Thanksgiving, A Time to Gather Together With Wine
By W. Peter Hoyne Dazzling Red Blends
As autumn colors disappear, the Thanksgiving holiday is quickly upon us. It is a cherished time of year as we gather at the dinner table to express our gratitude with our family and celebrate an all-American feast. Instinctively, wine is chosen as the essential catalyst for these bountiful seasonings. While some might insist that you adhere to steadfast rules with regard to what is poured alongside an oven roasted fowl, it is more a matter of balancing flavors, occasionally with some minor adjustments, while walking the line and pleasing the relatives. There are rarely any wrong choices since many times it just requires some changes in your thought process, rather than your favorite recipe. Avoiding drama and being considerate of others is essential in maintaining a healthy relationship and this also applies in developing a friendship with holiday fare at the table.
To begin with you can easily start your entertaining with a domestic sparkling white or rosé. If you are inclined, Champagne will make a great initial statement, yet depending on your budget, a California sparkling or Italian Prosecco will easily suffice and gain accolades. Some examples might include Roederer Estate Brut, Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs or Bisol Prosecco. Sparkling wines make a great welcoming statement and are a sure way to attract new followers. Even non-bubbly drinkers will request a glass as it conveys a sense of celebration and refinement. You can comfortably carry rosé sparklers through the entire meal since they likely to find the middle ground with nearly everything, given their lively character and freshness. Rosé, be it still or sparkling, has drifted away from being a casual, summer wine, evolving into a more serious gastronomic pleasure.
Rieslings and aromatic white blends have a calming effect, complementing nearly anything they touch. These include off-dry German Rieslings that have just enough refreshing acidity to form a perfect bond with the protein of turkey or citrus sauces of orange, lemon and lime. Their energy and refreshing acidity can also pare well with sweet apple and savory fruit tarts. Rieslings that are a perennial favorite are those from Dr. Loosen, sourced from the Middle Mosel Valley in Germany. Ernst Loosen offers several price points without compromising on quality.
Loud, robust and tannic reds or extremely oaky whites can overpower any recipe and perhaps should be saved for a different occasion. A red that will find consensus with most foods is Pinot Noir, especially those from the cool wine growing regions of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, Carneros and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Pinot Noir with its red currant driven spiciness has a charismatic way of integrating with almost any Thanksgiving fare from herb roasted turkey, cranberry chutney with dried figs and balsamic, to shaved root vegetables with pancetta. Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from these cooler microclimates have enough freshness and acidity to create harmony with any presentation with cheese including mashed potatoes with garlic and mascarpone or roasted cauliflower with goat cheese. These whites have a carefree way of flowing with a wealth of ingredients. Notable wines from Russian River Valley are always certain to hit the mark with the relatives, particularly those from MacRostie, Lynmar, Balletto and Benovia. Some favorites from Willamette Valley include Domaine Drouhin, Stoller and Ponzi.
Zinfandels can be engaging and entertaining reds with their delicate, white pepper and spice character, but steer clear of those with high alcohols since their boisterous and muscular personality can overtake any conversation along with everything at the table. Just remember to avoid wines with an attitude and choose only those that are willing to keep peace at the dinner table.
If you have easy access, you can be playful with older aged reds, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends from California, Tempranillo from Spain or Sangiovese from Tuscany, which have a more mature temperament and demeanor. Wines with at least ten years of aging are likely to reveal an engaging personality that can easily complement grilled or roasted lamb or veal. The added time aging in the bottle will usually round out the youthful edge of the wine, allowing them to easily pair with the savory elements of sage, rosemary and wild mushroom.
Toward the end of the day you may just want to relax with the leftovers and appreciate how well wine has the ability to bring all the elements of your Thanksgiving meal together with family. Perhaps, it is also the time to consider who will choose the wines for Christmas.