We’ve teamed up with our friends at Wairau River Wines to help you plan the season’s best and most festive dinner parties.
With cooler weather here to stay, it’s time for long, boozy nights with all our nearest and dearest to celebrate the holiday season. Of course, no dinner party is complete without wine, and I’m loving Wairau River’s Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand for the occasion. Here, I’ve curated two five-course dinner menus that highlight the versatility of each variety. Whether you’re looking for a bright seafood feast or something perfect for your Francophile friends, there’s a Wairau River wine for every occasion.
I can’t get enough of seafood, and if you’re anything like me, this is the perfect menu to pair with Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc. This wine balances fruity notes of grapefruit and nectarine with acidity for a crisp, elegant, and supremely drinkable wine.
Kick off dinner with a platter of Broiled Oysters with Sriracha Lime Butter. Broiling oysters helps concentrate the briny flavor while simultaneously poaching them in the punchy, buttery sauce. For our vegetarian friends, I love serving Burrata and Olive Tapenade Crostini. The tapenade can be made up to one week in advance, making this snack especially easy to assemble right before the party—just top toasted bread with a hunk of burrata and your desired amount of tapenade.
For the main course, serve a classic Bouillabaisse with a side of asparagus with Hollandaise and some crusty bread. If you’re unfamiliar, Bouillabaisse is a traditional dish from Marseille, France which combines a myriad of seafood, like mussels, shrimp, clams, and white fish, in a tomato and saffron-based broth. My perfect bite involves dipping a piece of bread into the broth and then through the Hollandaise. This hearty French dish is intensely flavorful and calls to be married with the crisp, refreshing notes of Wairau River’s Sauvignon Blanc. The key to this pairing is that the wine tempers the fruit concentration with subtle herb and floral notes, which balance the Bouillabaisse.
End the meal with my all time favorite dessert, Berries and Cream Pavlova. There’s a few things to keep in mind when making a successful pavlova. First, meringue is best made on cool, dry days which help keep the sugars intact and prevent the pavlova from weeping. The finer the sugar the more stable the meringue will be. If you can’t find caster sugar, add regular ol’ granulated sugar to a food processor and pulse until fine. What makes this recipe particularly special is the addition of crème fraîche to the whipped cream, which simultaneously helps stabilize it while adding some tanginess to cut the sweetness of the meringue.
The second menu takes inspiration from chilly, cozy nights with comforting, French-inspired dishes that pair perfectly with Wairau River’s Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is known for being a wine that everyone loves, and Wairau River’s is especially wonderful. With deep notes of cherry and red berries, this wine has smoky oak undertones that makes it the perfect partner for a rich meal.
Baked brie falls high at the top of my favorite snack foods—it’s hard to beat dragging a piece of bread through a puddle of oozing brie. Enter Brie Bites, which combine all the joy of a baked brie in, you guessed it, one bite. Mini wheels of brie are brushed with hot pepper jelly for a punch and enveloped in puff pastry. The final result is an addictive snack that is sure to keep the whole table coming back for more.
In keeping with the French theme, start the meal with a salad of French “Peasant” Beets. This recipe cleverly uses both beets and their greens, which get cooked together in one pan. Finish the dish with a shower of black pepper and a wedge of Bucheron cheese. It’s the perfect palate cleanser after those baked brie bites.
For the main course, serve two of my favorite cold-weather dishes: Duck à l’Orange and Mushroom Bread Pudding. While duck may seem intimidating, I promise if you take it step-by-step, it’s a totally doable dinner party entrée. This recipe riffs on Julia Child’s classic recipe while taking cues from Peking duck preparation, ensuring crispy skin with a bright, orange flavor. To counter the more laborious aspects of preparing duck, the bread pudding comes together quickly. Custardy hunks of challah are studded with crispy mushrooms and pockets of cheddar cheese for a downright delicious side dish. Sipping Wairau River’s Pinot Noir, with its bright, fruity notes, is the ideal sidekick to the acidity of the orange and the savoriness of the bread pudding.
Don’t forget about dessert! This occasion-worthy meal wouldn’t be complete without a sweet treat, and these Olive Oil Blondies With Salted Caramel are the perfect way to wrap up the evening. Studded with your nut of choice (I love these with pistachios), these blondies are extra special thanks to an olive oil-caramel that gets swirled throughout the batter. Pro tip: I like to cut the blondies in bite-sized pieces so everyone can have as much or little as they want.
What dishes are you serving this holiday season? Tell us below!
Phil and Chris Rose founded Wairau River in 1991, 13 years after they first established their vineyards in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. To this day, the winery remains primarily family-run and is known for its estate-grown Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and much more.
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