31 Oct A Little Thanksgiving Advice
Whether you’re cooking for yourself on a random Tuesday night, or you’re hosting Thanksgiving for thirty people, remember that there’s no such thing as an incorrect food and wine pairing. In general, versatility is the key when choosing Thanksgiving wines, given the variety of flavors and textures in a traditional spread (so save the Barolo, Bordeaux, Super Tuscans and Napa Cabernets for a different occasion; the next time you grill a fatty ribeye or rack of lamb, by all means, break them out). Instead, let the adaptable wines of Burgundy, Provence and the Rhineland (and their corresponding New World compatriots) be your guide. Here is a little reliable advice about wines that you may want to have on hand this Thanksgiving.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT RIESLING: Well-farmed Reisling, whether bone dry, off dry, or rivetingly sweet, could be the most perfect wine for Thanksgiving (great examples include those from Klaus-Peter Keller, Werner Schӧnleber, Steffi Weegmüller, Peter Jacob Kuhn, and many others). Seriously, Drink Reisling (among other things) this Thanksgiving!
Despite the common perception that they are only for toasting in skinny flutes, well-farmed sparkling wines are truly worthy pairings alongside a wide range of cuisine. Sure, there is a festive element to drinking wine with bubbles (and gathering with family and friends is certainly cause for celebration!), but wines like Maxime Barmès’s gorgeous Crèmant d’Alsace, Danilo Ferraro’s handmade Proseccos, and Jochen Ratzenberger’s electric Riesling Sekt all have just as much utility on the table during the meal as any still wine. So don’t be afraid to keep your sparkling wines in play once dinner is on the table!
For white wines, a little bit of fruit and body will go a long way, especially alongside your turkey. White Burgundies from the Mâconnais, like Gilles Corsin’s fresh and lively Saint-Vèran Tirage Précoce or Aurillian Palthay’s opulent Viré-Clessé, are wonderfully dependable options, as are the similarly mineral-driven Chardonnays from California’s Central Coast, like Adam Tolmach’s compelling Chardonnay from the Bien Nacido vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Travel just south of Burgundy in select high-elevation parcels throughout the Rhône valley, and you’ll find the ancestral home of Viognier – a worthy alternative to Chardonnay, and when farmed well, one of the most versatile white wines for any type of cooking. Camille Wallut’s stunningly beautiful Viognier La Borry combines exotic fruit texture with crunchy limestone minerality into one of the most laser-precise examples of the grape variety to be found anywhere in the south of France. Or try Pete Stolpman’s equally impressive Estate Grown Viognier, from the rocky limestone slopes of his home in Ballard Canyon, near Santa Ynez.
When it comes to red wines, those with freshness, supple tannins, and succulent fruit are the most flexible around the Thanksgiving table. The likes of poultry, reduction sauces (hello, gravy!) and mashed potatoes are just as common in Burgundian cuisine as they are on an American dining table on the fourth Thursday in November, so it makes sense that red Burgundies, especially those from Beaujolais, make perfect pairings for Thanksgiving. Real Beaujolais from a small winegrower has nothing to do with “Beaujolais Nouveau”, the mass-produced garbage from Georges DuBoeuf, but instead can be one of the most quaffable and adaptable red wines to be enjoyed as an accompaniment to any type of cuisine. Patrick Brunet’s Morgon and Fleurie are terrific examples of cru Beaujolais from specific villages in the northern half of the region, while the wines from Gilles Gelin and Domaine des Cretes are fabulous values if you’re expecting a crowd. Further north in Burgundy, Pinot Noir reigns supreme for red wine, and there are a host of fantastic options from the Côte Chalonnaise up through the Côte de Nuits – the wines from Domaine Cornu-Camus are especially wonderful values for high quality red Burgundy. Of course, Pinot Noir from the west coast would be an excellent all-American alternative. Adam Tolmach and Rick Longoria are two pioneering producers in Santa Barbara County, whose Pinots combine Old World elegance with sunny California fruit purity. Up the coast in Willamette, Oregon, Anne Sery-Martindale’s Trousse-Chemise label produces what could be the best value in Oregon Pinot Noir, with both a juicy estate wine and a richly-textured single-vineyard wine from the Hyland vineyard, Oregon’s oldest Pinot Noir site, to her credit.
As an alternative Pinot Noir, the versatile red wines from Provence, can be terrific options for those who prefer a bit more body than Pinot, without overwhelming the accompanying food. Alexi Rousset-Rouard’s lively blend of Syrah and Grenache, Le Châtaignier, or Xavier Vignon’s elegant Côtes du Rhône would be fabulous options for a red wine with a bit more weight. For a terrific American choice, and one suited particularly perfectly for a turkey drumstick, consider Pete Stolpman’s benchmark Ballard Canyon Estate Syrah. Outside of France, there are a host of compelling options in Italy, including Barbera, Dolcetto and Grignolino from winegrowers in Piemonte (like Sergio Germano, Roberto Ferraris and Gianni Doglia), and Corvina from Bardolino and Valpolicella (Gianni Piccoli’s singular Becco Rosso Corte Gardoni is an enthralling wine in any context, and certainly a prime candidate for Thanksgiving).
Following dinner, a frizzante from Piemonte like Gianni Doglia’s fabulous Moscato d’Asti, or Domenico Almondo’s Brachetto Fosso della Rosa are terrific light and refreshing alternatives to richer dessert wines. A Spätlese or Auslese Riesling with a bit of residual sugar, like one from Peter Reinert, would provide a fresh and stimulating conclusion to the meal as well.
So all in all, don’t sweat your pairings too much, but I hope that this advice will be helpful in choosing wines that will both complement and enhance your Thanksgiving festivities. Cheers!