Alumni Spotlight: Holiday Wine Recommendations

There are lots of reasons that it’s great to be in the PNW, the “Upper Left,” the great state of Washington – a strong and innovative business environment, vibrant cities, beautiful scenery, and an awesome university, to name a few. And of course, wine! Wine grapes were planted in Washington as early as 1825 by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and commercial plantings began in earnest in the 1960s. Washington is second only to California in both amount of wine produced and total number of wineries, and it’s a $7 billion dollar industry for our state.

Given all that, it’s no surprise that a significant number of Foster School alumni are involved in the industry, from vineyard management to winemaking to sales. We asked a handful of alumni wine pros for their recommendations for your holiday meals and gift giving, and here’s what they had to say:

Alison Sokol Blosser (MBA 2004), Co-President, Sokol Blosser Winery, Dayton, OR

“Wine is the perfect accompaniment for any holiday celebration. It’s hard to choose just one “perfect pairing,” and there are often so many different dishes served at once anyway. So, I recommend pinot noir or sparkling wine as the perfect matches for nearly any holiday meal.”

Alison Sokol Blosser Sokol Blosser has more than ten pinot noir options, so for those of us not able to swing by the winery near McMinnville, OR, they offer an online holiday wine catalog featuring several fun packages. My favorites are the “Party Sized Pinot,” a large-scale magnum bottle of estate pinot noir that comes in a wooden box, and the “Holiday Goose,” a three-bottle boxed set of pinot noir from a very small estate vineyard. For sparkling wines, they have both a sparkling white and a sparking rosé to choose from.

John Blair (MBA 2011), General Manager, Dunham Cellars, Walla Walla, WA

“So many options around this time of the year. I love riesling for its versatility around the holiday table and its ability to stand up to sweeter flavors (and who doesn’t love sweets around the holidays?) Cabernet and prime rib go hand in hand as it would with brisket and latkes. If you’re roasting a bird or vegetables, then the earthy/fruit profile of syrah is usually a great match. I’m an equal opportunity hedonist around the holidays, we don’t necessarily have a family wine tradition other than opening a bunch of fun bottles and exploring.”

John Blair Dunham’s single riesling varietal would be a good pairing for sweets, as John mentions, as well as for some of the stronger-flavored or spicy dishes that might appear on your table this season. Dunham also has a late harvest riesling that would be decadent with desserts. Their flagship wine is their single cabernet, and for reds they also offer a syrah and three different blends (all delicious, I can attest firsthand, as I visited their tasting room as part of the fun and educational UWAA Walla Walla Wine Weekend last spring, watch the UWAA website for 2020 dates).

Angela Jacobs (MBA 2010), Founder and Winemaker, WineGirl Wines, Manson, WA

“My favorite is my gewürztraminer. The canned peach flavors and a touch of sweetness plus incredible acidity pair perfectly with all the cinnamon and spices of the meals shared over the holidays, and definitely stands up to the buttery side dishes or the dark meat of a turkey! Here’s a spiced gin pear cake recipe that pairs nicely with the gewurtz. When the meal’s done, our Tinto Fino Port (or any of our ports) is a stunner for an after dinner digestif. Sweet enough to be a dessert without having to actually eat any more food!“

Angela JacobsWineGirl Wines has a large variety of wines with a very fun pin-up girl label style, and tasting notes on each wine are listed on their website. The best way to sample them all is to visit their tasting room in Manson, meet the winery dogs and go through the offerings.

Tim Sorenson (BA 1982), Co-owner and Winemaker, Fall Line Winery, Seattle, WA

“Regarding Fall Line’s new roster of wines, I would suggest our 2016 Exhibition blend with ham, brisket or stew; our 2016 Cirque blend with turkey, stew and savory dishes; and our 2016 Vertical Cabernet Sauvignon with roast beef.”

Tim Sorenson Fall Line is one of many wineries just south of downtown Seattle – they originally opened in Georgetown, and their tasting room is now located in SODO. In addition to the wines listed above, they have another cabernet sauvignon and another red blend. And if you’re in the greater Seattle area, they offer free delivery.

Paul Zitarelli (MBA 2009), Owner, Full Pull Wines/Block Wines, Seattle, WA

“As much as I love the prime rib and big red wine we have for Christmas dinner, my true favorite holiday meal is our Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Because it’s such a varied meal (think toasts with smoked oyster aioli, creamy brandade [salt cod potato mousse], miso black cod skewers), I always open the most versatile category of wine: sparkling! Champagnes and cavas, cremants and proseccos yes, but also the private label bubblies we produce at Full Pull: our Full Pull & Friends Blanc de Blancs and our Block Wines Extra Brut Rosé. Christmas Eve is all about celebration and anticipation, and toasting sparkling wines heightens it all.”

Paul Zitarelli Full Pull is a unique wine retailer operating on a mailing list/reservation model to sell mostly wines made in the Pacific Northwest, and they have a tasting room to sample and purchase their Block Wines in the SODO UrbanWorks complex. List members who pick up at the tasting room are eligible for a discount; if you’re out of the area, you can receive the same discount by ordering in cases. Joining the mailing list puts the Full Pull team to work for you, tasting wines and selecting the best by “quality, price and story” to offer to list members via a very engaging newsletter.

Derek Berger (MBA 1996), Co-owner and co-winemaker, Genoa Cellars, Woodinville, WA

“At our house, Christmas dinner is always a beef tenderloin roast, which we will accompany this year with our Danforth Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Away from the holiday dinner table, the season’s socializing calls for medium-bodied wines with broad appeal that do not necessarily need food accompanying them – Genoa Cellar’s Tuscan-Style Sangiovese blends are perfect.  Here’s to good cheer and good wine for you and yours during the holidays!”

Derek Berger

Guest post by Krista Peterson, Associate Director of Alumni Engagement

Krista Peterson is part of the Alumni Team, working to connect Foster’s 54,000+ alumni locally, regionally and internationally, as well as a Husky that enjoys exploring the many food and wine offerings available across Washington State (pictured here at WineGirl Wines in Manson, WA).