Decadent Duos

Matching cookies with dessert wines

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies with Brooks Riesling##Photo provided by Brooks Wines
Oregon Hazelnut Cantucci with Ponzi Vino Gelato##Photo provided by Ponzi Vineyards

By Aakanksha Agarwal

As the year draws to a close, holiday spirit fills the air. Welcome cellar season– a time to slow down, enjoy our local bounty and savor the good times, unhurriedly. You may be familiar with the term hygge, the un-translatable Danish word that permeated mainstream culture over the past few years. In another nod to Scandinavian culture, mysa means “enjoy the moment.” Contentment. Pleasure. Enjoyment.

The chill of winter is here. What better way to enjoy the season than by savoring the best of our local offerings? Imagine a cozy fireside gathering, where the aroma of fresh-baked cookies fills the room. While you might think of dunking them in a glass of milk, consider a more…ahem…adult pairing to take it a few notches higher.

Dessert wine and cookies? Pure bliss. The wine’s richness complements the cookie's sweetness, while its acidity can cut through the buttery richness, balancing the palate. It is one of those situations where the sum becomes greater than its parts. Slip on your comfiest holiday sweater, light that Yule log and prepare for some sweet, sweet indulgence.

Tips to enhance your pairings…

Know your dessert wine

The first rule of thumb when pairing dessert wine with cookies is to know your wine. Opt for a dessert wine that complements the sweetness of the cookies without overpowering them. Late-harvest Rieslings, Tawny Ports and Muscats make excellent choices, bringing their unique flavors without stealing the cookie’s spotlight.

Find the sweet spot

Balance is key, so select a wine that’s equally sweet or slightly sweeter than your chosen cookies. For instance, imagine a buttery, caramel-drenched shortbread cookie meeting a rich, velvety Tawny Port– their sweetness levels align in perfect harmony.

Match flavors

Consider the flavor profiles when pairing dessert wines with cookies. For spiced gingerbread cookies, think about Vin Santo with its nutty, caramel notes that harmonize beautifully. Zesty lemon cookies? Go for a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc to enhance the citrusy bliss.

Experiment fearlessly

Holidays are a time for adventure. Experiment with different pairings and find your unique combination. A buttery Chardonnay may surprise you with how it complements a simple sugar cookie. Be daring, and let your taste buds lead the way.

Share the merriment

The real magic of the holidays lies in sharing the joy with friends and family as you toast to the season. Raise your glass and indulge in these delightful pairings, making the holidays even brighter.

Don’t neglect texture

Pairing isn’t solely about flavor but texture too. Consider the cookie's texture– whether it’s flaky, chewy, or crumbly– and match it with a complementary dessert wine. For crisp biscotti, a glass of late-harvest Gewürztraminer offers a flawless textural dance.

Don't overwhelm with sugar

Avoid the excesses of the holiday season. Don't pair super-sweet cookies with intensely sweet wines; it’s a recipe for sugar shock.
Pro tip for maximum fun

Host a cookie exchange and open a few dessert wines for a perfectly sweet evening. Don’t want to do the heavy lifting? There are plenty of local bakers crafting delicious artisanal cookies, from cranberry-pistachio biscotti to Marionberry thumbprints.

Try these local pairings to savor…

Paul O’Brien Winery 2015 Malmsey x Peanut Butter Blossoms

Pair this heady, aromatic beauty with a classic festive treat– peanut butter blossoms. The wine nods to Madeira's sweet wines, resembling the fortified wine's nutty sherry-like notes. Its silky texture and jammy flavors beautifully contrast with these cookies. Over time, the wine evolves, developing more toasted nut flavors– a very satisfying pairing.

Elk Cove Vineyard 2021 Ultima x Cream Cheese Cookies

The Ultima is an exquisite bronze-hued ice-style wine. Let its caramelized pear, molasses and honey character mingle with the cream cheese cookie’s richness and pillowy texture. The sweet, creamy wine, along with the gooey cookies, literally melt in the mouth. Salut!

Ponzi Vineyards 2021 Vino Gelato x Oregon Hazelnut Cantucci

For a truly local pairing, try Ponzi’s Vino Gelato with Oregon Hazelnut Cantucci, a riff on the traditional Almond Biscotti. These exceptional biscotti enhance the wine's candied orange, vanilla, and passionfruit aromas. A delightful interplay of flavors and textures, with a balanced, beautiful finish.

R. Stuart & Co. Winery NV Tawny Dessert Wine x Dark Chocolate Shortbread

This mysterious port-style wine meets an intense match in dark chocolate shortbread. Crafted from a blend of seven vintages, this sublime wine mirrors winemaker Rob’s dream of creating a complex sip that captures the true spirit of a port. Each year, they add two to three barrels of new wine, creating a blend reminiscent of techniques used by Sherry producers, creating a wine far more complex than a single vintage could offer.

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Rojo Dulce x Salted Caramel Cookies

A Port-style Tempranillo, aged for four years in barrels and fortified with brandy, boasts a rich, sweet profile with 19 percent ABV. The cookies’ salted caramel notes with the potent wine create a wonderful interplay of sweet and salty flavors that linger on the palate for long afterward.

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2018 Vin Glacé Riesling x Ginger snaps (with a hint of citrus, preferably!)

Sip the Vin Glacé with ginger snaps, kissed by a hint of orange peel. Sure, plain ol’ ginger snaps work in a pinch, but adding a touch of orange zest takes it to the next level. The grapes, harvested at peak ripeness, hail from a single vineyard across the Columbia River. Created from frozen grapes, it boasts an intense flavor profile and superb acidity and goes wonderfully with the mildly sweet, slightly spicy, zesty cookies.

Abacela 2020 Blanco Dulce x Classic (or chai-spiced) Sugar Cookies

This smashing pairing works two ways. You can enjoy this complex, syrupy wine with a simple sugar cookie and let the wine shine. Or go head-to-head with a chai-spiced or pumpkin sugar cookie so the spices enhance the multi-layered wine. The Albariño’s peach, nectarine and honey aromas complement the cookies’ complex layers, making a brilliant mix of fruity and spicy notes. (While the winery is sold out, bottles can still be found in select Oregon stores.)

Brooks Wines 2016 La Chenaie Riesling x White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

When paired, the Riesling and white chocolate macadamia cookie elevate each other. Crafted from grapes grown in the volcanic soils of La Chenaie vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, this classic Riesling presents a velvety mouthfeel. The wine’s smooth sweetness complements the cookie’s luxurious flavors, while the macadamia nut suggests a French oak influence.

Erath Winery 2019 Sweet Harvest Pinot Noir x Cranberry Ginger Drop Cookies

These cookies, starring fresh cranberries and crystallized ginger, present a delightful holiday flavor. Share some with Santa– he'll love them. The Pinot Noir shines with intense floral along with tropical stone fruit flavors, making it a perfect accompaniment.

May your heart be as full as your wine glass, and your cookies as sweet as the season itself. Happy holidays!

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