Fun and Festive Ideas for Wine-Savvy Celebrations, Gifting and Entertaining
SAN FRANCISCO — In California wine country, the holiday season is infused with a little extra magic. Wineries across the state’s diverse wine regions deck their halls with dazzling decorations and welcome guests for an array of festive events and activities — from wreath-making workshops and holiday tastings to gift-shopping sprees, tree-lighting ceremonies and concerts. Naturally, local wines play a special role on Californians’ holiday tables.
Whether your plans include a visit to California wine country or you are looking for ways to bring that spirit home to your own holiday table, California Wines has you covered. Read on for fun and festive ideas for celebrating, hosting, gift-giving and entertaining — including wine-pairing tips and California-inspired recipes.
Get Out and Celebrate
In California, the weather outside is far from frightful. That makes the holiday season a perfect time to get out and explore the state’s wine regions. Throughout December, California wineries from the North Coast to Southern California host festive holiday events, including seasonal food and wine pairings, holiday craft workshops, concerts and gift markets featuring local artisans.
Practice Great Gifting
Wineries are a great place to shop for unique holiday gifts. Along with holiday gift packs, many California tasting rooms feature curated collections of wine-centric items, from stunning glassware to corkscrews to cookbooks. You can also pick up sweet and savory treats from local wine country purveyors — perfect for stocking stuffers. For an unforgettable present, purchase a gift card for an experience at the winery, such as a tour, an elevated tasting or even a wine-blending workshop, so you can blend the perfect bottle of wine to give to someone special. The ultimate gift might even be a membership to that person’s favorite winery — a gift that keeps giving throughout the year.
Bring a Special Bottle — or Two
Being a good guest is just as important as being a gracious host. In California wine country, that means bringing a bottle of something delicious to any holiday party or dinner.
If you’re not sure which wine to choose when picking up a bottle at the store — after all, California is home to more than 6,200 wineries and grows over 100 different grape varieties — here’s a pro tip: Look for labels that describe the wine’s appellation or vineyard of origin in detail. This is often a clue that the wine is something beyond an everyday selection. You can view great wine selecting tips here from sommelier Amanda McCrossin.
If the wine is something you’d really like to try yourself, consider bringing two bottles: one to open at the party and the second for the host to enjoy on another occasion.
Greet Guests with a Festive Drink
When hosting holiday gatherings at home, greet guests with a special drink that sets the tone for the celebration. You can’t go wrong with a lively glass of California bubbles or a signature wine cocktail. For easy-to-make, celebratory cocktails such as the Cranberry Rosé and the Chardonnay-based California Gold Rush, go to Discover California Wines.
Cook Up a Celebration with California Wine Country Recipes
Holiday celebrations call for a fresh and flavorful menu paired with Golden State wines. California Wines offers dozens of fabulous holiday recipes for delicious, Golden State-inspired dishes that pair well with California wines. Some are incredibly easy, for those who are new to entertaining and want to keep it simple. Favorites include Winter Beet and Citrus Salad, Dungeness Crab with Three Dipping Sauces, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine and Pancetta and Winter Berry Forest Cake in a Cup.
Don’t Overthink Pairings
Holiday gatherings typically include multiple dishes, and it can be challenging to pair a different wine with each item on the table. To keep things streamlined and delicious, California wine experts recommend three sure-fire, food-friendly wines to have on hand for holiday gatherings:
- Sparkling Wine: Bubbles aren’t just for toasting. Made in styles from fresh and bright to rich and complex to lightly sweet, California sparkling wines can pair beautifully with every course of a meal and all types of cuisine.
- A Light-Bodied Red: Wines that are lower in tannins, such as Pinot Noir and Grenache, tend to be especially versatile with food.
- Rosé: Many people think of pink wines as summer sippers, but they actually pair well with a wide variety of foods year ’round. California rosé ranges from dry and light to fuller-bodied and fruity, making it a great partner for all kinds of dishes.
Another approach is to serve wines in a variety of styles to pair with an array of dishes and guests’ preferences. For example, you might choose a crisp white, like California Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, as well as a fuller-bodied option such as California Viognier or Chardonnay. For reds, you might opt for a bolder wine, like California Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, plus something more delicate, like Cinsault.
Know When to Chill
Many people serve white wines too cold and reds too warm. To make sure the wines are at their best, serve whites at 45° F-50° F, and reds at 55° F-65° F. Most refrigerators chill contents to around 37° F — too cold for wine — so remove whites from the refrigerator about a half hour before you plan to open them. For reds, it’s perfectly fine to pop them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so before serving.
Don’t Stress Over Glassware
If you don’t have enough matching wine glasses for all of your guests, don’t stress. Stems, no stems and different sizes are all fine — no need to match. If you are having a large event, and you don’t have enough glasses overall, party supply companies offer an affordable option for renting stylish and sturdy stemware. Best of all, you don’t need to wash the glasses before returning them.
For more holiday tips, recipes, events and offers, see the online guide from California Wines.
About Wine Institute
Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group of more than 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses that initiates and advocates state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The organization works to protect the economic and environmental health of the state through its leadership in sustainable winegrowing. To learn more about California wines, visit Discover California Wines.