This past week, The Press ran a column from the Associated Press on Thanksgiving wine pairings. The column proved one theory I have written about many times: the best way to get 20 different opinions on wine is to ask 10 wine professionals. While there were some opinions in the column I couldn’t disagree with more, like “turkey is bland,” not sure where this wine professional has been having Thanksgiving dinner, but he needs to try someplace new. Turkey may be many things at our gatherings but “bland” is never one of them. We can leave this and other arguments for another time.
From a wine perspective, the column did make some good points. However, I found it to be short on real recommendations. Wine advice, like most any kind of advice, is about helping folks find solutions. I found most of the advice to be so nebulous and lacking in real knowledge that it would not help many. So, here are some real Thanksgiving recommendations with specifics.
The writer did a great job of making the point that Thanksgiving is in many ways is such a “riot” of flavors that pairing wine with individual courses or dishes is quite challenging. That is correct. Having said that, there are some wines that do better with the big feast than others. Having some sparkling wine or Champagne on hand is always a good idea. It not only sets a festive mood, but the high acid allows it to pair well with the rich food we all tend to roll out at the holidays. We recently added to the collection and really love the Non-Vintage Casina Bric rosé spumante from Italy ($35, Wine Club Price $31.50). The wine is fermented dry and has fine, tight bubbles, with a lovely apple note on the palate. The wine is fun, delicious and unique, in that it is crafted from full-bodied, red varietal, Nebbiolo.
The column also recommends Lambrusco as a trendy pick in sparkling. We agree, but if you choose to go this route, Lambrusco is typically sweet. While the wines are not overly so, they do have some sugar to them. We like the Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco ($15, Wine Club Price $13.50).
For a white wine that goes well with the Thanksgiving feast, we like the 2018 Cotes du Rhone Blanc Reserve from the Perrin Family ($15, Wine Club Price $13.50). The wine is fermented dry, with ample acid and no oak aging. While it is dry, the varietal blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc makes the wine very fruit forward. What makes it work with holiday fare? All of the acid works great to cut down on the richness of Thanksgiving dinner for an ideal pairing. The fruit driven palate allows it to be a good crossover wine for those who like sweet wine. This is a big part of the reason we featured it in our November wine club.
With red wine, there are two ways to go. You can either choose a lighter bodied varietal, like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, to balance all the richness and flavor of Thanksgiving dinner, or you can choose fuller bodied wine, like Cabernet or Zinfandel, to take the meal to a whole new and richer level. Pinot Noir does offer the benefit of pairing great with gamey birds like turkey. We would choose the 2016 Annabella Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($22, Wine Club Price $19.80). The wine comes from Pozzan Winery in Napa, and represents an extraordinary value for Northern California Pinot. The silky soft tannins and lovely cherry and earthy notes make this a better choice, in our opinion, than many wines from Oregon where Pinot Noir prices are approaching stratospheric levels.
For an even lighter choice, we recommend the 2017 Origine Beaujolais from Chermette ($25, Wine Club Price $22.50). Great vintage Beaujolais like this is nothing like the “Kool-Aidesq” Nouveau Beaujolais that was popular decades ago. Rather, it is a silky and rich cherry-noted food wine that is fabulous with turkey and the trimmings. If you have yet to try Beaujolais, this would be a great innovative choice.
For the Cabernet fans crowd, and for a robust wine choice to go with the feast, we really like the 2017 75 Wine Company Cabernet ($25, Wine Club Price $22.50) from Napa. The wine is made by Tuck Beckstoffer, son of legendary grape grower, Andy Beckstoffer, drawing fruit from some of Andy’s world class vineyards. The wine shows all of the flavor and character we want in a great Cabernet. Cedar spice and crushed Italian plum aromas dominate the nose, while firm tannin, ample oak and lush ripe cherry and plum fruit spans the palate for a lovely Cabernet and great all-around food wine.
Zinfandel is always a sentimental favorite of ours at Thanksgiving, harkening back to our time in Sonoma County. The Pozzan Zinfandel ($24, Wine Club Price $21.60) from the same winery that produces the Annabella Pinot Noir mentioned above is a great choice, with loads of jammy-berry fruit notes that the varietal is known for. It is a great wine to pair with Thanksgiving.
Stop by the shop or consult your favorite wine professional for even more fun choices to share with friends and family this Thanksgiving.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.