Cranberry Dip and Aperol Spritz: How to Get the Party Started on Thanksgiving

Let’s get the party started this Thanksgiving with an appetizer and cocktail pairing!

Alright my friends, let’s be honest…when it comes to preparing for Thanksgiving Day, appetizers and pre-dinner drinks are pretty low on the priority list. I’m usually in the kitchen as early as 9:00 am and am not thinking about entertaining soon-to-be-arriving guests. My mind is on much more important things like stuffing and sweet potatoes.

But having a game plan for an appetizer is life-saving, and I’ve got you covered this year with a yummy dip AND a cocktail to pair with it!

I recently discovered this simple cranberry-orange relish which is the easiest, least-filling-but-still-appetizing dip perfect for turkey day, and it will satisfy all the dinner guests looking to munch on something while waiting for the main meal (at my house that would definitely be my husband). You can mix it up a day ahead (and seriously, why wouldn’t you?) and finish it up in minutes before serving.


Cranberry-Orange Relish

  •  1 (16 oz) bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed

  • 1 jalapeno, minced

  • 3 green onions, white and green parts finely chopped

  • 1 handful cilantro

  • 2 tsp orange zest

  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • `1/2 Cup sugar

  • 1 (8 oz) package light cream cheese (optional)

  • pita chips or crackers

Directions

  1. Place the cranberries, green onions, cilantro, orange zest, and orange juice into a food processor. Process and pulse until finely integrated.

  2. Transfer to a bowl and mix in salt and sugar. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight (make this the day ahead of time to ease up your turkey-day schedule!)

  3. When ready to serve, spread cream cheese along a bowl or plate. Top with the relish and serve with crackers/chips.


The Pairing

Anytime company comes over, it’s a party in my book. And its not a party unless drinks are being offered! This year I’m keeping it simple and pairing the Cranberry-Orange relish with Aperol Spritz cocktails. If you’re unfamiliar, Aperol is a aperitivo, meaning it is generally drank prior to a meal to wake up your taste buds. We need that on Thanksgiving!

Aperol has a slightly bitter, tart cherry and orange flavor profile but is sweetened up in this cocktail thanks to the addition of Prosecco and club soda. Its very easy to make so you can keep your attention in the kitchen (or hey…just show your guests how to make them and they can do it themselves!).


Aperol Spritz

  • 1 parts Aperol

  • 1 part Prosecco

  • splash of club soda

  • Orange wheel for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place orange wheel at the bottom of a wine glass. fill with equal parts Aperol and Prosecco (about 2 ounces each if you must measure). Add just a splash of club soda

  2. Top with ice cube and enjoy!

Note: Any sparkling wine will work with this cocktail, although Prosecco is traditional. I like to use Cava as a budget alternative.

Note: This drink is totally customizable to each drinker’s liking. Too bitter? Add more Prosecco. Too bland? Add more Aperol. if anyone isn’t a fan of aperol, skip it altogether and pour them a glass of Prosecco. Boom. Done.

Fall Seasonal Beers: All About Pumpkin Ale!

A lot of beer styles have great stories, but Pumpkin Ale's story is one of my favorites. 

A True American Beer

Back in the colonial days of America, pumpkins were everywhere. It wasn't uncommon to find fields of wild pumpkins, and for that reason, they weren't exactly a hot commodity (because they were everywhere!). 

If a year's harvest was poor and brewers didn't have access to the amount of grains they needed to brew beer, they would turn to the excess pumpkins laying around as substitute. Pumpkins provide plenty of sugar, and that is all that brewers needed to create beer. Therefore pumpkins were used as a "last resort" in brewing--no one purposely used them in brewing unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Fast forward to the 1980s and Bill Owens of Buffalo BIll's Brewery--Bill read that George Pumpkin used to brew beer with pumpkins, so he decided to resurrect the style. However, simply adding pumpkin to the beer didn't impart much flavor, so BIll added traditional spices you'd find in pumpkin pie to give the beer a little more oomph. Other breweries followed with their own interpretations and before we knew it, pumpkin ale is a style again! 

Pumpkin Ale Profile

There is no specified flavor profile for pumpkin ale, but many brewers will commonly include pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to add "autumn" character to their beer. I've tried ones that are straight up "PUMPKIN!" like Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, and others that are a bit sweeter and dessert-like, like New Holland Brewing's Ichabod Ale (one of my personal favorites this past year!). 

I feel like it has been a recent trend for beer geeks to poo-poo on Pumpkin Ale, but I happen to enjoy them for what they are--a historical beer style resurrected into something completely new. Although most pumpkin ales are released as early as August, I'll hold on to them through September and October and drink to get into the fall spirit. 

Do you like Pumpkin ale or despise it? I want to know! 

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The Beers of Oktoberfest

Fall is my favorite time for beer because this is Oktoberfest season! There are two styles of beer that we associate with Oktoberfest: traditional Marzen and modern-day Festbier. Check out the video above for how these two styles came to be! 

Oktoberfest Pin.jpg

Christmas Gifts for the Home Bartender

It’s finally time to get all your loved ones presents (and maybe a few for yourself!)! If you’ve got someone on your list that likes cocktails, is a home bartender, or maybe is wanting to become one, today’s post will give you some perfect gift ideas for them. There are many ridiculous products out there that are just not needed and I know you don’t want to buy yet another gift for someone that will collect dust in the corner or end up in the garage sale pile. So fear not! Here are 5 gift ideas for the home bartender:

Books

I have a huge library of cocktail books and will gladly accept more. If your gift recipient is a cocktail lover, they will definitely appreciate a new book to read as well. For the new enthusiast, consider buying an “all around” cocktail book with good recipes (my favorite is the first one listed below!). For the expert, buy them a specialty book on one specific interest they have like gin or tiki drinks. Here are some suggestions from my library:

  1. The Ultimate Bar Book. Every bar should have this book/great for newbies (Mittie Hellmich)

  2. Liquid Vacation: 77 refreshing tropical drinks from Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas

  3. The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival

  4. Sherry: A Modern Guide to the World's Best Kept Secret

  5. The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World's First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore

Bar Utensils

If your gift recipient is a seasoned home bartender, they may already have most of the bar utensils they need; but for someone new to the scene, proper bar utensils are absolutely essential for getting started. Here’s what I can’t live without in order of most important to least important (but all are still important lol):

  1. Boston Shaker. Don’t waste your time with fancy cocktail shakers! Every single one that I’ve purchased in the past has leaked! Every. Single. One. This is the one I use. 

