Thanksgiving Corkucopia

Ditch your bottle of Cabernet and oaky, buttery Chardonnay for Thanksgiving. Most do not have the proper acidity for Thanksgiving feasting. Trying to find wines that that please a variety of palates that marry well with the broad array of foods at a typical Thanksgiving table sounds like a challenge. I’m here to make it easier, but you will probably need to open your mind to other varietals.

Overly oaky and buttery are two things you want to avoid like the plague.  Wines with these two qualities are richer than ones with good acidity and a nice mineral backbone. Thanksgiving is already a rich meal. You do not want your wine to compete with the richness of the food as they will cancel each other out. Wines should not only complement the meal, but almost act like a palate cleanser between courses, or even bites of food. (Label images can be seen by clicking name of wine)

I like to start with bubbles with my pre-feast nibbles. I like a nice Champagne and my go to one is Veuve Clicquot. I remember the days when I could grab a bottle in the high $20s. No more. This year, I picked up a nice Chandon Rosé which ran me about $18 in the outrageously over-priced CT liquor stores (curse you CT liquor laws!). The crispness of Chandon Rosé goes well with rich and salty foods. There is enough fruit in this sparkler from the Pinot Noir grapes from which is was made. Another great contender hails from New Mexico. Yep. New Mexico. Gruet Brut is rated 89 by Wine Spectator and the NYT reviewed it too, “For my money, the best sparkling wine in the US is still produced by Gruet in a place about as far away from Champagne as it could be. . .” You should be able to pick up Gruet for under $12. Full bodied, but crisp with lots of stone fruit flavors, this sparkler has a fine mousse and will pair well with everything from crab cakes to pigs in a blanket.

For dinner, we always start with a white and move to a red. Our opening wine will be an off-dry Riesling that is very well-priced. Ryan Patrick Riesling ($12.99 in CT) which is produced in Yakima Valley in Washington. A fragrant wine with notes of lavender, pear and peach. This wine has pleasing round entry with fresh acidity, a fruit-driven mid palate and a clean refreshing finish. A crowd-pleasing wine which will satisfying many different palates. Since this Riesling pairs well with everything from grilled sausages to grilled shrimp to Thai and Indian food, pick up some extra for your non-Turkey meals. This is one of our house whites because it goes with everything and makes die-hard Chard and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers both happy. This wine will kick butt with our cream of mushroom soup starter and our salad with roasted butternut squash and pomegranates. An unoaked Chardonnay will work here too, but I would probably choose a White Bordeaux over a Chard if I couldn’t find a good off-dry Riesling. Sabliere Fongrave Blanc ($13.99 in CT) is a very well-priced  White Bordeaux which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion.  It has a bright acidity that stands up to many starters, salads and cheeses of Thanksgiving. It is a lovely wine for those who prefer white with their turkey. Awesome flavors of ripe lemon and yellow apple marry well with a slight creaminess and by notes of white pepper, almond and what wine snobs call pencil lead. The wine has a rich texture, characteristic of the Semillon grape, yet finishes clean and lively as you’d expect from a Sauvignon Blanc.

I have only one thing in common with Robert Parker – we both serve Chateauneuf de Pape at our Thanksgiving table. However, mine was purchased 10 years ago and even if you could find it, it would be over $100 now, not the bargain $25 I spent a decade ago. California Cabs really don’t work well with Thanksgiving as the acidity is lacking. A deft Zinfandel – one that isn’t a fruit bomb – works great. I like Peterson Dry Creek Zinfandel, about $22. There are plenty of berries here, but not a fruit bomb – the mocha, chocolate and orange zest flavors add some acidity. Pinot Noir from Oregon is always a great choice because good Pinots have great acidity. However, there are plenty of crap Pinots out there. It is a darn hard grape to grow. I like Commuter Cuvée Pinot Noir (under $20). It is a  classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Fresh and yet lush with fruit, it has aromas of  mint and spice. The tannins are subtle, but give just enough weight to this wine. The taste is much spicier than the nose, with a sweet baking spice finish that embraces the lush fruit, lingering in a comforting way. If that weren’t enough to make this a go-to bottle of Pinot Noir, there’s also a charitable element to this wine; a portion of the proceeds of each bottle of Commuter Cuvée goes to No Kid Hungry. A very appropriate charity for Thanksgiving. Some really like a Beaujolais for Thanksgiving, but I’m not sold on them. Definitely stay away from Beaujolais Nouveau for turkey day. Not enough acidity for the meal.  I would stick to Beaujolais Village as most are fruity, not very tannic, refreshing and essentially easy drinking – it won’t compete with the myriad of flavors on the table. I’m not a DeBoeuf fan, I would choose Louis Tête Beaujolais Villages which can be had for about $12. Made from the Gamay grape, it has a  fresh intense nose of soft red berries. Soft and accessible, plenty of character backed by good balancing acidity and mineral backbone.

Beer more to your liking for Thanksgiving? I’ve been told Sierra Nevada’s Celebration is a great option that will take you from pre-feast football through the bird itself. An IPA made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – similar seasonings to the majority of roasted turkeys.

Most of these wines can be found in decent wine shops across the country. If heading to the wine shop you discover they don’t have any of these picks, the key words you want to use are mineral, good acidity (but not New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc level) and a pleasing roundness on the palate without too much dirt.

Looking for something else or have some usual spices for your bird? Ask me down below and I will see what I can come up with between making my pies, stuffing and sweet potatoes.

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