Well, as we have seen, walking into any retail store about now after finishing Halloween – they are not only ramped up for the Thanksgiving 2018 holidays – but Christmas is on the floor front and center.
Let’s take a long deep breath, and a minute to think about wines for Thanksgiving 2018 now, as many people are already shopping and planning for their great feast of the year.
The nice thing about pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner is that you have a lot of options. Due to the variety of flavors in all their plenitude, it’s more likely the wine you serve or gift your host will match up well with at least one of the dishes on the table. I mean, you have everything from savory turkey and dressing, nutty green bean almandine, and buttery spuds, to tangy sweet cranberries and sweet, sweet potatoes.
Just about whatever you end up with will be fine, but I recommend you stay away from highly tannic reds.
Let’s consider a few options that tend to go with most of the fare.
Boy is this a versatile wine category, and with all those flavors on the table rosé can be perfect. Light enough to go with the big bird, and heavy enough to stand up to a rich gravy. Aim for a fuller-bodied rosé like Benzinger North Coast California rosé or Martin Ray Sonoma rosé of Pinot Noir. Just enough tannin and acid to stand up to, and cut through that luscious gravy, but not too much to overpower the turkey and greens – right in that sweet spot.
Thanksgiving is an occasion to celebrate the American Chardonnay. Whether or not you are a fan of the classic California Chardonnay, with its rich and buttery underpinnings, this style will fit right in at your mashed potato laden dinner table. And I guarantee you; it will “get drunk”. To find an appropriate style look for descriptors like oak, butter, cream, and vanilla on the label. My favorite on the floor now is the Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Chardonnay.
As a French ami at our party, this wine has a version (Beaujolais Nouveau) that happens to be (by design and marketing for the US), released the third Thursday of November. (Thanksgiving is number four). It’s meant to be consumed young and fresh, made with carbonic maceration, an anaerobic whole berry fermentation, which preserves the fresh fruit flavors and shuns the bitter tannins.
Behold a light red that will not conflict with many dishes, (or guests). Fruity and easy, it will be pleasing even with chunky cranberry sauce. You can upgrade to a Beaujolais “village,” or even a “cru” level if you want a heftier version. Louis Jadot Beaujolais Village and Georges Dubouef Beaujolais Nouveau will be here soon for the taking. If you opt for a “cru” level, make sure to ask if it has enough age on it because it is not an early drinker, but certainly pairs beautifully with poultry.
Next to Rosé, Pinot Noir is the perfect guest. Turkey is its best buddy; it can easily carry on a conversation with anything green, and not overbear a humble pumpkin pie. Out of the spectrum of styles of Pinot Noir crafted, go for the paler colored and lighter-bodied versions like Martin Ray Sonoma Pinot Noir. Another option is the Argyle Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon.
If a stronger statement is desired, and full-bodied red is your go-to – pick up a California Zin. Zinfandel is California’s baby; its claim to a heritage grape. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to celebrate another part of our heritage, no? These bold beauties can give you some umph, without too high a tannic backbone to muzzle big bird. Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel is an elegant bet, with blueberry, blackberry and a hint of white pepper; or its cousin, Primitivo, an Italian gent. Antico Sigillo Primitivo di Manduria, for a touch of countryside earthiness, will fill that bill. If you’d like a little sweet lingering kiss on the lips, try the Tobin James Zin out of Paso Robles, California. That, my thirsty friend, you won’t forget.
About guest blogger Beth-Ellen Fried
Beth-Ellen Fried-Clausen is the wine specialist at Costco Wholesale, Marina Del Rey, CA. She is a certified American Wine Specialist, NASA, and working on WSET, Level 3 Advanced.