Wine and Holiday Entertaining

In Gather, Lifestyle

Tips from an expert on how to choose the best wines for entertaining this holiday season.

It was an eloquent yet gentle dinner party prepared with ease and thoughtfulness. We stood together in the kitchen with our hands mixing and cutting, drinking a sampling of wine, and sharing conversation as the meal was prepared. Once we were seated around the table, the conversation flowed easily around food, family, and the holidays. We talked of flavors and different ways to create beautiful dishes, all while maintaining an ease in hosting parties.


This informal soiree was created for Gatherhaus to interview Joe, who is a well known wine distributor. Joe has been in the business for decades and has turned into a local expert for those not only in the business, but also for the network of people that surround him. For this reason, Kat and I brought our spouses to chat with Joe and his lovely wife Lizzy over dinner with the intent to seek his advice for our readers about food and wine pairing when hosting for the holidays. Joe is in the business of going out to restaurants, and so he and Lizzy find great joy and comfort in cooking at home together with friends. That truth was made evident from the very beginning of our evening when we were greeted at the door with a wineglass in hand, till the meal was over where we were then escorted to our cars with hugs and promises of next time.

It was well past 10 p.m. when we had wrapped up dinner and all the guests had gone home. We had yet to actually conduct the interview, and so there we sat, washing dishes and sipping wine.


What I truly appreciate about my conversation with Joe is the way he makes room for everyone in his answers.  When most come to the table demanding a specific answer in which wine to choose, he invites his listener to engage with their tastes and preferences.

When most would have an answer in regards to a specific wine to pair with fish or poultry or beef, his answer is simply, “I choose really good wines because I am going to have really good food.  I cook food I like, and I drink wine I like. It’s that simple.”


Apparently we are the ones who have made it difficult to pair wines with food.

What Joe taught me was understanding that wine is an agricultural product. It means that not one bottle of your favorite wine will ever be the same from bottle to bottle. The weather, the soil, the grapes all change with the season and the harvest. The result is that even if you have a most beloved label and type of wine, the results will always vary. It is important to resist the temptation to stick with what you know. No brand can be recreated, and if a label tries, then it becomes more engineered, which in turn creates a less natural, final product. Make sure you expand, explore, discover, and enjoy new wines.


So I asked Joe how our readers, who might not be as well versed in selecting wine, might go about finding what they should purchase when hosting their own holiday soiree.  These are the five tips he gave me:

  1. Avoid the Kmarts of wine stores.  Find local liquor stores where the clientele hold more knowledge and training.
  2. Resist the notion “If you’ve heard of it, it’s good.” Taste and preference is specific. Choose what you like. And remember what we learned about agricultural products and their inability to be recreated.
  3. Surrender to someone who knows something about wine. Do a little research about the shops in your area that can guide you through your selections.
  4. Many people start with choosing wine in reds and whites, dry and sweet. Try to think about the flavors you love, seasons you enjoy, food that excites you, cocktails you order. Use these words and emotions to help you describe what you like which will help guide you to a wine that is right for you. When you find it, write it down to help guide you the next time you go.
  5. Pay attention, not to the label or type of wine, but to the region of the country where it’s grown. The dirt, the weather, the location to mountains and ocean all influence the flavor of the wine. Each region is different and thus provides a different flavor wine.

More than just telling me what I should buy when I host Thanksgiving or Christmas, I was encouraged and inspired to find my way around the liquor store. I now have the tools to investigate on my own and find what works best for me.

Joe and Lizzy thank you so much for opening your home and table to us. We enjoyed your hospitality immensely.

For our interview, Joe served us a 2011 La Grola wine which is an Italian wine from the Allergrini family.  Also served (and really enjoyed) was a Roberts and Rodgers Cabernet from the mountain district of Napa Valley.


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