What to pick for Thanksgiving: The Pre-Thanksgiving Tasting and the logic behind the Choices
–by Joshua Mason
Turkey, Football, Stretchy Pants, Wine. These are my 4 major ingredients for a successful Thanksgiving. Within this list, I can be confident of a few things: I want to save the white meat for leftover turkey sandwiches with Duke’s Mayonnaise, I will watch college before the predictable Dallas and Detroit games, and I want wines that will pair with everything on the table.
Thanksgiving is one of those food holidays that really make for a smorgasbord. The foods are all over the place from cheesy macaroni to cranberries, to textured white meat, to cream and veggies…just, all over the place. This begs the question: is there a wine to pair it all up? Well, yes and no. On the “yes” side, you could go heavy on one wine, like Cotes du Rhone, Alsatian white blends, or Rosé (That’s right! Don’t dare think that delicious rosé should go away with the warm weather! This wine is made to last the year through, and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are the prime example!). On the “no” side, you can really take the reigns and pair groups of courses, or courses individually. For the sake of discussion, the following courses will be paired up individually, and I will give you just the wine to pair with it.
If you want to try for yourself, please come to our Pre-Thanksgiving Wine Tasting this Wednesday from 12:00-6:00. We will have most of these wines open for you to try and buy!
***Obvious Gratuitous Disclaimer*** The truth is that there really are a multitude of wines, from Cava to Zin to Sancerre that will really pair well with your Thanksgiving dinner, and we want to show as many as we can to you. Please take the following recommendations as a “building block” and not an “end all, be all.” To each their own palate!
Well, they are a little sweeter than yams. I have heard people sum it up as regular potatoes meets pumpkin. Sounds about right. This dish is a little sweet and pretty tasty. In this case, I really want to pair sweet with something similar. In this case, the Eisold Smith “Edel” White Blend –$15.99 is a great pairing (also will go with spicy stuffing AND dry turkey…if you are unfortunate…if you are looking for a white wine). The Edel is just a little bit sweet and really juicy with nice fruits that will really enhance sweet potatoes!
This is a job for Beaujolais. Don’t confuse this with “Beaujolais Nouveau,” as the purpose for the Nouveau is party wine. No, Beaujolais is a great pairing with cranberries because of a lot of similar tasting notes, especially if the cranberries aren’t over-sweetened. Look for a very nice “Cru” Beaujolais. We recommend the Albert Bichot Moulin-a-Vent –$29.99 for this beautiful complexity with some good cranberries.
Oh, it’s a thing… Seriously, when it comes to tofu, it really is all about how you spice it. Most people want to add smoky flavors to this dish, so we recommend Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, even Sauvignon Blanc, but if I were to put my finger on it, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend Bordeaux, because, who doesn’t love Bordeaux? Let me point out two: Chateau de Graviers Margaux –$33.99, and Chateau Plantey de Lieujean –$15.99. They are both exceptional wines with the Margaux having lush fruit and the Lieujean being so adaptable to seemingly anything “meaty.” They are already excellent by themselves. With tofurkey, they are exceptional.
Ok, we are getting into it now. Most people, when they pair up Thanksgiving, they have both turkey and stuffing in mind. What kind of stuffing? Are there raisins in there? What about sausage? Is it spicy or fruity? See, you can really go all over with this, so let me give you a pairing for each of them, and this might seem odd, but most of my recommendations are going to come from southern Italy and the island of Sicily.
In Sicily, you have rustic reds and bright and vibrant whites that are so under the radar, but incredible in structure and fruit. Let’s get to the stuffing styles with the wines:
Raisins: Bisceglia Gudarra Aglianico del Vulture Gudarra –$21.99. What were those words? Was there a soft “j” in there? Well, let’s keep with the most important: Aglianico (agleeANiko) is a grape produced mostly in southern Italy that is inky and dark in color. It is big and lush in flavor with hints of plum and spices that really go well with the raisins in the stuffing, even the sausage, especially if you have gamy sausage, like venison or elk. Just a next level wine!
Sausage: I really like an acid driven wine that has a lot of fruit and just as much focus. Take a look at Tenuta de Fessina “Erse” Etna Rosso –$21.99. From the shadows of Mount Etna in Sicily this blend of Nerello Mascelese and Nerello Cappuccio is heavenly, especially when paired with either spice or game. Seriously, if you won’t try this with a Thanksgiving meal, you need to try it with either Mexican food or Indian food.
Fruity: What do I mean by this? If there are more apples, grapes, and pears in the stuffing, you may want to pair this with something that can be just as fruity, but lean. I recommend Mastroberardino “Lacryma Christi” Bianco –$15.99. First of all, this iconic wine has a great story:
“According to the story, God cried when he found a corner of Heaven stolen by Lucifer and where his tears fell, there grew the grapes that make Lacryma Christi, which translates as “tears of Christ.”
Made from 100% Coda di Volpe grown in volcanic soil, this wine is fermented in stainless steel to preserve its unique, fresh profile.”
This wine can be used as an aperitif or with food. Seafood risotto seems to be popular with this wine, but with good stuffing, it can soar expectations!
Ok, let’s talk it. Because of white meat and dark meat, there are a variety of red and white wines that can pair with a well prepared bird. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chateauneuf du Pape, Malbec, Champagne (for those of you that will deep fry, Champagne is your ticket to glory!), the list goes on. A lot of people like light and easy wine for this bird, and if you want, we have an exceptional light red wine in Albert Bichot Coteaux Bourguignons –$14.99 and a fuller bodied wine in Domaine de l’Echevin Cotes du Rhone –$17.99 (The ULTIMATE Dark Meat Wine) that will both make you look like a champ to your friends and family. Think about it: they are relatively inexpensive and a crowd pleasers. Who wouldn’t want these wines? Seriously! You can get a lot of it for your crowd! They are fine choices, but some of you know that great wines are for special occasions, and let’s face it: Thanksgiving is a special occasion! I will recommend a red and a white, and with it, I will use the wine critics of Mr. James Molesworth of Wine Spectator and Mr. Ian D’Agata of Vinous Media to describe the following to you:
2014 Tenuta de Fessina Etna Bianco A’Puddara, Sicily, Italy
Bright straw-yellow. Aromas of ripe pineapple, lemon, lily and jasmine. Densely packed and sweet; soft, round flavors of ripe citrus fruits, pear, orange oil and sweet herbs have plenty of personality and complexity. Finishes long and lemony.
91 Points, Vinous Media
Our Price: 29.99
2015 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone Valley, France
This offers a drop-dead gorgeous core of cassis and raspberry pâte de fruit flavors that hold center stage but still allow notes of Lapsang souchong tea, anise, incense and shiso leaf to chime in. Very long, with a sublime feel through the mineral-tinged finish. So seductive already, but this should cruise in the cellar. Drink now through 2040.
98 Points, Wine Spectator
Our Price: 84.99