Thanksgiving Dinner Wines

The key ingredient of any feast is the wine. When it comes to Thanksgiving’s contrasting fare, I prefer the shotgun approach. With so many different flavors on one plate, selecting wines to partner up with all those flavors is made stress-free by following this methodology.

With various enjoyable wines and several glasses lined up, allows you to try the wines side by side with each mouthful of the roasted turkey with sausage and onion dressing, tart cranberries, earthy Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and even green beans drowning in cream of mushroom soup topped with crunchy onions.

Sparkling wine is the classic for all holiday celebrations. They’re impressive because they’re celebratory and, as an added bonus, they pair well to most any dish. The crisp effervescence is perfect with fried, hearty or rich dishes and the usual assorted appetizers from cheese and crackers to crab claws with lemon and butter or seafood sauce.

For the budget minded, a Spanish Cava such as Cristalino Ro or Domaine Ste Michelle brut or Ro would be perfect. Washington’s Treveri Cellars produces some of the state’s best sparklers. I highly recommend their Blanc de Noirs which is 100% Pinot Noir and sells for around $20. It’s the perfect hostess gift, too.

Some say stuffing, others do dressing. Call it what you will, it isn’t Thanksgiving without it. It can be cornbread or dry bread, stuffed with sage and sausage or dressed with oysters or mushrooms. Whatever recipe you favor, match the strongest flavor to your favorite wine.

For instance, the weight and flavors of a new world Chardonnay would be perfect with a cornbread dressing. From Monterey, J. Lohr Riverstone Arroyo Seco Chardonnay has exquisite balance and lush tropical and stone fruits. Out of Walla Walla, Gard Vintners Freyja, a blend of two thirds Viognier and a third Roussanne, would also pair beautifully.

For oyster stuffing, go with a Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is bright with acidity and citrus flavors. It also has an herbaceous quality making it a perfect partner with vegetables like Brussel sprouts or green beans.

The Columbia Winery Stratos White is an unusual but beautiful blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Crisp, citrusy with a floral nose, this is a foodie wine. Another perfect partner is the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Greg Norman. Bright with acidity and liberal with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Chateau Pajzos hails from Hungary and is a delicious dry white made from the Tokaji’s Furmint grape similar to Sauvignon Blanc but milder in flavor.

Sage and sausage work well with most any smooth medium bodied red. From Boushey Vineyards, Syncline’s Carignane Grenache is medium bodied, earthy red with hints of mushrooms. Two Vintners Columbia Valley Syrah is a winner, too. Jammy with raspberries and a little bit of dirt to balance all that fruit.

From Tuscany, Neil Empson’s Monte Antico is sure to please many. This IGT is predominantly Sangiovese with a bit of Cabernet and a dollop of Merlot.

Whether it’s deep fried, roasted, grilled or smoked, turkey with wine is a no-brainer. Most every wine will shine with turkey. The elegant Pinot Noir works well with turkey, especially if there is a mushroom gravy and stuffing involved.

My absolute favorite Pinot Noirs – this year – are Rain Dance Vineyards, Stoller Family Estates and Knudsen Vineyards, all from Oregon’s Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountains AVAs. The 2015 Rain Dance Vineyards Pinot Noir is heavenly with its rich aromatics and well balanced red fruit and mineral flavors.

Stoller Family Estates Pinot Noir went through whole berry fermentation which brings out the bright red fruits of the grape and produces silky tannins. Knudsen Vineyards has a long and storied history in Oregon. The vineyards are planted to several clones of Pinot Noir that mature into elegant, rich wines.

An unoaked Chardonnay, a dry Alsatian Pinot Blanc or Gewürztraminer would be in the lineup too. One of my most memorable finds this year was the Chehalem Three Vineyard Pinot Gris. The amazing Pinot Gris Reserve is a rich, round Alsatian style that is barrel fermented in neutral oak. It is luscious.

Cranberry is probably the tangiest flavor and toughest to match. But with a Beaujolais Nouveau, the tart sweet flavors of cranberries works with this wine that is so full of fruit itself. Beaujolais Nouveau also plays well with turkey and stuffing. Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine of the vintage and is always released the third Thursday of November – just in time for Thanksgiving.

Another wine that is similar to a Beaujolais, comes from Sailor Cellars in Port Townsend. Their estate vineyards are planted to Marechal Foch, a hybrid grape that is a cross of a cross. Unusual for its red flesh, this wine has the stuffing to grace your Thanksgiving table.

Sweet potatoes have another flavor realm altogether. They require a little more thought depending on if it’s the sweet or savory version. If you’re still doing the broiled marshmallow topping, go with an Oloroso sherry; it’s sweetness will match the sweetness of the dish.

Otherwise, Viognier or a dry Gewürztraminer will make your mouth smile with the savory styles of the sweet potatoes. One memorable sweet potato dish was baked with dried apricots. It was great with a Monchof Riesling Kabinet.

When it’s time for dessert, remember wines need to be sweeter than the pie. In my family, there were two kinds of pie my father would bake. ‘Tis Mince (mincemeat) and tainince (everything else). “TM” would be pricked into the top of every pie crust to avoid confusion.

Late harvest Riesling or an ice cider shines with apple pie with good reason. Tawny port with its nutty, caramel flavors would be my choice with pumpkin or pecan pie. Mincemeat pies are intensely flavored with candied orange and lemon peels, raisins, apples and a myriad of spices. With ‘tis mince, an Oloroso or even a Pedro Ximénez would be the perfect match.

Hoping your holidays are the best ever. Cheers!

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