Wine Ink: Pairings for the perfect finish to your family’s holiday meal |

Wine Ink: Pairings for the perfect finish to your family’s holiday meal

The most popular pie for Thanksgiving is the beloved Pumpkin. While tough to pair with wines the sugar and the spice are always nice.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Did you know?

• Pumpkin pie was first introduced to the holiday table at the pilgrim’s second Thanksgiving in 1623.

• Oct. 12 and Dec. 25 are both listed as National Pumpkin Pie Day.

• The Guinness World Book of records certified a 3,699 pound pie made by the New Breman (Ohio) Giant Pumpkin Growers in 2010 as the world’s biggest pie

• Pie just isn’t for after-dinner dessert. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they’ve had pies for breakfast. Pies as lunch (66 percent) and midnight snacks (59 percent) also have a popular following.

• Nearly one out of five (19 percent) of Americans prefer apple pie, followed by pumpkin (13 percent), pecan (12 percent), banana cream (10 percent) and cherry (9 percent)

Source: American Pie Council

I’m a pie guy. That confession may be new to you, but to those who know me, my love of pies comes as no surprise. I can often be found, kitchen bound, behind an apron rolling out freshly made dough or whisking a filling for a circle of delight.

And of all the celebrations of the year, this is the one where the most America’s household join me. Thanksgiving and the ensuing weekend is the one time of year when we all can agree on something — our mutual love of pie.

While pumpkin is the pie of choice for this holiday, there are other kinds of pies that will make their ways to the communal tables today and serve as leftovers (pie for breakfast anyone?) the rest of weekend. Pecan and apple are also major players for Thanksgiving and, if you have a southern background a sweet, sweet Chess Pie may also make an appearance.

Ah, but is a wine column and this is Thanksgiving weekend so we will consider what to drink with that classic pumpkin pie. While you can simply continue to sip whatever you have opened for your turkey and stuffing throughout dessert, there are a few wine pairings that will enhance your star course, your pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pies provide an interesting pairing challenge, as they are quintessential combinations of sugar and spice. Add to that the crust, buttery and full, and you have myriad textures and flavors that you can play off of.

Let’s begin with the sugar and spice. The Alsace region of France is famed for producing wines that meld well with spices, particularly cinnamon, clove and cardamom that characterize pumpkin spice.

But you need to make sure that you have some sweetness, or sugar in the wine or it will seem bitter. One of my favorite producers in the region is Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, who have been making wines in Alsace since the 1700s.

Though their wines are pricey, they can be heaven in a glass. Look for a bottle of the Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris 2012 a wine that will pick up the spice in your pie and has enough residual sugar to complement the sweetness.

Staying with the sweet theme, another tasty selection of a dessert wine for your piece of pumpkin pie comes from Washington, the 2013 Eroica Riesling Ice Wine. Ice wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vines late into the fall, allowing the sugar levels to rise.

When temperatures dip low enough to freeze the grapes, they are picked by hand and immediately pressed to release the sweet juice. On Nov. 21, 2013, the temperatures dropped in the Horse Heaven Hills to necessary levels, and for just the seventh time in Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 45-year history, an ice wine was produced. Rich and decadent, the wine will match well with the sugar and spice in your pie.

In years past, I have written of the California wines made by Andy Quady. Boy, have I enjoyed them. His flagship, and the wine that he is most known for, is called Essensia, and it is made from the orange muscat grapes of central California.

The wine is an intense golden color and pours like liquid gold from the bottle. The flavors are as intense as the color and a fresh orange hue lingers just below the surface on your palate. Sweet, perhaps to a fault for some, for me it is similar to an elixir of which I never tire. Whip some cream for your pie and pour a small taste of Essensia and you’ll have a perfect dessert. Or even consider adding a dollop to the pie itself.

Of course, there are those who would prefer something a little darker and deeper with their pie. Port is the way to solve that problem, especially Tawny Ports which tend be sweeter versions of these fortified wines from Portugal.

The Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port is a great example of a port that will have enough sugar to not go bitter after a bite of your pumpkin pie. While not overly sweet, it will bring a hint of orange and nuts to the flavors of your pie.

Regardless of what you choose to sip with your pies this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to pause and reflect on the great good fortune that has allowed you to have fine food and fine wines as a part of your life.

Anyone who does is fortunate indeed.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass, Colo., with his wife, Linda. He can be reached at

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