Like so many other proud American foodies, I look forward to the last Thursday of November. It’s the day to gorge on unbelievable quantities of carbs and collapse from the sheer weight of ingested food and drink. It’s also a day of futility — ’tis impossible to resist another slice of succulent turkey, pumpkin pie or heaping mound of Dad’s spicy BBQ pork. Perhaps pathetic, but everyone else is doing it. And a great bottle of wine helps to wash down the potatoes and wash away the guilt.
But with myriad choices, what to choose?
A few thoughts on Thanksgiving wines choices: 1) Drink what you like, no matter what food is in front of you; 2) If red wine isn’t your bag, screw it, drink white with everything — this holiday is about feeling good, right? Besides, a buttery but not too oaky chardonnay from California is fabulous with Thanksgiving vittles; 3) If you shun white wine (which is, frankly, the best pairing), choose lighter red wines, like pinot noir, French Beaujolais (or Nouveau!), malbec or a fruity Australian shiraz. Unless you’re eating beef rib roast, heavier wines like cabernet sauvignon or California syrah tend to overwhelm the food, but that could be an advantage in some households. Your call.
There are two rules of thumb on food and wine pairing, should you choose to stress about it: matching or contrasting flavors. Complementary pairing mirrors the wine and food, like creamy, buttery chardonnay with roasted turkey in a buttery sauce. Opposing teams would be the roasted bird with a dry, fruit-forward riesling or salty ham with a sweet riesling. Both strategies are delicious and allow you to choose your favorite weapon.
So basically, Thanksgiving presents an excuse to break open three or four different bottles of juice, compounding pleasure during an already decadent meal. And after the decadence, you’ll find my fat butt on the couch, praying that the food will digest quickly … so I can have another slice of pie and dessert wine.
Calina 2008 Chardonnay Reserva Casablanca (Chile) Did you know 95 percent of Chilean wine is exported to places like the U.S. and the U.K.? Sucks to be Chilean because this smacks of quality California chardonnay, but half the price. Smooth and juicy with creamy, buttery peaches, melon and vanilla. Sw=2. $8. 4.5 stars.
Talbott 2007 Logan Chardonnay Monterey (California) Family-owned Talbott Vineyards has been growing superior chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for 25 years. Thankfully, each year they select a small amount and craft some really great wines. Like this one. Luscious buttery goodness like perfect popcorn. Creamy vanilla, peaches, almonds and a toasty finish. All this and a dose of citrus acidity. Quite fabulous. Sw=2. $24. 4 stars.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut (Washington) For something a little more celebratory without paralyzing your wallet, try the sparkling wine from the Chateau Ste. Michelle folks. Refreshingly dry with succulent pear, lemon and a fresh-baked bread finish. Sw=1. $12. 3.5 stars.
MezzaCorona Pinot Noir Trentino (Italy) Pinot noir isn’t particularly the expertise of the Italians, but this inexpensive pinot doesn’t suck. The grapes are sourced from the cooler, mountainous climes of northeastern Italy, an environment pinot loves. This wine isn’t magical, but great for the price, and everything a pinot noir should be. Lighthearted with berry fruit and fresh with a delicious, earthy finish. Sw=1. $10. 3 stars.
Charles Smith 2007 Boom Boom Syrah Columbia Valley Charles Smith (a real person’s name) was named Winemaker of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine and he’s a serious contender for the wackiest too. But his wines are serious. This syrah is ripe without being sweet, with raspberry, tobacco, white pepper, and fragrant vanilla. It’s austere with strong tannins and definitely a food wine. A roast beef would meet its match in this wine. Sw=1. $20. 4 stars.
Sweetness (Sw) rating: 1-10. Star rating: 1-5.