  2. Jiggers: used to measure ingredients for cocktails. Here’s what I’ve bought. 

  3. Strainer

  4. Mixing Spoon

  5. Fruit Peeler

  6. Grater

  7. Muddler

  8. Fun cocktail picks. My latest purchase.

Glassware

Everyone will appreciate good glassware! But don’t be thinking that I’m telling you to buy your recipient a tacky martini glass that says “cocktail time!” or whatever. I’ve accumulated many 1-glass presents over the years and most of them were donated immediately to the thrift shop. I’m talking about gifting a nice set of glassware which can get expensive, but will most definitely be appreciated. Just try to find out what your loved one needs so that you don’t buy them something they already have:

  1. Martini Glass Set

  2. Low Ball/Old Fashioned Glass Set

  3. Hi Ball Glass Set

  4. Coupe Glass Set

  5. Whiskey Glass Set

  6. Decanters (even better if you fill it with booze!)

Bar Cart

This one may be reserved for big budgets, but if you’re looking for a statement piece for your home bartender, get them a bar cart! I got mine at an antique store but new ones are also an option, like these: AmazonWest Elm

Spirits

Finally, don’t forget that your home bartender will appreciate a good bottle of booze...after all, that’s why they are into home bartending! Find what type of spirit they need or like most, and get them a good bottle (with a little research you can find fun options, or just ask me!). For instance, my husband likes scotch. Last year I got him Aberlour because it was something new for him to try and something he probably wouldn’t have purchased himself. If your recipient is looking to just grow their collection, find some fun bitters to give them. Last idea--find a fun cocktail recipe you think they’d like, then buy all the ingredients to make that cocktail. If you feel like spoiling this lucky gift recipient, buy them the utensils and bar cart to go along with the cocktail!

Happy shopping and leave a comment below if you have any questions! 

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How to Pair Beer With Thanksgiving

Everyone remembers to put wine on the dinner table for Thanksgiving, but what about beer? You can't forget about the beer!

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite meal of the year because I put about 9 bottles of both wine and beer on the dinner table (as if I need an excuse...). Wine is a great contribution, but seriously, beer is where it's at.

Beer is excellent with a meal like Thanksgiving because it is carbonated and can have a dry finish, which cleanses your palate after every sip and makes the next bite of food taste like its your first. With so many flavors going on in the meal, it is excellent to have a palate cleanser like beer. 

There are two beer styles that I recommend pairing with Thanksgiving dinner: Saison and Biere de Garde. Saison is from Belgium, and Biere de Garde is from France. The two styles are very similar (their differences are a discussion for another day) in that they both have spicy, earthy components that will pair excellently with Thanksgiving. Many of them actually have spices IN them, but many just taste that way naturally because of the yeast strain used. 

Saison and Biere de Garde are also excellent because they come in 750ml bottles which makes a great presentation on the Thanksgiving table. They are usually cheaper than wine as well, so you can open plenty up without feeling guilty. 

These two beer styles from Europe may be difficult to find depending on where you buy beer, but don't fret: many American craft breweries are making interpretations that you can substitute easily. Just look for "farmhouse" or "saison-style" on a beer label and you know you've got a winner.

 

DANI'S SUGGESTIONS:

Saison

  • St. Feuillien Saison (Belgium) 
  • Saison Dupont (Belgium)
  • Brasserie a Vapeur Saison de Pipaix (Belgium) 
  • Brasserie St. James Daily Wages (Nevada)
  • Ommegang Hennepin (New York)
  • Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (New York) 
  • Dogfish Head Saison du BUFF (Delaware)
  • North Coast Brewery Le Merle (California) 

Biere de Garde

  • Brasserie La Choulette Amber (France)
  • Brasserie St. Sylvestre Gavroche (France)
  • Brasserie Theillier La Bavaisienne (France) 
  • Sierra Nevada Trip in the Woods (California)

If you can't find these beers, fear not! Here are some other Belgian styles ales I recommend that can be found easily: 

Belgian Tripel

  • Chimay Cinq Cents (White Label) (Belgium)
  • Unibroue la Fin du Monde (Canada) 
  • Westmalle Tripel (Belgium) 
  • Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium) 
  • Victory Golden Monkey (Pennsylvania) 
  • New Belgium Trippel (Colorado)

Golden Strong

  • Delirium Tremens (Belgium)
  • Duvel (Belgium) **Dani's fave! 
  • Russian River Brewing Damnation (California)
  • North Coast Brewing Grand Cru (California) 
thanksgiving beer pairing.jpg

How to Pair Wine With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite meal of the year—Christmas of course wins the “favorite holiday” category, but let’s face it…what other meal do you have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes on the dinner table at the same time?! (theoretically, I know I could do this any time, but it is more special if it only happens once a year!)

This is a holiday that exemplifies everything I stand for—enjoying a great meal around the dinner table with family and friends. This is a holiday that’s ALL about giving thanks, spending time with those you love, cooking, eating great food, and relaxing. It’s what I aspire to do every day of my life.

Thanksgiving also happens to be my favorite because I use it as an excuse to open a bunch of wine and beer, give everyone at least 5 glasses to *taste* said wine and beer, and have fun pairing with the myriad of side dishes on the table. It really is a dream come true for me.

