Thanksgiving is the holiday that most gourmands adore and anticipate with great culinary excitement. While we’re thankful for the bounty of comfort foods that bring generations together, we’re also grateful for the freedom in wine selections. Don’t sweat over what to pair with the classic Turkey Day meal. The first rule is to drink what you like. Focus more on the enjoyment than the rules of pairing. Your options abound since there’s not one single wine that’s perfect with the broad range of flavors in turkey, cranberry sauce and that weird casserole with marshmallows that Aunt Sally brought. We’ll steer you in the right direction, but most importantly, relax and pick a range of versatile wines so there’s an option for each guest.
To start off the festivities, pop the cork off a tantalizing bubbly, whether it’s Champagne or another sparkling wine from around the wine world. You don’t think of Argentina for wines other than Malbec, but there’s a light, refreshing and mildly sweet sparkling wine that’s made its way to our shops recently. Try the Deseado Sparkling Torrontes ($16) for something different this year.
For those looking for a domestic sparkler, richer with crisp green apple, tropical fruit and passion fruit, grab a bottle of the 2010 Domaine Carneros Brut ($29). Crisp and refreshing, with hints of toast, a few sips will tantalize the taste buds and create anticipation for the meal. While bubbly wine can easily take you through multiple courses, why not offer an alternative fresh white wine as a bridge to a bigger red to be enjoyed later in the meal. The 2013 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc ($23) is a lovely option, bursting with citrus and a hint of tropical fruit. This wine acts almost like a palate cleanser, getting guests ready to dig in deep for the main course.
If white wine seems too light on a frigid November day, or if you’ve invited a house full of red-wine lovers, offer a rosé as an alternative. Reach for the Hunter III Petite Sirah Rouge ($38). Rich in bright red berry fruit flavors, it’s a bit weightier than a typical rose with subtle cherry and berry flavors to complement savory appetizers that are often in need of freshness. With fewer than 60 cases made, you need to order on the website or call to reserve a bottle soon (707-968-0987).
Moving into the heart of our holiday meal, with a nod to the dropping temperatures outside, think of serving a warming, rich, medium- to full-bodied red wine. Thankfully, turkey has two sides: dark meat and white meat, which vary not only by cooking time, but in fat content. The extra fat in the former can handle the intensity in a fuller-bodied red wine. Thanks to your guests who grab for drumsticks and thighs, a big red wine is allowed, especially where tangy, sweet cranberries come in.
A cool climate Pinot Noir such as the 2012 Etude Pinot Noir ($41) works well on the medium-bodied side. The mouth-watering ripe Bing cherry flavors with a hint of blackberry and cassis stand up to attention in the company of the tart cranberries, yet don’t overwhelm the savory turkey, gravy and stuffing. As of the 2012 vintage, Etude produces an array of Pinot Noir with fruit sourced globally from New Zealand to Santa Maria Highlands all the way to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Talk with your local merchant to find one that suites your taste.
If it’s a slightly bolder red you’re craving, open a bottle of the 2013 The Prisoner by Orin Swift ($36). It’s a creative blend of 44 percent Zinfandel, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent Petite Sirah, as well as Syrah, Grenache and Charbono, that’s dense, full-bodied and opulent. The deep flavors of blackberry and licorice will warm you up and brighten up the meal with velvety richness. You might even consider it with dessert, especially if it’s a gooey, sweet pecan or pumpkin pie.