After my last indulgent wine article recommending wines for you to quaff as you gobble up the leftover Halloween candy, I thought I’d take a more serious approach to the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.
Pairing wine with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings can give even the most seasoned wine lover a pre-meal headache. There are so many flavors, textures, and sweetness levels on the average American Thanksgiving table that’s it quite difficult to find a single wine that can handle it all while enhancing the meal. With that in mind, I’ve given you a baker’s dozen of Thanksgiving wine choices, each with its own food pairing affinity, but all with the ability to work with the dishes, be they sides, mains, or desserts, protein, starch, or veggies. And to make it even easier, I’ve broken my wine selections into categories: Sparkling, White, and Red. Happy Hunting!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sparkling wine is the most underrated and under-appreciated category of wine for food pairing, and Thanksgiving is no exception. With decent choices starting at around $12 dollars to Champagnes, Franciacortas, and Trentodocs surpassing $50 a bottle, finding the right bottle of sparkling for your pocketbook should not pose a problem. What’s more, with styles ranging from bone dry to sweet, and colors covering white and rose, sparklers can please every palate and up the ante on any Thanksgiving meal.
From Northeastern Italy, Prosecco DOC is perhaps the most flexible and affordable category of sparkling wines. Ranging from $11 to $17 (SRP) and coming in bottlings that are dry and crisp to others than are sweeter and expansive, Prosecco DOC wines can enhance everything on the table from the bird and stuffing, to the cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, to mom’s pumpkin pie. Two I’ve enjoyed recently are the 2017 Cavaliere d’Oro Valdadige Pinot Grigio (SRP $15), a dry Prosecco, and the Perlage Extra Dry (SRP $15). The Perlage maintains some residual sugar enabling you to seamlessly transition from the turkey and trimmings to dessert. Both can be purchased for less than $17 (SRP).
An emerging category of sparkling wines for me is Méthode Cap Classique (or MCC) from South Africa. Made in the traditional Champagne method and using the Methode Cap Classique term since 1992, these wines are wonderfully fresh, imminently pairable, and quite reasonably priced. There are two I’d recommend:
NV Graham Beck Brut Rosé (SRP $19)
This wine packs all kinds of flavors and aromas: raspberries, cherries, and a touch of strawberry, buttressed by bracing acidity and a hint of minerality. This sparkler will enhance everything from that first bite of turkey to that last bite of dessert.
2017 Backsberg Brut Méthode Cap Classique (SRP $21)
Backberg’s wines are imported by locally-based Marquee Selections, and they are a carbon neutral winery-two reasons to purchase a bottle of two in addition to the wine itself, which has become one of my favorite sparklers. This wine is both lively and refreshing and a bit yeasty, pleasing both styles of sparkling wine lovers and making it perfect for your Thanksgiving meal.
Finally, two more sparkling roses, this time domestic bottlings:
Mumm Napa Brut Rose ($24 SRP)
Mumm was one of the first French Champagne houses to invest in domestic sparkling wine, though it’s been years since I’d popped the cork on one. Boy, am I glad I broke that streak. Loaded with aromas of cherries, berries, and citrus, the Mumm Brut Rose finishes with vibrant acidity, making it the perfect wine to adorn your Thanksgiving table.
Balletto Vineyards Sparkling Brut Rose ($42 SRP)
The most expensive and elegant of the sparklers I’m recommending, Balletto is a relatively new discovery for me. Known for its lush and velvety Russian River Valley Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, this sparkling rose is a delicious new revelation. Complex yet beautifully balanced, I’d recommend a bottle of this for Thanksgiving and a second bottle for Christmas.
Chateau Saint Nabor Vin De Pays D’OC Chardonnay ($12.99 SRP)
This Chardonnay from a Rhone Valley producer was another recent discovery of mine. Light and bright with aromas of ripe apples, pears, and melons leaping from the glass. This is a fruit forward style of Chardonnay, unencumbered by oak, and therefore able to glide through the myriad of Thanksgiving items and their varying levels of sweetness. Buy this quaffer by the case!
Charles Krug Chardonnay ($21 SRP)
From the famous Charles Krug Winery and equally famous owner, Peter Mondavi, comes this complex, yet affordable, Chardonnay. Half-fermented in French oak barrels and half in stainless steel tanks, the Krug Chardonnay walks the line between oaky viscosity and tangy fruit and acidity-a style that will please fans of both domestic and imported Chardonnay. A good choice for any style of turkey: roasted, deep fried, or smoked, the Charles Krug Chardonnay will take on all side dishes as well. Bravo!
Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($30 SRP)
A fuller-bodied style of Chardonnay, the Stags’ Leap version of Chardonnay is more like what we think of from a Napa Valley Chard-toasty notes of vanilla and oak with tons of rich, ripe fruit. What sets this version apart, though, is the minerality on the finish and a dose of bracing acidity, which both help keep this wine fresh and bright. Delicious!
Benziger Family Winery Reserve Los Carneros Chardonnay ($30 SRP)
From the cooler Carneros region in the southern part of the Napa Valley, this Chardonnay comes from the famous Sangiacomo Family vineyard. With notes of apple and lemon zest, this is a zingy, slightly tart Chardonnay with great acidity and wonderful balance, perfect for your Thanksgiving turkey and all that goes with it!
When I think of wine and Thanksgiving dinner, I almost automatically think of Pinot Noir. With its bright fruit, earthy, mineral undertones, and light to medium-body, Pinot is a delightful holiday pick. Here are two I highly recommend:
La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25 SRP)
One of my absolute favorite appellations for domestic Pinot, the Sonoma coast with its rockier soils and proximity to the Pacific Ocean produces Pinot Noirs unique to the appellation and its terroir. La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Pinot, with its berry fruit and plum flavors highlighted by notes of spice and toast, is a perfect example. I would have this bottling on my Thanksgiving table anytime!
Hahn SLH Pinot Noir ($30 SRP)
Another of my favorite Pinot-producing appellations, the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, churns out Pinots that demand your attention. Because of the naturally high acidity that the region gifts its grapes, producers pick the fruit later, and therefore at higher levels of brix. This produces a higher-alcohol, fuller-bodied Pinot Noir that is nonetheless balanced and elegant at the same time. Hahn’s SLH bottling is a terrific example of the region’s style, and a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir at the same time.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Carmenere ($10.99 SRP)
Just for fun, I thought I’d recommend a wine just a bit out of left field. Carmenere, a grape originated in Bordeaux, but gaining popularity as Chile’s signature grape, is one of my favorites for Kansas City-style barbecue. It’s medium weight, soft tannins, and combination of fruit and earth, makes it wonderful with smoked meat of any kind. Those qualities also compliment your holiday bird and the trimmings. What’s more, at $11 a bottle, you can have a guilt-free wine experiment!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!