The Best Wines to bring to a Holiday Party

Pick the right wines for every holiday gift or gathering.

From thank-you gifts to office parties to gatherings of friends and family (complete with reindeer-antler headbands), ’tis the season to uncork lots and lots of wine bottles. Use this handy guide, to choose get the best reds and whites for each occasion.

Easy, Affordable Gifts

Strategy: Get great value by purchasing a pack of six bottles of wine and dividing it up as thank-you gifts for coworkers, friends, the handyman who fixed that leaky pipe, you name it.
Reds: Look for red wines that can pair well with food or be consumed on their own. Something light like a Pinot Noir will please everyone on your list.
White: Chardonnay is the perfect rich white wine for the Holiday season.

Special Gifts

Strategy: Make the recipient feel special at the moment the bottle is unwrapped. Best of all, it’s memorable long after it’s been uncorked—perhaps years from now.
Reds: Consider gifting an older bottle. A bottle that has been aged over 7 years will have a mellow complexity that makes it a special gift.
Whites: Consider a lesser-known varietal like Chenin Blanc or Vermentino

Office Holiday Party

Strategy: Keep the focus on chatting, reconnecting and reminiscing with flavorful wines that stand up to hearty, winter-season fare but also drink well on their own—just as fruity, spicy cocktails typically do.
Reds: Bone-warming, palate-coating Malbec or Syrah.
Whites: Versatile, crowd-pleasing wines like Sauvignon Blanc.

Family Holiday Dinner

Strategy: Minimize the fuss of wine selection, and demonstrate that you put some thought and effort into picking wines you wouldn’t uncork on an ordinary weeknight.
Reds: Get two: a fruity and concentrated red that complements rich holiday foods, such as a Rioja (made of the Tempranillo grape), from Spain. Consider serving a dessert wine like Port to end dinner on a high note.
White: A lush and fruity white, such as a Chardonnay or Viognier, that has the heft to stand up to everything on the table.

Gathering Among Friends

Strategy: Make it all about the party, not the wine. Choose a bottle that everyone will love, but not so good that it’s the subject of discussion.
Reds: A cheerful party pour, such as a California Cabernet, Merlot or Pinot Noir—varieties everyone’s likely to be familiar with.
White: Get two: a sparkling wine, such as Prosecco or Cava, and a quaffable white from Spain, such as a fruity Albariño.

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Decanting Wine: Why & How to Decant Wine

wine decanter
How to decant wine

Put simply, decanting is pouring the wine from the bottle into another vessel, then serving it from that vessel into each person’s glass. This isn’t just for show—it ensures the wine smells and tastes its best. Here’s why and hot to decant wine.

What is a Decanter and What Does it Do?

Exposure to oxygen brings out the flavors and aromas in a glass of wine. Some red wines, particularly aged or bold red wines, need a little time to relax and show their full potential. Wine bottles have a narrow opening, so even when you uncork the bottle, not much air flows through. Decanters are designed to let air flow. A wide-bottomed decanter will create a shallow pool of wine with a large surface area. This exposes the wine to oxygen more quickly.

Why Decant Wine

Decanting wine brings out the best flavors in robust red wines. It can also help eliminate unwanted aromas, like the burning smell of alcohol. If you’re serving an aged wine, decanting gives you an opportunity to remove any sediment that may have formed in the bottle. As a bonus, decanters are beautiful, and will add an elegant touch to your table.

How to Decant Wine

Start by tasting your wine. Pour a small bit of the wine directly from the bottle into a glass and taste it. If you don’t smell and taste much of anything, that’s a sure sign that decanting is necessary.

Place your clean decanter on the counter, pour the wine slowly into it. If you’re serving an aged wine, stop once you start to see the sediment—that can stay behind in the bottle.

After an hour, take another sip. Do you notice a difference? The wine’s aromas and flavors should already be more obvious.

When to Decant Wine

Decant wines aged over 7 years and bold red wines like California Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, or Zinfandel. Let wine breathe for about an hour before serving. You can always open a white wine to enjoy while you wait.

Side note…
Have a bottle that you’re saving for a special occasion? Be sure to store it on it’s side in a cool, dark place.

Try this at home! Order your own wide-bottomed decanter here. It’s even dishwasher safe!

