned restaurants. Order at least one of your holiday meals for takeout and/or delivery this season.

Regardless of your direction, here are several ideas for Northwest wines that will complement those special meals, whether they center around turkey, ham, prime rib, barbecue or vegetables.

Remember when setting the table, place a pitcher of water within arm’s reach of anyone, and make room for two wine glasses per person. One for white, another for red, as well as a filled water glass.

Underwood Nouveau Pinot Noir, Oregon, $14: Ryan Harms of Union Wine Co., one of Oregon’s largest producers, uses pinot noir rather than gamay to toast the annual November hootenanny in France – and beyond – that is Beaujolais Nouveau.

Union harvested the grapes for this wine just a few weeks ago and rushed it to bottle in the spirit of the beaujolais celebration that surrounds the first wine of each vintage. What began as an informal tradition before World War II was officially established in 1951 and promoted worldwide by the late Georges Duboeuf.

Union’s expression fits the nature of the wine, a fun profile of strawberry taffy, bubble gum, cherry punch and plum juice that will be ideal with turkey. Union makes it available by the bottle or in a four-pack of 375-milliliter aluminum cans, and its Nouveau Pinot Noir is only sold online for a limited time, as these wines are very much meant to be enjoyed in their youth.

Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut, Columbia Valley $14: The largest-production sparkling wine in the Northwest also ranks among the best. Floral notes of orange peel and lime zest include a sense of toastiness as the creamy mousse leads out with a touch of tropical fruit.

It’s an expertly crafted wine that checks in with 1.5% residual sugar and won’t cost much at checkout. It’s a perfect wine to launch the holiday season.

Mercer Bros. 2018 Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $17: Prosser native Jeremy Santo, a product of Washington State University, creates for Rob and Will Mercer a chardonnay with integrated oak that achieves harmony alongside touches of orange, apricot and pear.

It’s laid back in its structure with a medium-bodied sweet cream core, yet it finishes brightly with a hint of river pebble. This earned a gold medal at the 2020 Cascadia International Wine Competition.

Cave B Estate Winery 2019 Roussanne, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $27: Chef-turned-winemaker Freddy Arredondo uses this often-overlooked Rhône white grape to create a wine for the chardonnay lover looking for something new and special.

It’s a fruit cocktail in a glass, and the flavors show off with creamy spun sugar, white peach and pear. The brightness to the finish brings a bit of fresh spritz and pushes honey-lemon preserves out to the last drop.

Mount Hood Winery 2019 Gewürztraminer, Columbia Gorge, $24: Drawing on vines from near the Bickford family’s bucolic tasting room, Hood River, Ore., native Rich Cushman crafted a wine with the bouquet of wild roses, spice and tropical fruit.

It resolves in the mouth into an appealing sipper with flavors of pink grapefruit, more spice and just-right acidity perfect to accompany a green salad, Asian fare or a turkey leg. This earned a gold medal at the 2020 Cascadia.

Yakima Valley Vintners 2017 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $18: Trent Ball, Brad Smith and their students at Yakima Valley College collaborate on the wines under Yakima Valley Vintners, which are poured and sold at their Grandview campus tasting room, and this primitivo is grown at Coyote Canyon Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.

Dusty black cherry and strawberry jam aromas hint at a slice of peach. On the palate, it’s all about vine-ripened strawberry and cherry-skin tannins, along with the hedonism that’s associated with this sibling of zinfandel. The school has earned several gold medals in 2020; this is one of them.

Claar Cellars NV Estate Fouled Anchor Port, Columbia Valley: $30: This three-generation vineyard/winery in the Columbia Basin’s proposed White Bluffs American Viticultural Area near Pasco produces this delicious fortified bottling thanks to winemaker Israel Zenteno, who blends four Bordeaux red varieties with syrah.

It’s port-like from start to finish, beginning with a brickish brown appearance and just the right amount of age with Tootsie Pop, black currant, coconut, plum skin and leather. A structure that’s rich and juicy with frontal tannins adds complexity. The long finish of plum, sarsaparilla, caramel and nuttiness will play well with pecan pie or chocolate cake.

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