For a wine guy, no other holiday has as much meaning as Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the busiest wine season. Everyone loves a good bottle of wine with his or her sumptuous feast. The right wine can make all the food taste so much better. The right wines can enhance conversation and lead to a wonderful day of family and friends.
From the thousands of wines, it is difficult to pick the right one. Your mind may wonder, “Do I get one wine to carry the party through from beginning to end? Or should I get a few wines to pair with each part of the feast?”
I prefer variety. You should have a nice mix of whites and reds in the house. You don’t want anything too rich or heavy. Your huge Napa Valley cabernet or French Bordeaux might overwhelm the taste buds and your light turkey flavors. A few standbys are rieslings for a white and a pinot noir for the reds.
Rieslings are good with turkey, cranberry sauce, even the pecan or pumpkin pie for dessert. Go with a slightly less sweet one. A German kabinett or Washington rieslings are always good. I love Kung Fu Girl Riesling, a medium-priced riesling from famed winemaker Charles Smith in Walla Walla, Wash. It has hints of sweetness, but a clean finish. It won’t overwhelm the meal, but rather complement the many flavors. The added bonus—it is a natural conversation starter. The unique bottle always makes people pick it up and talk about it. Who can’t love a Kung Fu Girl?
Pinot noir is the classic red wine with a turkey dinner. It has an earthier feel surrounding the bright fruit flavors of black cherry. It will not overwhelm the turkey, but will go really well with the spicier stuffing that makes the meal so good. There is tons of good pinot noir on the market. I like Oregon pinot noir, as they are usually a little more nuanced than their California counterparts. Cooper Hill makes a great medium priced pinot noir. It is a little more money than your run-of-the-mill labels from California (like Mondavi, Sutter Home, Gallo and Mark West) but I think the balance and outstanding flavors make it worth it.
It you want to shake it up, try a little champagne with the party. We all forget how much fun it is to drink champagne. If you pour a flute of champagne when your guests arrive, they will invariably smile and light up a little bit! And the champagne goes surprisingly well with the traditional meal. Get brut or extra dry champagne.
Nouveau beaujolais is the classic fun wine for the season also. Nouveau only comes out the week before Thanksgiving. It is the traditional first harvest wine made in France. In Paris, they have big celebrations to announce the new vintages. For us Americans, it is the perfect fun, seasonal wine with turkey. The wine is fresh and meant to drink young. Low in alcohol and bursting with fruit flavors, it is youthful in flavor and just perfect to drink. Buy it now, because by New Year’s Eve it is all gone!!
Dessert is the best part of any big meal. Pecan pie and pumpkin pie are always awesome. If you want a good dessert wine, try a classic sherry from Spain. It is not as heavy as a port and will go perfectly with the spiciness of the pies. But after drinking wine all day — I’m ready for something else. I love the wide variety of dessert liquors out there. Of course Baileys Irish Crème is No. 1. Baileys on the rocks or in a fresh cup of coffee is always appreciated!
But a new favorite out this year is the Brown Jug Bourbon Cream. The owner came up with the recipe as his family was scrambling to use up all their leftover cocktail ingredients before heading home from vacation. It is an amazing mix of bourbon, cream, ice cream, vanilla, and maple syrup. Bring this classic, old school looking bottle out and people will love it. It will bring your dinner to a perfect close.
While we celebrate and give thanks for all we have, a good after-dinner cocktail will only add to the festivities. Cheers and enjoy in moderation!