No-Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

We love a great pie, but let’s face it: sometimes, we’re looking for something a bit easier. Allow us to present our no-bake pumpkin chocolate cheesecake. It looks (and tastes!) like a showstopper, but comes together in a flash: no oven, rolling pin, or elbow grease required. Try something new this Thanksgiving, or serve this dessert alongside your favorite traditional pumpkin pie.

no-bake pumpkin cheesecake
You can’t have too many desserts on the table

No-Bake Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

Active Cook Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Cook Time: 4 hours (up to overnight)

Ingredients:
(For the crust)
1 9-oz package chocolate wafer cookies
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
(For the filling)
3 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
¼ cup sour cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the cookies until finely ground. With the motor running, add the salt and slowly stream in the melted butter until well combined. Using your hands, evenly press the cookie mixture into the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Make the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add the vanilla and sour cream; reduce the speed to medium and beat 1 to 2 minutes, or until light and smooth. Evenly divide between 2 medium bowls. Add the melted chocolate to 1 bowl; stir to combine. Add the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to the other bowl; stir to combine.

Assemble the cheesecake: Evenly spread the chocolate-cream cheese mixture into the crust. Evenly top with the pumpkin-cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Find more holiday inspiration from Blue Apron

The Best Squash for Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie
Butternut squash, or pumpkin?

In the U.S., fall is synonymous with big, orange pumpkins. We carve pumpkins at Halloween, and they grace our tables as pumpkin pie Thanksgiving. It’s always the same type of pumpkin: round and orange, with a thick green stem. It’s time to shake that image up. Emotional ties aside—there’s nothing sacred about that particular gourd. 

There are hundreds of varieties of squash and pumpkin. In fact, many of the pumpkin pies and pumpkin ravioli you’ve eaten over the years have been filled with another variety of sweet, orange, winter squash. You never would have noticed the difference. 

What’s the difference between pumpkin and squash?

pumpkin and squash puree
Top: pumpkin puree, bottom: butternut squash puree

Technically speaking, there isn’t much of a difference. Any hard-shelled squash could be called a pumpkin. 

What is canned pumpkin? 

Canned pumpkin puree can be a variety of winter squash. It could be a sugar pumpkin or a butternut squash, but it also could be a lesser known variety, like the hubbard squash. Make sure you read the labels, some canned pumpkin will be marked as pumpkin pie filling, that means it already has spices and sweeteners mixed in. If you want to know exactly what type of pumpkin is in your pie, you can always make your own pumpkin puree at home.

When it comes to pumpkin pie, what’s the best squash? 

pumpkin and butternut squash pie
Top: butternut squash, bottom: pumpkin

Any winter squash can make a pretty good pie. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re adding cinnamon and topping with whipped cream. If you’re making pumpkin pie from scratch, try swapping in butternut squash for a sweeter, smoother pie. Sugar pumpkin tends to have stringy fibers. These are broken up when it’s pureed, but pumpkin will never get as silky smooth and butternut squash.

Ready to get baking? Try one of our variations on classic pumpkin pie.

Easy Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

thanksgiving wine pairing
These wine parings will make your turkey taste even better

As soon as you have your Thanksgiving menu figured out, it’s time to start thinking about the wine. Wether you’re planning to have one glass for a toast, or to fill the table with multiple bottles, this easy guide to Thanksgiving wine pairing will make your meal taste even better.

A Guide to Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

There are a lot of different flavors on a Thanksgiving table. There are rich and buttery mashed potatoes, tart cranberries, and sugary sweet potatoes. Finding one wine to go with all of those dishes can be complicated. The best place to start is by thinking about your (and your guests’) preferences. Depending on which element of the meal you’re focused on, there are multiple red and white wine pairing that could work. If you know what you like, you can narrow it down a bit.

If you want to take the work out of this process, Blue Apron has put together a bundle of our Holiday Feast Favorites.

white and red wine for thanksgiving

White Wines for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner is a very flavorful meal. That’s an important thing to keep in mind when picking your Thanksgiving wine pairing. Some white wines are very light and delicate. While they may pair nicely with fish and vegetables, they would be overpowered by the food on turkey day. Look for a rich and creamy white that will stand up to the flavors in those mashed potatoes. Here are a few wines to look for:

Best All Around White Wine for Thanksgiving: Chenin Blanc

Chenin blanc is an extremely versatile wine. Depending on how it’s made in can be sweet or dry, subtle or exploding with fruit. A dry Chenin Blanc will be at home on your Thanksgiving table if you’re a big fan of Turkey. The delicate fruit will complement light and dark meat perfectly.

Best White Wine for Mashed Potatoes: Chardonnay

If mashed potatoes are your favorite dish, consider pairing with Chardonnay. Chardonnay has a rich and buttery flavor of its own, and will play nicely with your creamy spuds.

