Holiday Wine Pairing Dinner

There is a fun trend going on in Ontario these days.  Groups of people take the food and wine suggestions from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO)’s seasonal Food and Drink Magazine and turn it into a pot luck dinner party. The quality of the menus and suggestions pretty much guarantees a good time!

This menu and  wine pairing makes an elegant and outstanding holiday menu. It started with the LCBO Food and Drink Holiday issue of 2015 with a few change ups on my part.  I added a few wine pairing suggestions that I was dying to try based on various reviews.  It may seem a bit unusual to have the salad course and then the soup course but I put them in that order since you normally go with lighter wines to heavier wines.  In this case the salad course was paired with lighter whites and should come before the sturdier reds that were served with the soup course.

Take the work out of it… use the menu and wine suggestions below,  divide out the courses as potluck and enjoy. What I love about our wine pairing meals is that we divvy out the cooking with the specific recipes and you can enjoy an outstanding dining experience which doesn’t overwhelm any one person.

And.. you can save money at the same time!  Many of the preferred wines cost much less than other suggested wines.


Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Persimmons

Caramelized Leek and Mushroom Soup

Classic French Short Ribs

Potato Mash with Celeriac, Parsnip and Frizzled Leeks

Maple Mousse Butter Tart

Pecan Shortbread with Stilton Filling

Tasting Notes


The notes are the result of voting by the 14 convivial wine/foodies in our tasting group. The preferred wine pairing for each course is indicated with Preferred following the name.  I took the wines suggested for pairing by the LCBO and then searched for other varietals that logic and tradition suggested  should pair well.  Some principles of pairing from Kendall Jackson winery are listed below the post. All the wines tasted were delicious in their own right but from a pairing perspective there was a subtle edge to one in each course.

The main points I took away from the tasting were:

  • Choose the Same Sweetness Level.  This was illustrated by the Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling being the preferred wine  for the salad course. The vinaigrette called for 5 Tbsps of sweet white wine and  our participant chose to add  Riesling Ice Wine.  The Inniskillin was the sweetest of the wines  paired with this course that day.  I suspect if you made the vinaigrette with a different sweet(ish) white wine whatever wine you are serving that most closely matches the sweetness in the vinaigrette would prevail.  Or…. take the guess work out of it… serve the same wine you use in the dressing for this course!
  • Choose Similar Weight and Texture.  While both wines were gorgeous the Pinot Noir slightly overpowered the Mushroom soup which is surprisingly delicate tasting,
  • Pair with the Sauce.  In this instance one of the LCBO suggestions was Henry of Pelham Baco Noir VQA (LCBO#270926) @ 14.95.  I thought it might be unfair to pit this wine against the other highly rated wines in the mid $20 range so… I used the 14.95 Henry of Pelham Baco Noir in the sauce for the short ribs and served the higher rated 24.95 Baco Noir at the table.  All the wines paired well but  I think the wine in the sauce gave the same varietal a subtle edge at the table. So.. again.. if in doubt about what to serve with your dish.. consider serving the same wine  as you used in the sauce or a slightly ‘lesser’ version of the wine in the sauce and serve the higher rated at table as above.
  • Choose Similar Flavours.  For the dessert course the white port’s honey, almond and vanilla notes complemented the dessert flavours, much  better than the fruity flavours of the Vintage port.  The Royal Tokaji despite being gorgeous and 5 Puttonyos was over shadowed by the dessert flavours in this instance (which would be a shame to do since it is a delightful dessert wine in the right circumstances!)


Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Persimmons

• Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling VQA Riesling (PREFERRED)
—LCBO 219543 $13.95

Straw colour; floral, fruit, honey, apricot and petrol aroma; full off-dry, honeyed fruit flavours with lemon and apricot, balanced acidity, long finish

Also Tried….

• Thirty Bench Riesling 2013 Riesling
VINTAGES#: 24133  16.95

This is a delicious, mouth-watering Bench riesling with great tart/sweet ying and yang. The nose is very lifted with lemon wax, petrol, yellow plum and spice. It’s light to mid-weight (10.6%) alcohol, with a touch of sweetness to balance that electric acidity. Excellent length and tension. Score – 91. (David Lawrason,, July 17, 2015)

• Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2013  LCBO#198853  $23.95
This has evolved into one of Niagara’s go-to rieslings for mineral lovers. Maybe it’s name association with quarry, but you can almost taste the rocks here, along with green apple, lime and vague herbal undertones. It’s dry but not austere with firm acidity and dry citrus and mineral finish. The 2013 vintage is right in the wheelhouse of this wine. Excellent length. Should age to 2020, perhaps beyond becoming more mellow and perhaps honeyed. Tasted June 2015
David Lawrason NWAC15 Gold Medal Winner score 90

Caramelized Leek and Mushroom Soup

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz (PREFERRED)
LCBO#: 390872  $35.00

Inky purple; the nose offers notes of blackberry, dark chocolate, and eucalyptus; the dry and rich palate is layered with red fruit character, cocoa, and a slightly herbal finish.


Also Tried..