Although I open about 9 different wine and beers every year, no matter how many people are over, I want to make things easy for you and give you my two must-have wines for the Thanksgiving table plus a couple of “runners up” that you can choose to add to your holiday as well.

Wine #1: Beaujolais

Bow-jo-what? Bow-Jo-Lay. This is THE wine to buy for Thanksgiving if you only plan to drink one thing all night. Beaujolais comes from Burgundy, France, and is made from a grape called Gamay. The wine is light-bodied like Pinot Noir and has lots of red fruit (think tart cherry, currant, and cranberry) going on. It also tends to be a bit herbal and earthy, depending on the kind you get. A wine that tastes like cranberries and has herbal notes to it is going to be PERFECT with Thanksgiving. Bam.

Dani's Picks: 

  • Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages $
  • Georges DuBeouf Beaujolais Villages $
  • any Cru Beaujolais $$
    • Morgon
    • Moulin-a-Vent
    • Brouilly
    • Cote de Brouilly
    • Julians
    • Chenas
    • Fleurie
    • Regnie
    • Chiroubles
    • Saint-Amour

Even better is that Beaujolais is kinda out of fashion right now, so you can get a GREAT bottle for under $20. Beaujolais Nouveau comes out around this time every year so that is a fine option, or if you want to spend a few extra bucks go for Beaujolais Villages. And then if you want to get really fancy you can do a Cru Beaujolais. Any of these will be perfect with Thanksgiving. If you don’t think you will like this wine, please just trust me and try it with this meal. It is such a good pairing that it won’t matter if you like bigger reds or whatever your reason is.

Wine #2: Riesling

Before you go all “I don’t like sweet wine” on me here, let’s think about the kinds of dishes that are served at Thanksgiving: sweet potatoes. Cranberries. Creamed Corn. I see a lot of sweet dishes on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet food does NOT go well with dry wine. Any Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, whatever that you put on the table that doesn’t have sweetness to it will not work with food that has sweetness. Therefore, Riesling is awesome with Thanksgiving because it has great acidity (perfect for food pairing) and a hint of sugar which will match any sweetness in dishes. Make sure to pick one that isn’t dry, but also don’t pick one that is dessert-sweet. We’re looking for off-dry or “kabinett” level here.

Dani’s Picks:

  • Elk Cove Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley OR $$
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" or "Dr. L", Mosel Germany $$
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, Columbia Valley WA $
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Runner Ups

Pinot Noir

Similar to Gamay, this is a good pick if you can’t find Beaujolais or are really that afraid of trying something new.

Dani's Picks:

  • Rodney Strong Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley CA $$
  • Adelsheim Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley OR $$
  • Erath Pinot Noir, OR $

Gewurztraminer

this wine often has some residual sugar in it, acting like Riesling while pairing. Gewurztraminer is also known as the “spicy” grape, meaning it carries spice aromas and flavors like cinnamon, clove, ginger, and allspice (matching many flavors on the table)

Dani's Picks:

  • Trimbach Gewurztraminer, Alsace France $$
  • Columbia Crest Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley WA $

Sparkling Wine

This is a great wine to have before dinnertime because it can get the party going. It also provides a nice palate-cleanser throughout the meal because those bubbles will scrub flavors off your palate. If you pick an off-dry style (one with a hint of sweetness), it will also pair well with dishes on the table (please refer back to the Riesling comments to understand why).

Dani's Picks:

  • Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine, Anderson Valley CA $$
  • Any Champagne
  • Freixenet (or any) Cava, Spain $

Looking for a wine to pair with pumpkin pie? Sorry, I’m not a fan of wine with pie. Beer wins that race. But if you must, opt for a sweet wine like Riesling or Moscato. Personally I might have some Bailey’s and coffee this year.

How to Make Hot Buttered Rum

Confession: This blog post is not new. Well, the pictures are, but the original post was written in 2014 when I was a new blogger...and incredibly frustrated with my photography skills. I wanted to share this recipe with y'all again since it is my Christmas cocktail staple, but the original blog post was just too cute to revise. So if you've been along this blogging journey with me for a few years now, hopefully you can appreciate the nostalgia of what you're about to read as much as I do. Just a couple things are different now...Andrew and I are of course married, we live in our new (old) house with a REAL fireplace, and we no longer have to dream about snow...this time of year we get plenty of it in our new hometown of Reno. Enjoy the post, and enjoy your hot buttered rum.

Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

Hot Butt Rum, Hot Butt Rum, na-na-na-na na-na-na-na Hot Butt Rum.

That is the tune that Andrew sings every time he makes me Hot Buttered Rum, replacing the lyrics of "Hot Cross Buns". He actually does this quite frequently, replacing lyrics to songs, especially around Christmas time. His favorite one (and secretly mine too) is replacing "kids jingle-belling and Dani Grams yelling" during the "most wonderful time of the year" song.  I gotta love our relationship. :)

Here in Las Vegas, we have to force ourselves into the holidays spirit. For those of us used to crappy, cold weather and dreary days around Christmas time, its difficult even after 10 years to adjust to the endless sunny days, palm trees, cacti, and warm daytime temperatures of the desert.

Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

Despite having gotten our Christmas tree in t-shirts this year, our holiday season has been merry and bright thanks to one seasonally special drink: hot buttered rum. An irresistible cocktail with a funny name, this has been Andrew’s and my favorite holiday drink for the last few years. This is the go-to holiday concoction if you’re looking for something sweet and warming but don’t want the heaviness you’d get from creamy drinks like eggnog or baileys.

Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

No matter how hot it may still be outside, a glass of hot buttered rum makes me want to snuggle in front of the (dvd) fireplace with the illusion that its snowy and cold out. And it’s a great one for your holiday guests—who doesn’t like butter, and who doesn’t like rum? You may get the occasional friend or family member who will look at you when you offer one with the look on their face like “butter in a cocktail??” You may even be thinking that right now. But trust me, this cocktail will be the hit while you’re decorating, while you’re eating cookies, while you’re opening presents…the opportunities are endless!

