Another year has passed quickly and the holiday season is upon us once again. Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for all that matters most, spend restful time with the ones we value, watch hours of NFL football and merrily stuff our face with whatever our meal of choice might be. With Turkey day being just a few days away, the challenge has presented itself once again – “what wine to pair with a Thanksgiving feast?”
Did you know: Thanksgiving is THE one day Americans consume more wine than any other. Sure – it could be a way to celebrate the season’s harvest and toast the ones you love, but it is also because wine and “traditional Thanksgiving day fare” are a match made in enophile heaven! Traditional turkey-day fare bounces all over over the colorful and odd food map. Rich savory turkey, tart cranberry sauce, buttery mashed potatoes, sweet marshmallow covered yams, spicy pumpkin pie and stinky Brussels sprouts with smoky bacon. AHHHHH! Can you smell it?
So how do you take this unique circus act of a meal and pin it down with precision and inspiration that makes you look like a wine genius? Easy. Follow these five steps with five wines that pair decisively well; your meal will not only be one that you look forward to all year, but with the right wines, it will be one your family and loved ones talk about for years to come!
Rule / Wine 1: Drink what you like
I happen to be a fond believer that sparkling wine, of almost any type make a near-perfect marriage with food. The palate cleansing bubbles prepare your mouth for each exciting new bite and the bright acidity and fresh crisp fruit flavors can marry so well. Let’s not forget that Thanksgiving is a celebration. What better beverage to toast…..and to pair?! I happen to be a bargain hound when it comes to bubbles. I love the Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve from Maison Albert Bichot. Rich toasty brioche and lemon curd aromas appeal along side a mouth full of rich orange marmalade and creamy persimmon. And what a great value – I call this the Cadillac on a Chevy budget!
Rule / Wine 2: Match colorful
With all the colors that adorn the Thanksgiving day table, it is hard to find the one wine that fits all the textures, colors and profiles that the feast has to offer. How about a dry Rose? Rose is often thought of as summer-appropriate only. Narrow minded few, you could not be MORE wrong! I am a huge fan of a Chateau Mourgues du Gres Rose in the Costieres de Nimes (Southern Rhone Valley of France). Their lovely dry “Les Galets” rose is a great accent to Thanksgiving with its crisp watermelon and white pepper aroma as well as the pomegranate and intense florals flavors. Pink is the new red; and this wine is crisp, fruity, dry and spicy. A fun way to pair.
Rule / Wine 3: It’s OK to be a little overindulgent
Chardonnay has become primarily misunderstood, and over made. The use of oak, or should I say overuse, has become common place and is akin to using to much salt to drown out natural flavor in food. Oak tastes like oak. I can’t help but ask, are they trying to hide something? Yet, when used judiciously, a little oak and malolactic fermentation can add rich toasty, nutty and yes…..buttery….qualities to a Chardonnay that not only make them charming and luxurious, but a great Turkey day choice. One of my favorites is Failla Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast. Winemaker Ehren Jordan makes a pure delicate style with a hint of oak that only frames the fruit nicely; not over powering it. Failla has wonderful pineapple custard, tangerine, lemon tart and mineral flavors with compellingly elegant toast notes. My personal favorite Chardonnay and darn good with a hearty holiday meal such as this.
Rule / Wine 4: Hearty + Fruity = Happy
Since we are celebrating an American Thanksgiving, ’tis fitting to tie in the one true American varietal that no other wine producing country can call their own – Zinfandel. Often lacking in acidity what it makes up for in personality and fruitiness, Zinfandel has a ton if inherent flavor and pizzazz. Thinking of the cornucopia of items on the table warrants this rich and flavorful wine. Precedent Zinfandel from Contra Costa County is one of the oldest vineyards in California. This 123 year old Evangelho Vineyard makes a deep and complex wine but elegant at the same time. Smoky mulberry, explosive spice, lavender, sweet Virginia tobacco and tart raspberry abound. What a compelling and wise choice for a Thanksgiving day red wine
Rule / Wine 5: Sweet and Spice makes everything nice
Probably the most widely known grape to ring in the Thanksgiving day meal is also one of the oddest characters in the Crayola box of wine colors. Gewurztraminer. It’s flavors and aromas are unlike any other; almost as if the Turkey and wine Gods collaborated over a bad bottle of Riunite one holiday season and said…..”enough is enough!” And presto, the Thanskgiving day wine of choice was born. Native to only a few places on earth I tend to prefer to aromatic, lean and fruity Alsatian style. The Furst Gewurtztraminer is a wine from Alsace and one of the most appealing wines you can enjoy – loaded with sweet honeysuckle, lychee nut, sun soaked pear and rose petal nuances, it is as fun to drink as it bodes well with sweet potatoes or ambrosia salad.
Be adventurous, open minded and joyful as you traverse the landscape of holiday food and wine pairing.
GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE!