WASHINGTON — My wife and I love Thanksgiving. It’s our favorite holiday — a day to gather with family and friends, to celebrate with fabulous food and, well, wine.
However, sometimes it feels like many Thanksgiving dinners relegate thoughtful wine selections to the proverbial “kid’s table” when really, it’s the perfect opportunity to give it a seat at the head of the “adult table.”
And even though we both like to have wine on Thanksgiving, we don’t necessarily agree on which wine should be served with dinner. Maybe it’s because there are so many different foods competing for space on the plate that pairing a single wine with a typical Thanksgiving meal comes down to personal preference. Maybe the answer isn’t which one wine to pair with turkey and all the trimmings, but rather which wines to pair with the meal.
After all, trying to pair a single wine with all of the stuff (and stuffing) on the plate — and considering that the dinner itself can run on for hours — could easily lead to “palate fatigue.” So consider opening several different bottles of wines to enjoy throughout the evening by adopting a “tasting menu” approach.
In order to help you navigate the wine pairing challenge, my wife and I have gathered an assortment of wine recommendations for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner based on our own preferences. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to mix and match our recommendations. After all, in the spirit of Thanksgiving — and keeping the peace at the dinner table — it’s what we intend to do.
Cindy has been on a sparkling wine roll lately, so it’s no surprise that she thinks it’s important to start off any celebration with a bottle of bubbly. The Non-vintage Chevalier Brut Cremant de Bourgogne from the Burgundy region of France is a great way to get Thanksgiving headed in the right direction. The term “Cremant” is used to designate sparkling wines made by the Méthode Champenoise, but not within the proper boarders of the Champagne region. This straw gold sparkling wine has a bouquet of honeysuckle and acacia and flavors of crisp apples, apricots and hints of honeyed oranges. The combination of tight bubbles and abundant acidity cleans and refreshes the palate, sip after sip, getting the tongue properly dressed for the feast to come. $20
The French played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, so it’s only fitting to fit in an homage to liberty, equality, fraternity with the 2014 Pichot Vouvray from the Loire Valley of France. Chenin Blanc is a food friendly white wine and the wine grape of choice in Vouvray, an appellation located in the Loire Valley. Vouvray wines can range from dry to sweet, or as in the case of this wine, somewhere in between. The nose of white figs and honeydew melon lead into wonderful flavors of fresh peach, melon and just a touch of citrus, all held splendidly together by just a whisper of sweetness. The rich but well-balanced finish would make this an excellent candidate to pair with pumpkin soup or bring it back for an encore performance with pumpkin pie at the end of dinner. $18
If red wine is your preference — and you just can’t live without cranberry relish — then consider splurging on the 2013 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River from Sonoma, California. This classic Pinot has it all: a nose bursting with aromas of baked raspberries and black fruit. A richly textured mouthfeel offers up plenty of gorgeous red strawberries, ripe raspberry and hints of cinnamon and sage on the weighty finish. Rich and round in the mouth, the fine tannins and fresh acidity provide a long, generous finish. $36
I like to start a big meal with a wine that will help open up the palate with bright flavors and crisp acidity. The 2015 Matanzas Creek sauvignon blanc from Sonoma County, California is vinified in a unique combination of fermentation/aging vessels including stainless steel tanks, stainless steel barrels, concrete eggs, puncheons, foudres and French oak barrels. This process develops great concentration of fruit flavors and key acidity levels to produce a classic nose of juicy grapefruit, fragrant orange blossoms and honeysuckle. These scents carry over onto the palate where they are beautifully integrated with ripe apricots and nectarines on a dry, crisp (thanks to the acidity) finish. If you’re having traditional oyster stuffing, this is a match made in America. $15
If you want a wine that will shine with the star of the show, try the 2014 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr riesling Kabinett from the Mosel Saar Ruwer region of Germany. This white wine is, in my opinion, the perfect “turkey wine.” It delivers loads of apple, vanilla wafer, citrus and wet stone aromas that literally make your mouth water. But it’s the beautifully seductive flavors of apple tart, pears and guava that will reward your patience. Hints of minerals sneak in on the delicate but sophisticated finish. It is a skillfully made wine that has the structure and balance to compliment the main attraction. $22
America is built on the foundations of many different countries and cultures coming together to build a nation of unique tastes. But the one wine varietal that America hangs its proverbial hat on is Zinfandel. If you really want to embrace the heritage of Thanksgiving as an American holiday, pick up a bottle of 2013 The Federalist Visionary Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California. The Dry Creek Valley has unique characteristics that make it especially well-suited for cultivation of this hearty, decidedly American grape. This powerful expression of Zinfandel is made just a little mellower by the addition of Carignane and shows a complex nose of ripe blackberry, baked boysenberry and whispers of underbrush and leather. It delivers full-throttled flavors of black cherries and raspberries, ripe plums and a plush, peppery finish. For something new, try it with a game bird, such as pheasant or quail this Thanksgiving. $16
As an aside, you might want to consider the newest release of Beaujolais Nouveau, a fruity red wine that goes very well with turkey and all of the fixings. This very young wine (only 6 weeks old) is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time for Thanksgiving. Made from the Gamay grape, it is a very fruity (think strawberries and red raspberries), light-bodied wine that is extremely easy-to-drink. Current releases are just out last night — look for wine produced by either Georges Duboeuf or Domaine Joseph Drouhin.
Wine Tip: Don’t serve your white wine too cold since it can mute the flavors. Take the bottle out of the refrigerator about thirty minutes before serving in order to let it warm up just a bit and let the flavors shine through.