 Merry Christmas! I hope this cocktail enhances all the cheer in your home for the holidays!

Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Total time: 5 mins

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 2 Cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • dark rum (we often use spiced!)
  • hot water

Instructions

  1. With an electric mixer, blend butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium bowl. Place in a sealable container and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. For each cocktail you make, spoon 1 Tablespoon of the butter mixture into a small mug. Top with 2-3 oz of dark rum, then fill the rest of the mug with hot water. Mix the contents of the mug together with a spoon or small whisk.
  3. Keep the butter mixture in the fridge and use whenever you are in the mood for another hot buttered rum! (Makes about 12 drinks total)
Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

4 Wines to Have on the Thanksgiving Table

It's almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! I look forward to this day every year not only for the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (potatoes are my favorite) but because its the day that I can put multiple wine glasses at each place setting, open a ton of bottles, and force my family to try everything while I enthusiastically shout out what wine to try with which dish (it really is a dream come true). Just kidding, I don't force anyone to drink wine. But it is pretty awesome getting to taste each wine with the side dishes and having those "aha!" moments where something works really well.

With that, I give you my top 4 wines to have on your Thanksgiving table this year and every year after this. Since you'll hopefully have plenty of people over to drink 4 bottles of wine, this is a great way to get variety onto the table and avoid buying multiple bottles of the same wine. Woohoo!

What wine to do you pair with Thanksgiving dinner? I say, pair 4 of them! Here are the top 4 wines that must be on your Thanksgiving dinner table | Lessons in Libations

1. Sparkling Wine

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with sparkling wine?! Not only are bubbles great for the holidays, but they also pair with the many flavors of the meal. Each time you take a sip of sparkling wine, the bubbles scrub your tongue clean, giving you a fresh palate for the next bite of food you take. With all the flavors going on in Thanksgiving side dishes, sparkling wine will help cleanse your palate.

You have lots of choices when it comes to bubbles, depending on your budget. Cava, Prosecco, Champagne...all good. My biggest piece of advice, however, is to spend at least $10 on that bottle of bubbly. Any less, and you risk the bottle being force-carbonated which might give you a nasty hangover for Black Friday. (And nobody wants that).

Dani's Picks:

  • Nino Franco Prosecco Brut $
  • Freixenet Brut $
  • Roederer Estate Brut Rosé $$
  • Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut $$$

2. Riesling

Riesling is an absolute MUST at the Thanksgiving table! There are lots of sweet flavors in the dishes, so you need a sweet wine to balance them out. However, don’t go buying late-harvest, dessert-style Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett Riesling from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.

Dani's Picks:

  • Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel, Germany $
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley, Washington $
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Mosel, Germany $$
  • Elk Cove, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$

3. Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. It is actually the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though it's a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, Beaujolais boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, Cru Beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one. Note: Beaujolais Nouveau hits stores in November each year, so it should be very easy to find.

Dani's Picks:

  • Any Beaujolais-Villages
  • Any Beaujolais that says "Morgon", "Brouilly", or "Moulin-a-Vent"
  • Favorite producers: Joseph Drouhin and Georges DuBoeuf

4. Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannin. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy  so these light-bodied wines will complement, rather than overpower, them. Personally I suggest a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Flowers, Sonoma Coast, California $$
  • Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

Other Favorites of Mine

Gewurztraminer or Cabernet Franc are also great additions to the Thanksgiving table if you are feeling a bit more adventurous. Just stay away from big wines like Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, unless you have guests coming over that will not settle with anything else (in which you should make them bring their own wine. Just saying.)

What are your favorite wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comment

7 Romantic Meals to Cook for Date Night at Home (Plus What Wines to Pair With Them)

Skip the restaurant crowd and have a date night at home! Each meal includes wine or beer pairings to match Valentine’s day is less than a week away, did you remember to make reservations at your favorite restaurant? After working in fine dining for a number of years,  going to a restaurant on Valentine's Day could easily be one of my worst nightmares. So instead, my honey and I make a great meal at home and watch a good movie. Sooooo much better than fighting the crowded dining rooms and slammed kitchens of restaurants.

Here are 7 meals you can make right at home to celebrate date-night in. Pop open a bottle of the wine I suggest for each recipe, and you've got a perfect night!

Chipotle Cream Shrimp Paired with Albarino White Wine | CaretoPair.comSpicy, Creamy Chipotle Shrimp

This romantic dish comes together in just 15 minutes! Pair with a Spanish Albarino to really steam up your date night. Get the recipe and wine pairing

What Wine to Pair with Chinese Take Out: Pick Riesling for your favorite homemade or take out Chinese Dishes! | CaretoPair.comChinese Take-Out

Orange chicken, broccoli beef, and cream cheese wontons made at home can be much more flavorful (and rewarding) than ordering takeout. But if you don’t feel like cooking on date-night-in, you can still have a romantic meal by popping open your favorite bottle of riesling or pilsner. Get the recipes and pairings.

Classic Eggplant Parmesan Recipe and What Wine to Pair WIth It | CaretoPair.comEggplant Parmesan

This is one of those dishes that looks like you put a lot of work into it but really... you didn't. Pair it with Chianti and crusty bread and you've got yourself a meal. Get the Recipe and Pairing

Spaghetti WIne Pairing | CaretoPair.com

Spaghetti with Garlic Basil Tomato Sauce

What’s more romantic than recreating the scene from Lady and the Tramp? Here’s a super easy spaghetti dish that is great for both beginner and pro cooks. Most of the ingredients should already be in your pantry, too. Get the recipe and pairing

Beef Bourgignon homemade paired with a Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir). Classic wine pairing | CaretoPair.com

Beef Bourguignon

Okay, this is a date-night-in dish that will take some planning and active time in the kitchen. But I promise, the result is so rewarding! Pair this classic Burgundian meal with Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) for a date-night-in you won’t forget. Get the recipe and wine pairing

7 Romantic Meals to make for Date Night In

Rib-Eye Steak Made in the Reverse-Sear Method

This is my go-to Valentine’s day meal because it is just as good, if not better, as going to our favorite steak house... sans crowded dining room. Treat yourself to a good cut of meat and open your favorite bottle of Napa Cabernet to guarantee a happy date. Get the recipe and wine pairing

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry Compote; Pair it with Framboise

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberries and Framboise

Don’t forget about dessert! This white chocolate cheesecake is simple yet impressive, and can be made in advance so you don’t have to take a break from date-night. Pair it with a fruit lambic for a great end to your evening. Get the recipe and wine pairing

The Andalucia Cocktail: Paired with Chorizo and Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

In collaboration with my favorite Paleo Blog, South of Vanilla, we bring you this impeccable appetizer and cocktail pairing, perfect to kick off any holiday party!

Friends, I cannot believe it has taken me this long to share this cocktail with you. Of all the (new age) cocktails of the world, this one is my favorite. And I know, that's saying a lot! When I first tried the Andalucia in the Downtown Cocktail Room in Las Vegas, my world was changed. Andrew and I raved about it to friends. We kept going back for more. It was such a unique concoction. Then, a few months later, they shared the recipe in a local newspaper. I immediately wrote it down on whatever piece of scrap paper I could find--and I still have it.

This had to have been about 4 years ago now. Since Downtown Cocktail Room changes their menu seasonally, the Andalucia cocktail is long gone. But it still reigns as the seasonal winter cocktail in our house!

The Andalucia Cocktail

What makes this drink so special? Let's just start with the garnish, shall we? This cocktail comes with a slice of manchego cheese and golden raisins. What cocktail have you ever had that is garnished with CHEESE? Besides that, the drink itself is concocted from cream sherry, Nocello (walnut liqueur), and sherry vinegar. Think of a slightly sweet, slightly warming, nutty cocktail that is perfect for the chilliest of nights.

Now, these are all ingredients that I don't necessarily expect you to have just lying around the house. But its soooo worth it to buy them just to make this drink. Trust me on this one.

The Pairing

When Kristina gave me the recipe for her chorizo and goat cheese stuffed dates with honey balsamic drizzle, I was stumped on what to pair it with. These lovely little appetizers are sweet, spicy, fatty and acidic all at the same time. Wine was out of the question and beer was skeptical. But then I realized these would be perfect for cocktail hour, and so is the Andalucia. Winner!

By the way, the chorizo and goat cheese stuffed dates were a cinch to make. They also made me feel super fancy while sipping my Andalucia. This combination will be really great to welcome your guests at your next holiday party this season. Its also a great end to the night, especially if you're a fan of having cocktails for dessert.

To get Kristina's recipe for chorizo and goat cheese stuffed dates with honey balsamic drizzle, click here.

The Andalucia Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Cream Sherry
  • 1 oz Nocello (walnut liqueur)
  • 1/4 tsp Sherry Vinegar
  • 4 golden raisins, for garnish
  • 1 small wedge of manchego cheese, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Fill a martini glass with ice and water and allow it to chill while you prepare the cocktail
  2. Place a few ice cubes into a cocktail shaker and add the cream sherry, nocello, and sherry vinegar. Stir with the ice until chilled.
  3. Dump out the ice and water in the martini glass. Strain the contents of the cocktail shaker (leave out the ice) into the chilled martini glass.
  4. Place 2 golden raisins, then the wedge of manchego, then the last 2 raisins onto a cocktail pick. Serve over the martini glass and enjoy!

Happy Pairing!

Eating on a Budget: The $30 Grocery Budget Goal Week 4

I'm pretty sure the girl behind the counter thought I was crazy while checking out at the grocery store last week. As she scanned my little pile of food, I stared at the screen itemizing my purchases...probably with a crazed look. I told her I've been on this $30 a week grocery budget goal. She said that was impossible. Then my total came out to $35.92. I sighed with a little disappointment but still walked away feeling positive. $35 in groceries for the week is still pretty impressive. And that batch of groceries lasted me 8 days.

It is safe to say that my $30 grocery budget challenge has become something I look forward to every week now. I have found meal planning to be super fun; it takes a few hours to plan out, but the rest of the week is great because I never worry about what's for dinner! I could not be happier that I started doing this and have no plans of stopping.

The Plan for Week 4

I still do not consider myself a pro at meal planning, but by week 4 I should have known better than to go into the grocery store without some sort of list. For some reason, last week I really struggled making a meal plan. The first week I bought chicken, the second I bought pork, the third chicken...what was I to do for week 4? I wanted something different and that really threw me off. My plan was to just go into the store and buy things on sale to make dinners. Yeah...I don't suggest you do this. Always meal plan! As a result of this lack-of-meal-planning, we ended up eating a lot of Mexican-inspired dishes...which are really easy and affordable if you have the basic ingredients like tortillas, avocados, and limes!

Chicken thighs and legs were ridiculously cheap (0.99 a pound!) so I bought two packs and threw them right in the freezer. We actually only had chicken for 2 nights this week, everything else was vegetarian. I also "splurged" on the first night and bought shrimp for $3.29. On a $30 budget we haven't bought any seafood but it was on sale so...splurge!

Week 4 Menu

Day 1: Shrimp Scampi (inspiration here)

Day 2: Mexican-Avocado Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

Day 3: Chicken Thighs with Ranch (I just used my own seasonings, not a ranch packet) and Mashed Potatoes

Day 4: Mac and Cheese (recipe coming soon)

Day 5: Black Bean Tacos (inspiration here)

Day 6: Avocado Chicken Soup (it was sooooo good)

Day 7: Mac and Cheese Leftovers

Day 8: Mexican Rice Skillet

Extras I made: Peanut Butter Ice Cream (check out my chocolate stout and peanut butter float post!)

