Here we go. Thanksgiving. The mother of all meals and wine drinking holidays. This is the meal when even non drinkers will be most likely to have a glass with their meal. And this my friends is where half of the challenge presents itself.
This post is making the assumption were are talking about the traditional Thanksgiving meal. The other half of the challenge is the cuisine itself. I mean first and really do you ever go to a fancy restaurant and find a chef passionate about Turkey? Nope and for good reason. It isn't really an interesting protein choice. The good news is that it is pretty versatile. Beyond the turkey there is huge variety of flavors, textures, sweet, tart that can make pairing a specific wine a challenge.
Some people will really go all out and try to pair courses like a wine dinner. I used to do this. I spent all kinds of time working on great and interesting pairings that nobody except I spend more than a moment (or less) appreciating. So.....I stopped doing that. If that is you then you really aren't the target of this post although you might find a nugget or two by reading on.
Serving one wine all the way through is doable. Simply put if you want to go that way and you want to consider a good pairing (meaning that you want the wine to make the food better and vice versa) my best recommendation is sparkling. I'm in love with J Winery Sparkling Brut right now. At about $30 a bottle is elegant, delicious and not a budget buster for a holiday meal. Pro tip: Skip the champagne flutes and just serve very cold (45 degrees) in a regular wine glass and no nervous swirling. It will make it go a flat faster.
Or.....if you can't handle the idea of drinking sparkling make it easy on yourself and just drink what you like. There.......I just freed you to drink Moscato or your favorite oaky Chardonnay. It is all about enjoyment anyway. Drink what you like and you can stop here.
However, if you are still reading, here is what I do and have for several years. I like adding to the meal that is already served family style by serving a bunch of different wines in the same manner. I put several different types of wines on the table and let people explore their own best combinations. We like to give everyone a couple glasses each and let them have at it. The general pairing idea I like to work with is a good amount of fruit and light oak and light tannins.
Here are some of the wines that will likely end up on our table this year. I hope it helps.
1. Martin Codax Albarino. A nice little aromatic white from the Northeastern part of Spain. We normally think about the classic pairing of this wine with seafood and shell fish but with its complex floral and has peach and citrus flavors with bright acidity. $14 or less most places.
2. Stags Leap Winery Viognier. A great alternative for the Chardonnay lover. It is rich and complex wine with typical apricot and peach with a nice touch of integrated oak. Around $25.
3. Talbott Logan Pinot Noir. A cool climate pinot that aims for Burgundian qualities. This isn't Meiomi Pinot Noir. Its beauty is in the elegance. I first met Dan Karlsen when he was Asst Winemaker at Domaine Carneros during my Kobrand days. He was their Pinot guru as well. It has gorgeous tart cherries, blueberry with subtle spice like cinnamon. Gorgeous wine. You can find it for $25-30.
4. Terra d'Oro Amador Zinfandel. I bring up Zinfandel specifically for the person who really just likes big, bold wines. Big Cabernet or Merlot can be a challenge with the Turkey and overwhelm it. This can be a compromise to get a bigger wine on the table and still have it work with the food. This Zin isn't HUGE with high alcohol. It has generous fruit that is the in the plum and black cherry range with a round mouthfeel and some nice spice. Not over oaked at all. It has tannins but they are well integrated and the wine is well balanced. If you feel the need to go big this might fit the need. Well priced at under $20.
5. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2017. This is a fun wine that is released each year on the 3rd Thursday of November. It celebrates the first wines of the harvest. The grape is Gamay and is fermented quickly and bursting with bright, fresh fruit of strawberry and sweet perfume. Granted this isn't serious wine by any stretch but even a serious snob will taste the 2017 and find it delicious and easy drinking. Also nice is that because it is so fruity even Auntie Lorraine who usually drinks sweet will probably like it. If you just can't do the whole Nouveau thing maybe regular Beaujolais Villages or a Cru like Moulin a Vent. They are more serious versions of Gamay and truly delicious. Nouveau is inexpensive at $12. Stick with 2017. Doesn't age well.
And that my friends is what I'm drinking. You should be able to find most of these at your favorite retailer. Support them. Give them a hug. Happy Thanksgiving.