Culinate

Thanksgiving wine time

Eight to try

By
November 13, 2009

Editor’s note: Anu Karwa wrote the Culinate wine column, titled Swirl, from July 2009 through December 2010.

I’m in charge of bringing the wine for Thanksgiving, but since this occasion is mainly about the food, I’m not sure what’s appropriate. Help!

Let’s just put it out there: Thanksgiving is all about eating. In fact, it’s our only holiday dedicated to eating.

Yes, I know, it’s a day to acknowledge all the wonderful blessings in our lives. But when you sit down to dinner on November 26, you’re going to be most grateful for the amazing spread in front of you.

Have an idea what you want before you go to the wine shop.

Thanksgiving dinner is a grazer’s dream, but a challenge in terms of figuring out which wines to serve. Plus it’s loaded with tradition, from Mom’s marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes to Grandma’s stuffing to Dad’s turkey. If you’re tasked with bringing the wine, these factors can make it somewhat intimidating.

The right Thanksgiving wines will work well with a wide array of flavors and textures, but won’t overwhelm the dishes. It also pays to seek out wines that aren’t too tannic or too high in alcohol.

The wine selection can become a tradition as well. Bring the next vintage of the same wines each year. If you make it a tradition, it has to be consistently well-made wine that everyone welcomes.

Most importantly, Thanksgiving is a celebration, a time for fun and bringing people together — so have fun with your wine choices. That said, you should plan what you want to bring, so you’re not scrambling at the wine shop at the last minute.

I won’t tell you how many bottles my family went through last year, for fear of cautionary letters of concern, but suffice it to say, I’m glad we planned ahead.

Here are some Thanksgiving wine suggestions.

Riesling
I sincerely hope the days of Riesling’s bad rap are over. This wine’s high acidity is perfect for cutting through an item’s richness, while the light body doesn’t overwhelm the dish. A slightly off-dry version makes it nearly universally pleasing. If you haven’t added a quality Riesling to your must-haves list, I implore you try it.
Dr. Konstantin Frank, Riesling Semi-Dry, 2008, Finger Lakes, New York ($15)
Willamette Valley Vineyards, Riesling, 2007, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($11)

Pinot Noir
Another favorite go-to wine for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir, again for its amenable style. Save medium-bodied, elegant versions for the dinner table and drink heavier, fruit-forward types as an aperitif.
MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, 2007, Sonoma Coast, California ($24)
Girasole Vineyards, Pinot Noir, 2008, Mendocino, California ($11)

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Zinfandel
The classic red wine to have with Thanksgiving dinner is a Zinfandel. Although potentially Croatian in origin, Zinfandel has become a distinctly American grape appropriate for this quintessential American holiday. This is a rich, zesty, peppery red wine, not to be confused with white Zinfandel. Make sure the wine isn’t too high in alcohol, which is often the case with Zins from California.
Rancho Zabaco, Reserve Zinfandel, 2007, Dry Creek Valley, California ($24)
Ridge, Pagani Ranch Zinfandel, 2007, Sonoma Valley, California ($30)

Cabernet Sauvignon
While not inexpensive, a Cabernet Sauvignon with a few years of age (if not more) can be a wonderful wine to add as a holiday tradition. Its tannins have somewhat mellowed, while the rich flavors and structure still shine. These are special-occasion wines that truly celebrate the generosity of the holiday.
Louis M. Martini, Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Sonoma Valley, California ($85)
Cape Mentelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003, Margaret River, Australia ($53)