Picking less pricey wines for the turkey dinner
By Taylor Eason
Although they were Puritans, you gotta think the Pilgrims drank it up at the first 1621 Thanksgiving dinner. I can see the barrels of wine scattered about as they stumble to their feet the morning after the gorge-fest. Through their hungover stupor, they high-five and congratulate themselves for a party well done.
OK this Animal House-esque scene didnt happen, and they didnt eat mashed potatoes or stuffing either. But they did drink something. So, in keeping with tradition, so should we.
But drink what? There are as many opinions about what to drink with the Big Meal as there are calories in it, but heres a smattering.
Some people like to marry Frances Beaujolais Nouveau release with their Thanksgiving meal. The third Thursday of November every year is always the splashy arrival date for the first wines of the new vintage. Beaujolais Nouveau is a simple, fresh, non-egoistic fruit bomb of a red wine and is almost always 10 bucks or less. Made from the lighter Gamay grape, its aromatic and laden with bright cherry candy or jam. Serve it chilled for the best results. My favorite producers in past releases have been Mommessin and Drouhin.
Wine snobs believe Pinot Noir is the ticket with turkey dinner, whether it be Hungry Man or homemade. But a girl could go broke pouring pricey Pinot all day, especially if shes entertaining a crew. The best bet for a crowd is Australian Shiraz, since it seems to please everyone, it pairs OK with most food, and many cost under $12.
But say you have some inventory to let loose? Since youre ideally with friends or family at Thanksgiving, maybe its time to crack that expensive, memory-laden Chardonnay you brought back from California, or the dust-encrusted Napa Cabernet Sauvignon your wine-obsessed friend gave you. No time like the present youre not working tomorrow, right?
Or you could splurge on a few expensive bottles my rule is never open two bottles of the same thing at one sitting since you can explore more that way. Grab celebratory, get-the-party-started French Champagne, an unusually named Californian or Australian blend to start conversation, or something you cant pronounce so you can make fun of each other. Basically, exploration and exposure are the key, so why not do it on Thanksgiving Day?
Then theres the thought of snubbing the pundits and drinking whatever the hell you want. I frequently recommend food and wine pairings in Corkscrew, but, honestly, I find myself drinking whats in front of me instead of whats planned. Menu discipline is difficult to maintain throughout an informal evening, especially after the second glass. And the perfect food and wine pairing is as elusive as Uncle Harrys hair, so why dwell on it? Since its a holiday, maybe we should just chill out, sit back and drink what we like. Its sure easier that way.
Miner 2002 Pinot Noir Garys Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands. $50. Like wassail at Christmas, but so much better. Spicy cranberry, burnt caramel, pinesap and fresh-cut flowers make this unique wine worth every penny.
Spires 2003 Chardonnay Barossa Valley. $11. A food-friendly Chardonnay if Ive ever had one. Loaded with vanilla, refreshing tropical fruit, peach and perfect acidity. An easygoing and unpretentious chard from the Aussies.
Freemark Abbey 2003 Viognier Napa Valley. $22. Excellent food wine, with solid acidity, fragrant honeysuckle, tangerine and honey.
Taylor Eason is the wine columnist at Creative Loafing.