Lunches: I made a big batch of this orzo, cucumber, and tomato salad

Groceries Purchased:

  • Elbow Macaroni $1.00
  • Black beans (2) $1.38
  • Cheddar Cheese $2.99
  • Whipping Cream $2.29
  • Eggs $2.19
  • Milk $2.89
  • Avocados (4) $3.16
  • Limes (4) $1.00
  • Bananas $1.10
  • Bread $1.50
  • Frozen Broccoli $1.00
  • Frozen Peas and Carrots $2.00
  • Chicken Thighs $4.46
  • Chicken Drumsticks $3.42
  • Cucumber $0.99
  • Carrots $0.33
  • Tomatoes $1.34
  • Cilantro $0.59
  • Shrimp $3.29

Total Spent: $35.92

To see inspirations from the first 3 weeks, here are the links!

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Let me know if you're following along with my $30/week grocery budget goal! And since I have no plans of stopping, I could always use more recipes. If you have any budget friendly meals you've made that you recommend, I'd love to read them! Comment below!

Happy Budgeting :)

Eating on a Budget: The $30 Grocery Budget Goal Week 3

Week 3 was a total winner in my book--we spent $31.50 on groceries and managed to get 8 days of food before going back to the grocery store!

If you missed it, Andrew and I have gone on a super-mega-raging-budget in attempts to save as much money for a down payment on a house. After moving and getting married this spring (and going on an awesome--but expensive--honeymoon), we realized its time to buckle down for our next project: stop renting and get a place of our own by next March.

The $30 a week budget has been difficult, but I must say it is overall turning into an awesome routine. After week 3, I am feeling confident and content with limiting my grocery bill to only the necessary purchases. Gone are the days of buying fancy cheese "just because I feel like it" or a ridiculous amount of veggies that would go bad before being used. With a plan for the week's meals, I've eliminated all unnecessary purchases. It feels great!

Something I have learned, however, is to not punish yourself if you don't need to. If you are as extreme as we are being by not going out to eat AT ALL, go ahead and buy yourself that fancy steak for a Saturday night in. Its a lot cheaper than if you had gone out to a restaurant. That's actually what we're having tonight...and I'll be doing a special blog post about it!

This Week's Menu

This week I purchased a pork tenderloin and slow cooked it with minimal seasonings. Then we shredded the meat and used it to cover 3 meals! Plus, we froze an additional 4 servings allowing for 2 future meals. Thanks to having some chicken thighs from last week and pork chops from week 1 in the freezer, we covered 3 additional meals. Finally, eggplant was on sale for $1 each this week so I made a delicious eggplant Parmesan which fed us twice more. The result was 8 dinners before going back to the grocery store. All for $31.52!

Day 1: Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Cole Slaw

Day 2: Lemon-Ginger Chicken Thighs

Day 3: Pork Fried Rice

Day 4: Pulled Pork Quesadillas (for inspiration, click here)

Day 5: Eggplant Parmesan (recipe coming soon!)

Day 6: Eggplant Parmesan Leftovers

Day 7: Chicken Thighs Leftovers

Day 8: Seasoned Pork Chops and Cumin Rice

Notes for Week 3

  • Andrew only has a coffee for breakfast and I get by with yogurt and granola. I buy the yogurt in bulk and make the granola to cut down on weekly costs. No expenses were towards breakfast this week.
  • For lunches I made these easy bean and cheese burritos. Luckily I had all the ingredients so did not need to add anything to the grocery bill.

What I Bought

  • Milk $2.89
  • Butter $2.99 (I didn't buy the expensive stuff! I'm using this for cooking, and keeping the good stuff for eating)
  • Frozen Peas $1.00
  • Fresh Mozzarella $2.99
  • Fresh Parmesan $3.50
  • Pork Tenderloin $8.52
  • Lettuce $0.99
  • Eggplant (2) $1.98
  • Onions $2.29
  • Corn (4) $1.98
  • Garlic $1.39
  • Buns $1.00

Total: $31.52

I hope this post is inspirational for you to plan your meals and save money! When we first started this I thought we would have to eat beans and rice four times a week...but we haven't had to do that once yet.

For more inspiration on what you can do with pulled pork, here's a great article I used from buzzfeed. And if you missed week's 1 and 2 of our budget, here they are! Week 1 and Week 2.

Happy Budgeting!

How to Buy Wine and Beer for Your Wedding (or Giant Party)

Figuring out what liquor to serve at your wedding doesn't have to be stressful. Use this guide and you'll have the party starting in no time!

I am officially a newlywed. Married. A WIFE. And it feels great!

We got married May 9th and I am still wondering where all this time went. The whole month was a blur; a great, stressful, chaotic, beautiful blur. And now it is all over, and married life begins. I am so excited to start this new chapter. And, I have my brain back! (It was previously in wedding-planning mode for the last 9 months and my focus on everything else, including this blog, was pretty much shot).

If you are reading this post because you need to buy alcohol for your wedding, congratulations! Not only am I congratulating you for getting married, I am applauding you for choosing a wedding in which you can supply your own alcohol. This is one of the biggest expenses you can drastically cut for your big day--alcohol is a huge moneymaker for venues and caterers, often charging as much as 3x of the original cost of the liquor. Plus, I have been to weddings where the selections are pitiful--and still expensive! I don't necessarily plan to be drunk at most weddings, but I certainly don't expect to leave sober either because of poor selections and high prices. (Is my snobbery showing?)

Wine? Beer? Spirits? What do you Buy?

Andrew and I chose not to have a full bar, or any spirits at all for that matter, at our wedding. Why? First of all, providing a full bar is costly. There are the staples you must buy: rum, vodka, scotch, bourbon, gin...and then you have to get the mixers to go along with them. Then there's hiring a bartender to make these drinks. Providing spirits at your wedding is a very nice gesture for your guests that prefer it over beer and wine, but I'm telling you, its not necessary. On top of that, people tend to get a bit more "sloppy" when hard alcohol is in the picture, rather than just beer and wine. I once went to a wedding that turned into an absolute mess because everyone went overboard on taking fireball shots...as this is a fun thing to do at, say, a backyard bbq, decide on what kind of a wedding you want before providing these options.

