Thanksgiving is such a joyous holiday. A time to give thanks for the good, recognize the gracious, and celebrate good food…and wine. I get questions all the time about what is really the best wine to serve with the huge Thanksgiving meal, especially since many of these occur in the middle of the day. Here are a few ideas that may work for your turkey day.
I always start with bubbly on Thanksgiving while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade….my happy ritual. For some reason I just love those silly over-sized balloons, and welcoming Santa into Herald Square. It is the true start to the holiday season for me, and what better way to celebrate the holidays than with bubbly.
Bubbly - I had the pleasure of visiting Mumm Napa last Thanksgiving, and the experience was one of the most lavish and gracious of a wonderful Napa/Sonoma Thanksgiving tour. We tasted about 10 in their portfolio that day. Some I became an immediate fan of, some my sweetie did, but we universally loved the Mumm Cuvee M – filled with pear, peach and green apple flavors, and aged 18 months in oak to layer in caramel and brioche on the finish. And the Santana Brut - made in collaboration with Carlos Santana (with a portion of the proceeds going to help underprivileged children around the world), this one is made predominantly with Pinot Noir grapes, leading to juicy berry, red apple and creamy, honey flavors, with hints of toast and nuts on the finish.
There is another that I would recommend trying this year. Ayala Champagne - founded in 1860, and purchased by Bollinger in 2005, this bubbly is a great example highlighting that the French do know how it should be done. Their “house style” Ayala Brut Majeur is classic Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier filled with some of the earthy richness Pinot Noir adds, with bright pear, wildflower and apple blossom. This is an elegant, yet lively Champagne, that will be enjoyed over and over again.
White – For cooking and enjoying during the Detroit game and into the Cowboy game, as that is another ritual (even when the boys aren’t on top). If we have finished the bubbly it may be a good time to opt for a tasty white. Dinner will always be red, so this ensures all wine groups are covered. Some favorites include Frei Brothers Chardonnay – a good value Chardonnay from Russian River grapes, that is easy drinking, well developed and filled with orange blossom and green apple, without being overly complex. St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc – every time I serve this people enjoy, filled with citrus and mineral, with just the right touch of acidity.
For Dinner…Thanksgiving features that gigantic meal…so you want a wine that will compliment, without being overly complex and heavy. This is a great time to find some of the lighter or more fruit forward varietals, that will enhance all of the different flavors presented during this fabulous meal.
Pinot Noir - One favorite is Domaine Serene Two Barns Vineyard , from a stellar Willamette Valley winery. This Pinot is earthy, berry goodness. A nicely developed palate, the ripe red fruit, floral and caramel notes can stand alone, or will accompany anything from roasted sweet potatoes to green beans with chanterelle mushrooms.
Another option from our trip last Thanksgiving is any Pinot from Siduri. Great, local story about a couple that met in Dallas with a dream to make award winning Pinot Noir in California. Today their wine is consistently rated nicely in the 90s, with grapes coming from some of the best vineyards throughout California, Oregon and beyond. One I am a fan of is the 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, using grapes from 6 different vineyards in the Russian River Valley with cola, spice and cherry flavors.
Vision Cellars Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is also a light, fruit forward, spicy option from one of the best in Sonoma Valley. Grapes from Gary’s Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands are some of the best in the valley, Mac McDonald and his team at Vision make them great.
Syrah – Another winery using Gary’s Vineyard grapes well is Novy Family Wines. Sister winery to Siduri, they specialize in Syrah, with other varietals like Zinfandel and Chardonnay coming out each year. The 2006 Gary’s Vineyard Syrah is sumptuous, with white pepper, blackberry and herbaceous flavors. This would be a beautiful wine if leg of lamb is on your holiday menu.
Or, Zaca Mesa Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley. A relatively small amount of Syrah is made from this winery that was the first to plant Syrah in Santa Barbara County. With aromas of smoky meat and bacon fat, and ripe blackberry, cherry and coffee on the palate, this is a bold and tasty option.
Beaujolais – You almost have to pick up the obligatory bottle of Beaujolais for the Thanksgiving feast. Released the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais is traditionally a go to accompaniment. Made from the Gamay grape, this is a fruity, light and approachable wine.
Every year I look forward to seeing the new label design George DeBoeuf created for the Beaujolais Nouveau, as they are always festive, and set the celebratory mood. For the wine inside, I am a fan of the Louis Jadot. Not quite as fruit forward, while maintaining the easy drinking style.