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A Taste of the Holidays

Sail Away with these wine pairings for every occasion

Grandma’s apple pie might be a staple on your holiday menu, but finding the perfect wine to showcase such a treasure isn’t found on any recipe card. Sail Away Wine in North Kansas City provides a fun, comfortable and educational way to try new wines without buying a bottle blindly, or even ordering a full glass. With the use of “wine passports” (i.e., plastic cards that can be swiped like a credit card), you can try one, three or five-ounce pours from their 72-bottle selection and decide for yourself where the next taste will take you.

“Consider this a self-led ‘wines of the world tour,’” sommelier Katie Hendley explains. As Sail Away’s sommelier, she hand-selects the shop’s impressive selection and has created a wine-tasting opportunity like none other in the area. “It’s like visiting local ports of call and experiencing local wine,” she explains. With the help of detailed wine notes above each selection, wine novices or connoisseurs alike can customize an experience to their personal palate. Passionate about providing a true wine experience, Katie encourages patrons to leave their worries at the door and really take in the wines’ taste and aromas. “It’s about the way that wine makes you feel,” she says.

Because Sail Away Wine’s selection is curated from limited and small batches not readily available everywhere, you can travel down the Rhine River in one pour and to the coast of California in the next before settling in Argentina to enjoy a bold Malbec. That’s the beauty of the wine passport.

Sara Beane, media relations manager for Sail Away Wine, echoes the sentiment that there’s much more to an evening there than a glass of wine or two. “You can take a mini vacation without actually traveling,” she says. Owners Russ Johnson and Heather Brown love sailing and travel, so the shop’s name is a nod both to life at the helm and wine’s ability to sail patrons away to different parts of the world for a little escape.  

If the selection itself seems a bit overwhelming, they’ve helped with that, as well. By designating a new “destination” monthly, the team at Sail Away Wine selects wines from that part of the world, with a custom cocktail and food to match. To bring a bit of holiday cheer to patrons this month, they will be featuring the 12 Wines of Christmas, drawing inspiration from bottles' labels, stories and origins to create a customized list.

To help with our holiday planning this year, Katie pairs some of the most popular holiday foods with the perfect wines. What a great way to try out holiday wine selections before investing in a bottle….and an excuse to get away for the evening with friends in the name of “research.”

Cheers to Charcuterie!

Among the most popular of holiday parties, most of us will gather around a table full of meats, cheeses, fruit and sweet treats at some point this season. If you’re hosting one of these fun events, Katie says you can’t go wrong with the below:

“It's always rosé season when it comes to charcuterie, and the holidays are no different," says Katie. "Dry rosé is versatile as a welcome wine all the way through the grazing stages of the occasion.

"A light, easy red like pinot noir is great with the different flavors of meats and cheeses, which all bring fruit out in the wine in a different way. And, because the wine is lighter, it won't overwhelm the palate before the meal.”

Keeping it Traditional

Imagine this – there is a turkey or ham in the oven, mashed potatoes are waiting to be drowned in gravy and you have made the green bean casserole that people either love or hate. When the candles are lit and the beautiful holiday table is set, Katie suggests that you consider adding one of these wines to the traditional holiday menu:

“Gewurztraminer is a wonderful pairing," states Katie. "Its expressive and generous bouquet of honey, spice and exotic fruits is the perfect accent to your dinner, and it can be found in various levels of sweetness to best suit the tastes of your guests. There are also several price points, so you can find one that fits into your budget.

"Cotes du Rhone is also an easy go-to pairing. This versatile, medium-bodied red is a blend, so it has the structure and flavor of several grape varietals. There are versions of Cotes du Rhone style blends made in other places than France as well, like California, South Africa and Australia. Most of these are budget-friendly wines, as well, so you can budget for a few bottles for the table.”

Fondue Follies

There’s no such thing as too much cheese, right? Fondue sets might stay tucked away in the cabinet throughout the year, but they get a workout during the holiday season. Whether you’re planning a beer cheese recipe or simple fontina or Gruyère blend, those who “dip” will enjoy these “sips”:

“Chardonnay has a lot of the buttery flavors of melty cheese, so it's a no-brainer pairing idea, but for something a bit different try a dry white wine from an alpine region, where fondue is eaten daily," says Katie.

Sweet & Salty

When the snow is falling and your family has an epic holiday movie lineup planned, the giant bowl of Chex mix and tray of chocolate-covered pretzels can qualify as a well-balanced dinner. You might want to have one of the below on hand for these evenings when cozying up with your spouse as the kids laugh along with Buddy the Elf makes for the perfect holiday evening. 

“Nothing better with salty, crunchy snacks like popcorn and Chex mix than sparkling wine," advises Katie. "Prosecco works well and is easy to find, but if you really want to treat yourself, you can always go with champagne.

"With chocolate or fruity treats, try a wine with some natural sweetness. Brachetto, a fizzy pink wine with similarities to Moscato, has a natural strawberry-like sweetness that accompanies sweet snacks well but also provides some palate cleansing so the sugar doesn't become too much!”

Pass the Dessert

Calendars are full of fun things to do this time of year, with holiday performances, trips to the Nutcracker ballet and light displays all competing for time on our schedules. When the hour is late and you want to sit down with dessert and a good glass of wine, the following will pair beautifully with the apple, pecan or pumpkin pie that always tastes best in front of the fire.

“People love to pair dry red wine with dessert, but it can be tricky," says Katie. "If you want to try this combo, go with a red wine with rich, fruity flavors and not too many dry tannins. Merlot can be a mellow enough option for this role.

"For a winner every time, though, port is the answer. The variety of styles and ageability of this wine means you can always have some around the house in case of an emergency dessert party situation!”

Sail Away Wine

309 Armour Road, North Kansas City

Even if you’re not a wine drinker, the great food and ambiance is worth the visit! With spirits, beer and non-alcoholic drinks available, they’ve got you covered. Plus, they have live music on Tuesdays and trivia on Sunday afternoons.

  • Sommelier Katie Hendley
  • Sara Beane