How to Please Everyone with just Beer and Wine

Guests really aren't going to think "I can't believe there's no bourbon" at your wedding if you provide them with plenty of beer and wine options. The key to all of this is variety; sure Coors Light might be your cheapest option, but why not spice it up with different flavors for your craft beer drinkers? Depending on how many guests you have and how many cases you need to buy, you might as well provide as much variety as possible: rather than buying 6 cases of the same beer or wine, buy 6 different cases for all different kinds of tastes! Plus, this is a great way to personalize your wedding by expressing what you and your partner like to drink. Your guests will be impressed, I promise.

Different Beers to Supply

In order of importance, in my opinion:

  • American Lager. This can be your Coors Light, PBR, etc. Get a little more of this than other beers just to provide standard "drinking" beer for those guests that really don't care what they're drinking.
  • Amber Ale/Brown Ale
  • IPA or Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada is always an easy one)
  • Wheat/Fruit Beer. I supplied New Belgium's "Snapshot Wheat" ale which has some great fruity notes in it, but if you aren't feeling as adventurous, Pyramid Apricot Ale or even Blue Moon or Shock Top will be safe choices.
  • Pilsner. In addition to your standard American Lagers, why not provide some good craft pilsners for guests that want something light, but want to actually taste something in their beer? hehe. A good example of this would be North Coast Brewery's Scrimshaw Pilsner.
  • Porter. I served Anchor Porter at my wedding for the dark beer drinkers. Its my favorite porter out there.

**Worried about seeing bottles and cans of beer at your wedding? We provided mason jars for everyone to pour their beer and wine into (we had a backyard wedding so this was appropriate). If you are really worried, make a sign near the bar area asking guests to pour their beers into their personal glasses. But don't worry, you will be so busy at the wedding that you won't notice any bottles out anyway.

Different Wines to Supply

In order of importance, in my opinion:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  • Bubbles--Prosecco and Cava are great values
  • Malbec or Zinfandel

**You don't have to break the bank when buying your wine options, but don't be too cheap, either. You can find decent wines in the $8-$12 price points (and even a little lower for pinot grigio and malbec sometimes) that will work well for your wedding. Remember to shop at a liquor store, not a grocery store, to get the best selection and pricing. Plus, places like Total Wine & More and BevMo will usually offer case discounts, great for buying in bulk for parties like your wedding.

Bubbly for the Toast

Don't forget about the toast! If you are serving everyone full champagne-glass portions of bubbly, average about 4 glasses per bottle (each champagne flute holds 6 ounces). Therefore, for 45 people, I would purchase 1 case (12 bottles) for the toast. By the way, you don't need champagne for this toast. We poured prosecco for our toast, each bottle costing around $11. There are cheaper options, such as Cava, but don't go too cheap if you don't need to--it is your wedding after all.

Non-Champagne Options to Pour for your Toast:

  • Prosecco: good value, usually $10-$18 a bottle
  • Cava: another good value, some are as low-priced as $6-$10 a bottle
  • Domestic Sparkling: a little pricier, but incredible. My favorite producers are Schramsberg, Roederer Estate, and Iron Horse. $25-$45 range

How Much to Buy

We had a guest count of 45 people. I purchased 11 cases (24 bottles each) of beer and 5 cases (12 bottles each) of wine, and we came back with about 3 cases of beer and 3 cases of wine. Did I order too much? I don't think so, as now we can drink the leftovers and didn't run out of anything at the wedding. Your calculations might be different than mine depending on what kind of drinkers your guests are, so just use your best judgement.

This was my theory behind what to buy--knowing our guests, I knew more beer would be drank than wine. I averaged 5 bottles of beer for each person (knowing some would drink more and some would drink less over the course of the 8 hours of our party). For 45 people, that would be 225 bottles, or approximately 9.5 cases total. I rounded up to 11 just to be safe. If you have a shorter reception, I would average more like 3 or 4 bottles per person.

For wine, I averaged about a bottle of wine per person. I know this is more than everyone would actually drink, but about 3 glasses per person amounts to more than a half a bottle. If your party doesn't have many wine-drinkers or if the reception is fairly short, planning for half a bottle per person is adequate. For wine, however, you also need to factor in spillage. Without a bartender, more bottles than needed will be opened and glass pours will probably be heavier.

I know all these calculations seem way over what you actually need, but remember that it is always better to have more than enough than having to make someone run to the store to get more alcohol in the middle of the reception...there's nothing worse than having a party end because the booze is gone!

I hope this post was helpful to all you soon-to-be-married couples out there! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. And remember that this is a fun part of the planning for your wedding; choose drinks that reflect you as a couple, while picking up a few other things for guests who may not have the same tastes as you. And on a last note, have a great time at your wedding; it truly can be the best day of your life if you let it be.

Dani's Picks for Celebrating NYE with Champagne

Ah, Champagne. We drink it at weddings, we drink it at birthdays. We drink it at graduations, we drink it on holidays. We drink it at restaurants and nightclubs, swanky bars, and cocktail parties. Whenever there's a reason to celebrate, you can be sure Champagne will show up to the party.

There really isn’t any myth to why we drink bubbles while we're celebrating. Sparkling wine has more than a hundred years on soda pop, and although beer is our other BFF in the carbonated world, back in the day, the elite wouldn’t dare associate with it. With the help of the Noveau-Riche generation in the late 1800s and some great advertisements associating champagne with the high life, society has recognized Champagne as the drink of celebrations ever since.