Best White Wine for Vegetables: Sauvignon Blanc

A refreshing Sauvignon Blanc will enhance the bright herbaceous notes in roasted Brussels sprouts and other vegetable side dishes. 

Red Wines for Thanksgiving

Best All-Around Red Wine for Thanksgiving

A fruity, medium-bodied wine like Grenache is versatile and can stand up to a variety of flavors and spices without being too overpowering.

Best Red Wine for Turkey: Pinot Noir

If you like spooning cranberry sauce onto your turkey, this is for you. The ripe red fruit in a good pinot noir (like the one in the Blue Apron Holiday Favorites wine bundle) will add a little zing to your whole meal.

Best Red Wine for Sweet Potatoes: Zinfandel

A bottle of zinfandel has almost as many flavors as a Thanksgiving dinner. Drink this if you’re the type of diner who doesn’t really mind if your food touches. This big, luscious, fruit wine will stand up to just about anything on the table, and work especially well with sweet potatoes.

Your Holiday Centerpiece Should Be Edible

holiday centerpiece with fruits and vegetables

So many fruits and vegetables are show-stoppingly attractive, even in the dead of winter. Take advantage of their natural beauty for your holiday centerpiece this year. It’s easy! Just take a trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market, but a few extra pomegranates, persimmons, or plain old tomatoes, and use them to decorate your holiday tables and entryways. 

How to Make a Holiday Centerpiece

Once you’ve selected your produce, it’s time for the creative part. You can mix and match produce, or just fill a bowl with your favorite fruit. Experiment with cutting a few fruits open to create a still life effect. You can scatter fruits freely across the table, or use a rimmed platter like a vase. It’s an easy way to keep things organized. These are some of our favorite fruits and vegetables to use as edible centerpieces.

Ideas for Table Centerpieces with Fruits and Vegetables

holiday centerpiece with fruit

Pears

You might have pears around anyway. To make them into a beautiful table centerpiece, try mixing several different types—an assortment of colors will feel beautiful and bountiful. This works with apples, too! When you’re done, you can make apple pie bars or pear butter.

Persimmons

Whole persimmons bring a beautiful orange color to your holiday table. To make a festive plate setting, try cutting one in half to reveal its star-shaped seed pattern. After you clear the table, you can try making a persimmon grilled cheese or a stir-fry.

Satsumas

Satsumas are like clementines, but with stems and leaves. Pile a few handfuls on a footed cake plate to beautify your table.

satsumas as a holiday centerpiece

Pomegranates

You might love pomegranates for the jewel-like little seeds inside, but don’t discount the outsides! They’re rustic and a deep, dark red. We like them lined up on a skinny platter or set right on the plate. Try cutting one in half to reveal the beautiful interior. After your meal is over, eat the seeds straight, or drop a few into a glass of sparkling wine for a beautiful cocktail.

Artichokes

Artichokes are technically flowers, so it’s no surprise that they’re beautiful. Set an artichoke on a plate to prop up a place card, or slice a few in half to reveal their beautiful layers.

Lemons

lemon holiday centerpiece

Lots of chefs have dozens of lemons around. Pile them up in a pretty bowl to create the easiest possible centerpiece. When you’re ready for your next meal, use their juice to helps balance flavor, and their zest to add some zing. Did you know there’s a right way to cut them into wedges?

Pumpkins

pumpkins

You probably have some leftover pumpkins hanging around from Halloween. You don’t need plates or platters to make these feel festive. Just scatter small pumpkins across the table, or leave larger pumpkins in the entryway. When you’re cleaning up, crack them open and make soup. If you have gourds around, they can make a beautiful centerpiece too.

In the holiday spirit? Check out our gift guide to find the perfect present for the cooks in your life.

How to Carve a Turkey Breast

When it comes to carving, a turkey breast is easier to handle than a whole bird. There’s no need to worry about removing the wings, or if you should slice the drumsticks off the bones. Watch the video below to learn how to carve a turkey breast, and read along for a few bonus tips.

After the turkey breast comes out of the oven, transfer it to a cutting board, skin side up, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Resting the meat gives the muscle fibers time to relax, and lets the juices settle in. That means that they’ll stay in the meat once you start slicing. If you skip this step, delicious juices will run right out of your bird as soon as you touch it with a knife.

