These Wines Pair Perfectly with a Thanksgiving Feast
Every year it’s the same question: “What wines work well with Thanksgiving dinner?” Let’s start with what doesn’t work. Big, alcoholic wines with pronounced tannins—Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux or high-octane Italian reds like Barolo—clash with turkey and are too sleep-inducing for this long meal. What pairs are medium-bodied, lighter-alcohol reds without strong tannins. The most versatile “bridge” wine—one that can bridge with the flavors of many dishes—is Pinot Noir.
On the other hand, fuller-bodied whites also stand up to the richness of a traditional dinner. And rosés, being lower in alcohol and easy drinking, pair nicely and deliver a colorful touch to the table. Sparkling wines are ideal because they too are lighter in alcohol, cut through the fat in mashed potatoes, gravy and buttery yams and leave the palate refreshed. A bubbly makes for a festive start to uncork with appetizers.
The rule for any successful pairing is to think of the whole plate with its many elements, its protein, vegetables, starches and sweet ingredients. Because this meal offers such a cacophony of flavors, complex wines are thrown off. Sweetness, especially, kills the nuance in wine. At Thanksgiving, wine should take a supporting role to the food. So select a simple, fruity wine without much complexity, and save that expensive Grand Cru Burgundy for Christmas dinner.
A Pinot Noir-dominant blend with grapes from cool-climate vineyards in northern California, Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé ($29) is aged two years in the winery’s historic caves. With fresh berry flavors and gentle effervescence, it’s perfect as an aperitif wine as well as a great bubbly to serve with dinner.
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir with grapes from Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Rosé 2015 ($22) has lovely aromas of tea roses, gardenias and watermelon, is refreshing on the palate and marries well with vegetable dishes.
From Napa’s oldest winery founded in 1861, Charles Krug Carneros Chardonnay 2015 ($21) is barrel-fermented in Burgundian style. With aromas of citrus, peach and pear, a medium body, and palate-cleansing acidity, it’s excellent with turkey, rich gravy and creamed peas and onions.
Made from estate grapes grown in Edna Valley in California’s Central Coast, Chamisal Estate Chardonnay ($30) shows flavors of pineapple, Meyer lemon and vanilla with a touch of nutmeg on the finish. It melds with mashed potatoes and other buttery dishes.
Round Pond Estate Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($24) with its white floral aromas and flavors of pineapple, melon, peach and stone fruit, is excellent as an aperitif but also has enough body to stand up to sweeter elements—marshmallow yams, caramelized butternut squash and brown-sugar roasted carrots.
With fruit sourced from cool-climate sites in Sonoma County, Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir 2014 ($25) possesses black tea, cherry and plum flavors and works well with spice—thyme, garlic—and mushroom-laden stuffing.
From high altitude estate vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, Hahn SLH Pinot Noir 2014 ($30) has aromas of dark cherry, cedar and mocha, and enough crisp acidity to pair with green-bean casserole and spiced cranberry sauce.
With estate grapes grown in biodynamic viticulture from the Sonoma Coast, Benziger Pinot Noir 2014 ($29) exudes bright red fruit notes of raspberry, red cherry and strawberry. Its silky mouth-feel and fruit flavors bridge well with glazed pearl onions, sautéed mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Born in the USA.