Thanksgiving Wines

The GOTN challenge for the November was for everyone to bring a wine that they will be serving at their Thanksgiving feast.  They were also asked to include details on the dinner entree and side dishes they will be serving with their wine choices.  I found this evening very interesting as there seemed to be a wide range of different wines selected by the group as can be seen in the list below:

  • 2014 Barons De Rothschild (Lafitte) Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion - France 

  • 2011 Louis Jadot Burgundy - France

  • 2009 Windward Monopole Pinot Noir - Paso Robles

  • 2013 Layer Cake Shiraz - South Australia

  • 2012 Carr Camp Four Vineyards Cabernet Franc - Santa Ynez

  • 2012 Oak Bridge Old Vine Petite Sirah - Lodi

  • 2013 Peju Provence Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay blend - Rutherford

Lets look at what the typical Thanksgiving dinner consists of before discussing wine selections. The majority (if not all) were planning on a very traditional style Thanksgiving dinner consisting of turkey, stuffing (fruit, meat, etc), mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes or yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc.  Did not hear much about ham or other unique main courses. So let's analyze this meal and see what wines could be good candidates.  

The main entree is turkey, which has both light and dark meat, that has a certain amount of dryness to it which may pair well with a nice buttery Chardonnay.  However, when the guests sit down and dive into the many layers of food with so many different properties, you must look at a much bigger picture than the match of just the turkey.  The normal tradition people follow (including myself) is to fill their plates with turkey, potatoes and stuffing followed by a good healthy coat of a rich, thick, savory herb packed turkey gravy.  The turkey has now moved from the dry category to being deliciously moist thanks to the gravy.  Now add cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes or yams with brown sugar and marshmallows and the the Chardonnay will definitely get lost within the confines of the savory, tangy and sweetness of these different flavors.  This is a complex situation for pairing wines.

So lets look at what is needed in a wine to go with all of these different flavors.  The one wine that is a good choice is a Pinot Noir.  The reason is that it has  high acidity with low tannins.  It offers a unique flavor profile from strawberries, cherries and cranberry.  Pinots also come in many different styles from light and elegant Burgundian styles to big, dark, fruit forward styles.  One unique twist with Pinot Noir is that they are not always cherry flavored.  Many years ago the William Seylem Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir had flavors of pure cranberry with subtle spices.  How perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner.

I was very surprised that there were no whites in the line-up as Tracy and I used to always serve Gewurztraminer or Riesling wines which also go well with this type of Thanksgiving dinner.  These two wines contain the acid but also sweetness allowing it to compliment the different foods served.  Other good choices are Grenache blends, preferably those from Southern France and even Champagne.  

The bottom line is that you want a wine that contains a fair amount of acid to cleanse the palate with very little noticeable tannins and a little sweetness and you are set.  One caveat to the recommendations is that you must like the wine otherwise it defeats the beauty of the dinner before you start.  With many guests, you can have a couple of bottles opened to satisfy different palates.  I hope everyone has a joyful Thanksgiving and please be safe.


Rusty Sly