Hands down, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m a fan of all celebrations, but the simplicity of Thanksgiving won my heart years ago. It’s a day to come together with friends and family in celebration of gratitude. Of course, there’s an overabundance of food and plenty of football involved, too.
Pairing wine with the many flavors of Thanksgiving may seem daunting. After all, it’s not unusual to have everything from giblet gravy to marshmallows on a single plate. But because the recipes of the day are often a reflection of the personalities and tastes of the family around the table, I say select what fits your gathering.
Thanksgiving wines should not be about opening your cherished bottles. Stick with budget-friendly libations instead, because if you’re like most families, you’ll have plenty of glasses to keep full.
At our home, Thanksgiving is all about fresh herbs. I cover the turkey with a mass of thyme, sage and rosemary and then dry-brine it for several days. The result is a juicy and herbaceous bird. Our sourdough boule bread stuffing is loaded with the same selection of fresh seasonings. All this herbiness gives our meal a very Northern California flare. As such, I’ll be serving two California wines this year.
• The 2010 Qupe Central Coast Syrah ($15.99) is my red wine of choice. A beautiful bright-violet color, the light and cheery wine serves up lashings of strawberry and minerality with an easygoing mouth-feel and fresh finish.
• A Sauvignon Blanc, in all its verdant glory, is a great wine to pair with sage-soaked dishes and turkey. Sharp, dry California versions with citrus undertones are the best bet. I plan to serve the 2011 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($14.99) because it’s a snappy wine with loads of herby whiffs on the nose.
I asked some local wine authorities to share their thoughts on the ideal Thanksgiving wines.
Stacy Ahrweiler, wine department manager at Draeger’s Market in Los Altos, looks forward to pairing a wine that works with spice.
“My mother-in-law’s incredible and nontraditional chili-rubbed turkey with chorizo stuffing is the centerpiece at our Thanksgiving meal,” she said. “I think a bit of spice is becoming more common at the Thanksgiving table. I’m suggesting two slightly spicy wines because they complement the full spectrum of Thanksgiving eats.”
For white-wine fans, Ahrweiler suggests the 2010 Leojami Viognier, a medium-bodied wine with hints of lemon and orange and an ever-so-slight ginger zing ($16.99).
Ahrweiler’s red selection is the 2011 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône ($11.99), a blend of Grenache and Syrah. She describes the wine as having “just a bit of oak and a dash of pepper along with a laser beam of pure cherries and raspberries.”
Christine Tran of Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View is a sommelier and the store’s wine buyer. She gives plenty of good reasons to include sparkling wine at the Thanksgiving table this year.
“The effervescence of a sparkling wine creates a terrific contrast to the richness of the turkey, gravy and stuffing, and kicks off your holiday on a festive note,” she said. “Sparkling wine also pairs well with appetizers. In particular, oysters, smoked salmon, brie or goat cheese will taste great with a drier sparkling wine.”
Tran’s recommendation for a drier bubbly is Domaine des Varinelles Cremant de Loire Brut N.V. ($19.99).
“A slightly sweet sparkling wine will work well throughout the meal and will complement the sweeter flavors of side dishes such as candied yams, fall fruit chutney and cranberry sauce,” Tran explained, suggesting the slightly sweet Caves Carod Clairette de Die “Tradition” White Sparkling N.V. ($17.99).
“Another festive option is Kerisac Sparkling Cider ($9.99). The low-alcohol cider has a touch of sweetness with a refreshing and striking balance of acidity. It is unlike most other ciders, in that it is not cloyingly sweet,” she added.
Max Feshbach, wine specialist at Whole Foods Market in Los Altos, marks the day with an extravagant take on the traditional turkey.
“For the past few years, my family teams up to create a turducken,” said Feshbach, explaining that a turducken is a turkey stuffed with chicken stuffed with duck.
“A bit ridiculous and relatively decadent, it’s a fun and hearty meal that’s a newfound family favorite,” he said.
Feshbach will be bringing a red and a white to his family’s feast this year. His recommendation for a red is the 2009 Brandborg Bench Lands Pinot Noir ($19.99). The Pinot provides notes of fresh red fruits with a bright acidity and subtle earthiness.
His white selection is the Thomas Fogarty Monterey County Gewürztraminer ($15.99).
“I chose this wine because of its dryness and aromas of pear and citrus,” he said. “A slightly tannic finish is just what’s needed, and the perfect amount of acidity brings it home on the palate. Plus, it’s local.”
When it comes to counting my blessings, I’ll certainly give thanks for the incredible wine variety we have available to us at Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto shops.
Mountain View resident Christine Moore is learning more about wine every day. To read her blog, visit sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com.