For my drink-loving readers who may not know too much about Champagne, this is the one thing you should take away from this post: Not all sparkling wines are "Champagne". Champagne is a region in France and the most famous in the world for sparkling wines. Thanks to the demand of their wines around the world, Champagne prices are much higher than those, say, made in America, Italy, or Australia. However, their prices are definitely worth it--there is nothing in the world like Champagne, and if you're celebrating....anything...I definitely advocate paying the extra few bucks. (Champagne generally has a more bready, toasty character than most other sparkling wines of the world.)

Check out these pretty glasses from Perrier-Jouet. I've got about a hundred of them for some reason (available in gift packs around the holidays):

Anyway, I've been very lucky to taste some of the famous Champagne houses side-by-side blindly in the past, thus truly distinguishing my favorites. And although through in those tastings I realized I don't really care for the lightly-flavored Dom Perignon but am absolutely crazy about Krug, there was not one Champagne that I did not like. Here are my suggestions if you're looking to celebrate the new year with Champagne but have no idea what to get!

My Champagne Suggestions:

  • Nicolas Feuillatte—my go-to Champagne, and my favorite to share with friends ($36.99 totalwine.com)
  • Pommery Brut Royal ($44.99 totalwine.com)
  • Taittinger La Francais Brut ($39.99 totalwine.com)
  • Perrier Jouet Grand Brut—another one of my favorites for the price ($37.99 totalwine.com)
  • Billecart Salmon Brut Rose—my favorite Rose under $100 ($84.99 total wine)
  • Krug Brut NV—my absolute favorite (non-vintage) bottle! ($180 totalwine.com)
  • Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque—beautiful bottle/presentation, makes a great hostess gift ($160 totalwine.com)
  • Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame—my favorite “elegant-style” Champagne. Skip the yellow-label Veuve and splurge on this one. ($149.97 totalwine.com)

My Non-Champagne Picks:

Don’t feel like paying Champagne prices? No one said you can’t drink other Sparkling Wines on New Years!

  • Roederer Estate Brut $19.99 totalwine,com
  • Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $16.97 totalwine.com
  • Domaine Carneros Brut $22.99 totalwine.com
  • La Marca Prosecco $13.49 totalwine.com
  • Any fully sparkling Asti (Moscato grape) for those of you with sweet-tooths!

Finally, if you're looking at your bottle of Champagne but don't understand some of the lingo on it, here's a cheat sheet:

Champagne Terms

  • Brut—Dry (meaning not sweet) (most common style)
  • Extra Brut—Even more dry than Brut, meaning even less sugar is in the final mix (for purposes of your taste buds, there is very little difference between Brut and Extra Brut)
  • Extra Dry—a bit sweeter than the brut style, but for purposes of your taste buds, there is very little difference (isn't that confusing?)
  • Demi-Sec—relatively sweet style of Champagne
  • Sec—although this literally means “dry” in French, it refers to a sweeter style in Champagne
  • Doux—sweet, dessert style Champagne (very rare to find today)
  • Blanc de Blancs—Champagne made with 100% white grapes, which are almost always Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noirs—Champagne made with 100% red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Although it is made with red grapes, the juice is still white! (so don’t let that confuse you)
  • NV—Non-vintage, which is the majority of all bottles (Champagnes use blends of wine from different years in their signature “house” style)
  • Methode Traditional—the traditional method of making champagne or sparkling wine. All wines from Champagne must be made in the method traditional.

Happy New Years everyone and thanks for reading! I'm looking forward to a lot of blog progress in 2015! :) Please post any questions you may have about sparkling wine in the comments of this post, and I'll be sure to answer them!

What Wine to Pair with Thanksgiving

Its almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! But what is Thanksgiving without some great wines around the table to share with your family and friends? In a way, I would say the wine is the most important part! And the greatest part about the holiday is you can open up a bunch of different bottles and styles and everyone can choose what they like--this is a great excuse to have reds and whites at the table. And usually, none go to waste ;)

Below are my top picks for wines to serve with Thanksgiving dinner based on how great they will pair with the meal. Have fun with choosing your wines and remember that Thanksgiving is one of the best times to try new favorites!

Sparkling Wine

When in doubt, go with bubbles. This is true for almost any dinner you're planning, but even more so for thanksgiving, as there are so many different flavors going on in the meal. Dry sparkling wine, such as Champagne, Cava, domestic, will literally scrub away those different flavors on your palette, leaving your mouth after each sip ready for an entirely new flavor experience.

Gewurztraminer

I feel like so many Americans stay away from this grape because its hard to pronounce (gah-verts-trah-meen-er), but it is an incredible varietal to break out to your guests who will drink nothing but Riesling. I usually prefer gewurztraminer at my Thanksgiving table over riesling because it tends to be a bit sweeter, fruitier, and better-priced. Some actually have a little spritziness to them, which adds a refreshing character. Plus, I can't tell you that I've ever had a bad bottle of gewurztraminer--no matter how cheap the bottle, the juice is still good. The sweetness of this wine pairs well with the sweetness you get from the side dishes, and its a light enough grape not to overpower anything. Splurge (~$30) on at bottle from Alsace, France, like the Trimbach gewurztraminer, for a real treat.

Riesling

Like Gewurztraminer, Riesling is a very good wine to have at the Thanksgiving table. However, don’t go buying late-harvest dessert Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett style from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.

Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. Its the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though its a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, it usually boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, cru beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one.

Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannins. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy (who has ever served steak at thanksgiving?) so they need these light-bodied wines to complement rather than overpower them. Personally I suggest a pinot noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

Cabernet Sauvignon

Okay, this one barely makes the list, but it’s the wine of choice if you need to serve a wine for guests who want a big wine with dinner. I will admit, there was a time when I was getting into wine where it was “go big or go home” mentality, so I would not have been satisfied with the light-bodied wines I suggested above. If you want to provide Cabernet as an option, keep it domestic and try to find a fruitier, lighter-bodied style. And don’t buy one that’s over 14% alcohol, as a wine that high will be very full and could be too “hot” for the delicate flavors of the side dishes.

Have questions on what you should serve with dinner? Send me a comment, below! Happy Pairings!