Place your chefs knife on one side of the breast bone. Working along the bone, cut down and past the ribs. Cut the breast completely away from the bones. Repeat on the other side. Some meat will be left, but that’s not a bad thing. The breast bone, meat scraps and all, can be saved and used to make broth

Once off the bone, place the breasts skin-side up on your cutting board. Slice crosswise. Don’t saw back and forth, use long knife strokes to cut cleanly through the meat. This will help keep the skin in place.  Repeat with the remaining breast.

Tips for cooking a turkey breast 

a carved turkey breast
Beautifully carved and ready to eat

Season your turkey the night before cooking. This gives you a change to season the inside of the meat. Over night, the salt will be drawn into the meat, ensuring flavorful turkey all the way through. Store in the refrigerator. 

Let the meat come to room temperature before cooking. Take the seasoned turkey out of the refrigerator about an hour before it should go in the oven. This will help the meat cook evenly 

Before roasting, thoroughly coat the turkey with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. This will help the skin brown in the oven. 

How long to cook a turkey breast 

Roast until the turkey is browned and cooked through. A turkey breast will need to roast for 65 to 80 minutes in a 425°F oven. If your turkey is close to 5 pounds, cook for 65 minutes. If your turkey is close to 5.5 pounds, cook for 70 to 75 minutes. If your turkey is closer to 6 pounds, cook for 80 minutes.  Save any drippings from the sheet pan to add to your gravy

Your Blue Apron Thanksgiving turkey breast comes from Diestel Family Ranch, a family-owned farm that’s been in business since 1949. 

Thanksgiving Leftovers Ideas from 5 Professional Chefs

thanksgiving leftover ideas
Thanksgiving leftovers, waiting to be reborn

What’s more important: Thanksgiving dinner, or Thanksgiving leftovers? Our test kitchen chefs see a fridge full of last night’s leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing as a world of opportunity. Try these ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers from our professional chefs. 

Thanksgiving Leftovers Nacho Platter

thanksgiving leftover nachos
Truly loaded turkey nachos

Nachos are the perfect vehicle to take advantage of any leftovers that are laying around the next day—and really, who doesn’t love a nacho? Mashed potatoes, shredded turkey, stuffing, roasted vegetables, gravy (!!), it’s all fair game! Just layer your favorite leftovers with corn chips and shower it all with shredded white cheddar. Pro tip: add a diced jalapeño (or your favorite chile pepper) to your cranberry sauce to make for the perfect spicy “salsa” to dip your nachos in! —Alex Saggiomo

Thanksgiving Leftovers Mashed Potatoes & Greens Breakfast Cakes

I always have creamed kale on my thanksgiving table. For breakfast the next day I combine half of the leftover mashed potatoes and half of the greens in a big bowl. I mix those up, form them into cakes, and then fry up in a skillet to reheat. Each person gets a potato/green cake with a fried egg on top…with or without cranberry sauce! —Tim Kemp

Leftover Turkey Idea: Turkey Club With Stuffing 

It doesn’t get more classic than a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich. My version is a twist on a club sandwich filled with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a fried egg. I make it for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving every year with a few good slices of sourdough. I truly look forward to it more than Thanksgiving itself. —Jessica Goodman

Leftover Smoked Salmon Roll

My uncle has a smoker, and no Thanksgiving is complete without his famous smoked side of salmon. The next day I flake up some of the leftovers and mix in mayo, fresh herbs, lemon, and capers. I’ll take a leftover roll, toast it up, and serve the salmon salad on top, open faced. It’s delicious —Lauren Katz

Leftover Pie Milkshake or Apple Crumble with Greek Yogurt 

A slice of pie blended with ice cream and milk makes for a killer milkshake. I also love any leftover apple crumble with some greek yogurt for breakfast the next morning. —Claire King

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes With a Twist

Thanksgiving stuffing recipe
Stuffing with cranberries and walnuts

When it comes to Thanksgiving, the sanctity of stuffing is something you don’t mess with. It always deserves a place at the table, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same recipe year after year. One of these a delicious Thanksgiving stuffing recipes could inspire a holiday-worthy change-up. You might even have some of the ingredients on hand already.

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes We Love

Classic Thanksgiving Stuffing

thanksgiving stuffing recipe with pork and mushrooms
A pork and mushroom stuffing with all the classic flavors of Thanksgiving

If you like a more traditional stuffing (read: classic autumn flavors like pork and sage), try Pork & Mushroom Stuffing with Sourdough Bread & Fresh Herbs. Using the combination of both pork and mushrooms gives this stuffing its irresistibly savory, umami-packed flavor.

