Turkey Day Wines

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No matter who’s coming to dinner, you want your Thanksgiving feast to be a success. In case you haven’t noticed, Nino’s does too. Chef Pete has been writing up a storm of terrific turkey time ideas over on his blog. Now it’s my turn to put your wine needs at ease. I tend to believe if you like it, drink it. However, when it comes to the traditional Thanksgiving fare, there are certain flavor profiles that marry better than others.

Over the last couple of years, wine writers have hit us over the head with Gewürztraminer and Provincial Rosé for the grand meal. I do believe these work. However, if you love red wines, I won’t argue that you must refrain! I may try my hardest to pull the bottle of bold, rich, tannic, Cabernet Sauvignon out of your hands and replace it with a more elegant and fruity Pinot Noir, but this is beside the point. The point is that you don’t want your wine to overshadow the food. Turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing: these are the main characters of our show–lots of flavors but none too extreme.

Overall, the main component we must battle is the weight of the meal. There are going to be many creamy, rich textures at the table, and the lone palate cleanser is the cranberry sauce, and even that can lend toward the sweet side. This is where the wine comes in to cleanse and invigorate your palate, and acidity is key. Riesling, Pinot Noir and dry Rose all have exciting fresh-fruit qualities, with medium-to-high acid. Acidity is what gives wine balance. The sweeter the wine, most likely the lower the acidity, and many of the new red blends have lower acidity, which is fine for drinking on their own, but not for this.

So keeping balance in mind, along with pleasing your guests, here are my wine picks for the perfect Thanksgiving meal:

Roederer Anderson Valley, California Brut NV $21.99 –

Many of you know I love bubbles, and Thanksgiving is a terrific time to drink them. The Roederer Anderson Valley is one of my all-time favorites because it is lively, crisp, and refreshing, with notes of baked apple, cinnamon, and hazelnut. Not only does it pair with the festive fall smells, but the acidity also cuts through the creamier dishes.

Montinore Estate Borealis “The Northern Whites” White Table Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2011 $12.99 –

I found this little gem when I attended Oregon Pinot Camp this summer. I must have tried over 600 wines there, and this one really stuck with me. A blend of Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer, it has generous floral complexity with peach and golden delicious apple rounding out the flavor. Lime and grapefruit are prevalent on the clean, citrusy finish.

Chamisal Vineyards Stainless Chardonnay, Central Coast, California 2011 $14.99 –

Chardonnay is incredibly versatile. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a buttery or oaky chardonnay. Instead, I recommend a light, crisp, un-oaked one like this. Chamisal focuses on the purity of Chardonnay and the tropical fruit flavors like pineapple and lime that are sometimes masked by oak.

Altes Herencia Garnatxa Negra Terra Alta, Spain 2011 $9.99 –

Cranberry in color, with bright and lively red fruits, this “black Grenache” from a sub-region of Catalunya, has soft tannins and complex minerality. It just received 91 points from Robert Parker and is a steal at $9.99.

Owen Roe Abbot’s Table Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington 2010 $27.99 –

The folklore goes that if you knock on any monastery door and ask for a meal, the monks will gladly let you in and feed you. Winemaker David O’Reilly believes he has made a wine for any occasion. The blend changes every year, but I think the 2010 is terrific for Thanksgiving dinner. 48% Sangiovese, 15% Blaufränkisch, 14% Zinfandel, 14% Malbec, 7% Syrah, and 2% Merlot create a light- to medium-bodied wine with notes of black flowers, juicy plum, red and black currants, and tobacco and spice on the finish. This wine was made to be enjoyed around a big table, telling stories and enjoying life.

Though Riesling and Pinot Noir are tried-and-true wines that pair terrifically with Thanksgiving dinner, we have laid out a few wines with incredible balance and acidity that will pair just as well. So whether you go with your old favorite, or branch out to something new, the Nino’s wine team is here to answer any of your toughest Thanksgiving wine questions.

Enjoy!
- Jennifer Laurie