Wine Jones: Thanksgiving wines
November 21, 2008
With Thanksgiving a little less than a week away, it’s time to start thinking about what wines to select for your feast. Selecting wines that pair well with the many flavors and textures of your traditional meal can be a daunting task. What wine to choose that won’t contrast with the roasted turkey flavors or over-power those creamy mashed potatoes, or be lost in the flavors of that savory bread dressing?
Consider the flavors of the side dishes and sauces, and choose a wine or wines that pair well with these flavors. Should you choose a red or white wine with turkey? What about the contrast of flavors from appetizers to main course?
The simple answers to these turkey-day dilemmas are easy; sparkling wines. The bright acidity, fruit and yeasty characteristics make any sparkling wine a very-food friendly choice. For a sparkling wine that would be enjoyed from appetizers until dessert, I’d suggest a nice dry Rose or Blanc de Noir.
If you or your guess just won’t drink anything but a red or a white wine, then your task is made simpler by choosing a good wine, the color of your choice, that will pair with your meal. I like pairing a few varietals to the meal. Then everyone is happy. You will have the added pleasure of enjoying the affect a certain style a varietal has.
Traditional wine decision
The old rule of thumb, red wine for red meats and white wines for white meats, really doesn’t hold true for this meal. Finding wines that pair well with the main flavors of your meal, the flavors from the spices and herbs you use in preparation should be the guide in selecting whichever varietal or varietals you choose. Typically, wines that offer a light to medium body and present themselves with lower tannin levels and less complexity are better suited to the vast array of flavors the wine is meant to complement.
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For pre-dinner appetizers, a crisp refreshing white wine with enough acidity is a good choice. The higher acidity level of the wine will cleanse the palate after each bite, creating a refreshing, clean and light tasting experience, which should whet the appetite for the feast that is to follow.
For the main course, select wines that are not too big or over-powering, after all the food is the star of the day, the wine’s job is to enhance the dining experience. Generally light in body, with soft texture, a Pinot Noir is a popular choice for a red wine. Pinots have some body, with tangy red fruit flavors, and balanced tannin, acidity and complexity, with a hint of earthiness, which should go well with traditional Thanksgiving faire.
A good balanced Merlot, with good tannins, will also go well with any Thanksgiving meal. The soft fruitiness of a Grenache or Malbec, or a blend of any of these reds, would pair nicely with a traditional turkey dinner.
Do you require a bolder red for the meal? Look for a fruit forward Syrah from California, or a Shiraz from Australia. Another full-bodied, big red choice would be a spicy Californian Zinfandel.
White wines with bright fruit and lively acidity, with little or no oak, would be an excellent choice.
A crisp, refreshing California Sauvignon Blanc would enhance the flavors of each bite. Sauvignon Blancs present aromas of citrus, apples, pears, with crisp acidity and hints of herbs; they pair well with most foods on the Thanksgiving table. A favorite choice of mine that embraces both the characteristics of a nice pinot and the refreshing aspects of a Sauvignon Blanc is a nice dry rose made from Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah or Mouvedre grapes. Rose’s pair well with roasted or smoked turkey or baked ham. These wines offer bright acidity, fresh red fruit flavors, light tannins, with good structure with flavorful finishes.
If a chardonnay is on your list, look for a un-oaked Chardonnay, which has a soft creamy mouth-feel to compliment your meal. Wines with big oak flavors do not pair well with many of the sweeter dishes and sauces of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Don’t forget the dessert wines; this would be a perfect time to try a late harvest wine, served well-chilled to go along with the pumpkin pie. Look for a late harvest Riesling from the Sierra foothills, or a Moscato, both will compliment the flavors of pumpkin pie. For a daring and pricey adventure look for an ice wine, a dessert unto itself.
Wine Jones’ Thanksgiving favorites
Gruet Non-Vintage Sparkling Rose, New Mexico. This wine made in the traditional methode champenoise method and is produced from organically grown grapes. They are bright, refreshing and this nearly garnet-colored sparkler has a lovely, bright floral bouquet with hints of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. On the palate, it is rich and fruity in a dry, Brut style. The flavor of berries continues on the palate, revealing more strawberry, raspberry, cherry.
2006 Crinella Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River. This elegant, award-winning wine offers bright crisp flavors, balanced acidity, with citrus, pineapple and peach flavors with hints of spice a light floral nose.
2007 Silver Mountain Vineyards Rose, Santa Cruz Mountains. This Pinot Rose has an amazingly rich and beautiful color from significant skin contact, more typical of a Syrah or Grenache rose.
This wine has a rich nose of strawberries, cherries and roses, with flavors of watermelon, guava, crisp apples and strawberries, with a bright crispness and nice smooth mouth-feel.
2007 Routas Rose, Provenance. A vibrant, dry, full-flavored rose epitomizing finesse. Beautiful in color with a berry floral nose and fresh flavors of wild strawberries, hints of pepper and anise.
2006 Alfaro Family “A” Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. Ruby color, aromas of raspberry, spice and vanilla, bold ripe cherry flavors with well-integrated tannins and refreshing acidity. 2006 Adelaida Schoolhouse Pinot Noir cherry fruit accented by Asian spice and exotic tea aromas.
Wine shops in the area will be featuring their Thanksgiving favorites. The knowledgeable staff can lead you in the right direction for choosing a wine.
” Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org