Rosemary-spiked Stuffing

Is the crackle of a fresh baguette music to your ears? Can’t resist scooping one up on your grocery run “just in case?” The Rosemary Baguette Stuffing in this recipe delivers that crunchy, crispy satisfaction in every bite.

Tart and Sweet Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing

Cranberries aren’t just a good partner for turkey. Teamed up with a classic flavor companion like orange in this Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing, the tart-sweet fruit perks up the stuffing’s earthier elements, like parsnip and walnuts.

Hearty Chestnut, Leek & Apple Stuffing

Chestnut and leek stuffing served inside an acorn squash

The cool-weather trio of rich, roasted chestnuts, sweet apples and woodsy thyme in this Chestnut, Leek & Apple Stuffing lets the flavors of the season shine. Take your presentation to the next level by filling sweet winter squash with the stuffing before baking it all in the oven.

See Red: The ultimate mulled-wine recipe for holiday gatherings

Mulled wine is the perfect set-it-and-forget-it elixir for holiday parties. You can tweak any recipe as you see fit, but don’t use your Blue Apron reds! Mulled wine was first created centuries ago to make spoiled wine drinkable, but modern wines are of much higher quality and last longer. So shop for a simple, cheap-and-cheerful red that could use some spicing up. You’ll have a delicious, winter-warming drink for everyone to enjoy by the fire!

BlogAsset_DecemberWine

Mulled Wine

INGREDIENTS

2 750ml bottles of fruity red wine
2 oranges
2 lemons
10 whole cloves
2 star anise pods (optional)
5 cardamom pods (optional)
5 Tbs granulated brown sugar
1/2 Cup water
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 Cup of Port
Two shots of Bourbon (optional)
Cheesecloth

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Make a small pouch with the cheesecloth. Put the cloves, anise and cardamom pods inside and tie it tight with string. Zest the lemons and oranges using a vegetable peeler, pulling off wide strips. Cut the fruit into 1/4 wedges.

Put a pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, zest and spice pouch. Heat to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved, then turn the heat to low and wait until the water volume is reduced by half.

Add all remaining ingredients, and squeeze the juice of the fruit wedges into the pot before adding them. Leave until heated through, about 20 minutes. Don’t let the mixture boil. Serve warm and garnish each serving with a new cinnamon stick.

Sign up for Blue Apron Wine and save on your first order!  Click here.

Turkey Day Survivor’s Guide: Wine

With Turkey Day fast approaching, we’re answering the question that many folks have this time of year: what kind of wine should I serve?

header

Luckily, when it comes to pairing food and wine on the big day, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. You can serve one type of wine for the whole feast, or leave it up to guests to personalize their picks according to their favorite dishes—whether it’s the ever-so-generously buttered mashed potatoes, the sumptuous stuffing or the juicy bird itself. Whichever approach you decide to take, we’ve got you covered.

triptych

Each of these wines will amp up everything on your Thanksgiving table. (Only dessert has a hands-down winner.) Look for the dish you keep on craving to see which bottle to plunk between you and the closest relative.

Zinfandel

Pairs with: Cranberry Sauce

Calling all cranberry sauce lovers. Like cranberry sauce, Zinfandel is tart and sweet, and its spice brings extra life to the party.

Dry Riesling

Pairs with: Sweet Potatoes

Do you head straight for the sweet potatoes? Then make a beeline for a Riesling and its crisp autumn flavor.

Pinot Noir

Pairs with: Turkey

If you’re all about the bird, pour a glass of Pinot. Its berry flavor gets on famously with light meat, and its earthiness cozies up to dark meat.

Chardonnay

Pairs with: Mashed Potatoes

A buttery tower of spuds yearns for a Chardonnay. Oaky Chards are like an extra drizzle of butter, while light, fresh Chards leave you with room for seconds.

Gewürztraminer

Pairs with: Pumpkin Pie

If the best comes last for you, the choice is simple. Have some Gewürztraminer with that pumpkin pie. It’s like dessert in a glass.

Petite Sirah

Pairs with: Stuffing Is stuffing the centerpiece of your feast? Petite Sirah is for you. Its spice makes oh-so-nice with your family’s secret recipe.

You Donated 34,476 Meals This Thanksgiving

Blue Apron's Holiday Donations

To our fans, friends, and fellow chefs: thank you. This Thanksgiving, as Blue Apron partnered with City Harvest and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, you helped us deliver our annual Thanksgiving menu directly to nearly 35,000 families in need. That’s an incredible way to share the gift of incredible food, and we made the effort together.