Talbott Logan Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
LCBO V 419432 $35.95
This single-vineyard Pinot is the flagship wine from Talbott, and while this new 2013 bottling has not yet been reviewed, past vintages have scored big – including 94 points from for the 2012. This wine delivers spicy, earthy fruit aromas and flavours with great elegance, juiciness and complexity and a long finish. (VINTAGES panel, Oct. 2014)

Classic French Beef Ribs

Potato Mash with Celeriac, Parsnip and Frizzled Leeks


• Henry Of Pelham Baco Noir VQA  (PREFERRED)
This may be the closest Ontario will ever come to making southern Rhone wine. It’s full bodied, fairly dense, meaty and rugged with all kinds of licorice, plums, inkiness and sweet oak. Full bodied dense, sinewy and soured-edged, and packed with flavour, chocolate, mincemeat. Very impressive. Should age ten years. Score – 91. (David Lawrason,, Oct. 2, 2014)

Also Tried….

• Brotte La Fiole Cote Du Rhone AOC Grenache/Syrah
Clear medium ruby colour; moderate aromas of blackberries, raspberries and spice; extra dry and medium bodied with flavours of raspberries, spices and black fruits; medium finish,ready to drink.
LCBO #293498  $16.95
• Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2013 Grenache Blend
—V 643239 $25.95

Slightly more ripe, voluptuous and textured than the more Syrah-dominated l’Esquerda, the translucent purple-colored 2013 Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem comes from the schist soils around the village of Latour de France. A blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Carignan that was harvested on September 15 and aged all in concrete tanks, it’s a fabulous wine that offers elegant notes of red and black raspberries, roasted herbs, pepper, melted licorice and asphalt. These flow to a medium to full-bodied 2013 that has a full, layered mid-palate, beautiful fruit, fine tannin and a classically focused, dry finish. It continues to freshen up in the glass, has integrated acidity and lots of class. Buy this brilliant wine by the case and drink it over the coming decade. Score – 94. (Jeb Dunnuck,, April 2015)

Olim Bauda Le Rocchette Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2012
V 434258  $28.95

Olim Bauda’s 2012 Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Rocchette is gorgeous. Beams of underlying acidity and minerality support the expressive fruit and give the wine its sense of drive. The Rocchette will drink nicely for at least another handful of years. This is a joyous, utterly irresistible wine from Olim Bauda. Drinking window: 2014-2020. Score – 93. (Antonio Galloni,, Nov. 2014)

Maple Mousse Butter Tart

Pecan Shortbread with Stilton Filling




Taylor Fladgate Fine White Port (PREFERRED)

—VINTAGES#: 69856  $16.95
White port is aged in barrel, so the shade is honey gold – not white. This has a soft, elegant nose of corn syrup, baked almond, honey and vanilla. It’s medium full bodied, very sweet, smooth and creamy with considerable licorice and warmth on the finish (20% alcohol). Excellent length. It’s a bit overboard on sweetness for modern tastes but this [has] excellent quality. Chill it quite well. Score – 90. (David Lawrason,, Jan. 3, 2013)

Also Tried….
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port
—LCBO#: 191239 $16.95
Opaque purple colour; spicy, plum, raisin/dried fruit, milk chocolate, black cherry, cranberry and fruitcake aromas and flavours; full-bodied, sweet, lush, ripe and lingering finish.

Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú 2008  $23.95

Shows some intensity, with aromas and flavors of orange peel, grapefruit, clove and dried apricot. This is vibrant and tangy, offering a long aftertaste that introduces smoke and mineral elements. Drink now through 2028. Score – 92. (Bruce Sanderson,, web only, 2014)


Pairing Basics (Kendall Jackson)

Choose Similar Flavors
Similar food and wine flavors complement each other.
Example: Sole with lemon sauce and Sauvignon Blanc both have citrus flavors.

Choose Similar Weight and Texture
Similarly weighted food and wine complement each other. Food and wine can be light, medium or heavy-bodied.
Example: Lobster and Chardonnay are both medium-weight and rich so they complement each other.

Choose the Same Sweetness Level
Wine should be equal to or higher in sugar than the dish.
Example: Roasted pork with apple glaze pairs beautifully with Riesling.

Salt Needs Crispness
Crisp wines balance salty flavors.
Example: A crisp Sauvignon Blanc balances salty olives and feta cheese.

Pair with the Sauce
Pair the wine to the sauce served.
Example: Light citrus sauces pair with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Example: Heavy cream and mushroom sauces are ideal with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Example: Red and meat sauces match Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah.

No Sauce? Pair with the Meat
Match wine to meat, fish or poultry when serving without a sauce.
Example: Pinot Noir tastes great with duck.

Spicy Foods
Sweeter wines offer relief from spicy foods.
Example: Riesling pairs well with Asian cuisines.

Tannins Need Fat to Balance Out
Tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon cut through the coating that fat leaves in the mouth.
Example: Cabernet pairs great with steak.

Look: Pair by Color
Nature has color-coded fruit and vegetables with the wine best suited to their flavors. Light wines – light foods; deeply colored wines – rich foods.
Example: Sauvignon Blanc is pale yellow and pairs well with citrus.

Consider Acid Levels
Like sweetness, wine should be equal to, or higher, in acid than the dish.
Example: Pinot Noir matches well with tomato tapenade.


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