Mon09152014

Food & Wine

Array of choice in wines for turkey


A 2004 Castle Rock Pinot Noir is a great choice for turkey.

Days before the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims took their muskets into the woods and were probably happy to get any wild turkey, regardless of age, size, color or weight. I am sure they did not sit around wondering whether a pinot noir or a gewürztraminer would be more suitable for dinner. A flagon of mead would have been a treat!

Today, we have our choice of many types of turkeys and wines. In addition to the pre-stuffed, self-basting and boneless varieties, we now have special birds. Free range and organic both are roamers, but organic eat only organic feed, and free range might have more flavor. Heritage turkeys have funny names like Bourbon Red and Jersey Buff and are raised on small farms like they were in the old days. They have lots more flavor than the big-breasted turkeys we're accustomed to and, naturally, are more expensive.

Now that you have your turkey, choose a wine that you think everyone will like. Turkey is not a slam-dunk for wine pairing. It can be somewhat oily and has both white and dark meat. There are also many different side dishes, and they usually all end up on the same plate, so switching wines with courses doesn't really work. One wine that is both compatible and complementary should be served throughout the meal.

I have a few personal favorites to suggest. Pinot noir is a light red that will not overpower the turkey because it is low in tannins - and its fruitiness will be a plus. A pinot noir that has gotten a lot of press lately is the 2003 Castle Rock for $11.95. I found the 2004 at Draeger's, and, believe me, it is a great buy. Failla Hirsch Vineyard and Martinelli Bella Vigne are pinots in the $40-$50 range, and both are excellent wines if you are looking for something special.

The current vintage of Nouveau Beaujolais is released every year on the third Thursday of November and flown around the world to retail outlets and restaurants. It is fresh, fruity and light - a winner with turkey. Georges DuBoeuf is the king of Beaujolais and, as a négociant, has many different bottlings to offer at reasonable prices.

Champagne is always a sure thing. Blanc de noirs and brut rosé, with their acidity and fruitiness, cut through the various food flavors. The acidity and carbonation will cleanse your palate between bites. Roederer Estate Rosé is one of my favorites.

There is a group of dry white wines that are superior food wines. Riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris and gewürztraminer are all safe bets. A gewürzt with stuffing or pumpkin pie is another winner. The Alsatian winemaker Trimbach makes all these wines, and most can be found at Draeger's for $16.95. Fogarty and Navarro both make dry, aromatic gewürztes that are consistently good. Oregon wineries Raptor Ridge, Ponzi and Adelsheim make attractive pinot gris wines.

Last but not least, a good sauvignon blanc blends well, with its acidity and herbal notes. The wine survives even asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Gary Farrell, Mason, Miner, Isabel, Kim Crawford and Villa Maria are just a few of the notable examples of this varietal that can be purchased for $20 or less.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Steve Hicks is a wine adviser and consultant and a partner in a winery. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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