Thanksgiving wine pairings
Choosing wines for a smorgasbordy feast like Thanksgiving or Christmas is tricky because of all the traditional rich fare that gets piled up on the same plate. It’s a lot to ask that one wine will work with that many flavors, spices, and fats. In a way, because of the variety, almost any wines will do, but some will definitely work better than others. I think the primary criterion is for the wine to have a nice, mouthwatering acidity. Beyond that, I personally like some fruity complexity that will complement the richness of the meal while maintaining an accompanying role.
A chilled glass of Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava, or your favorite champagne is always a good choice with big, rich meals because of its light flavors, festive bubbles, and crisp acidity. And of course it’s always a celebration to start any meal with savory appetizers, a cheery toast, and a flute of fizz..!
Similarly, although we usually think of rosé as a summer wine, its light flavors and bright acidity make it a good match for rich holiday fare as well. And although we have dismantled our summer Rosé Shrine, we still have a wide variety of dry rosés to chose from, from France, Italy, Spain, and right here in Washington. A minute ago I just poured some from a nearly empty bottle that has been sitting around for a week or two, and am surprised and happy to report that it tastes really good!
Another delicious direction for a holiday dinner wine is a dry or slightly off-dry riesling. Good rieslings are not, as many fear, “sweet wines.” One of the lovely things about riesling is that whether it is bone-dry (i.e., no residual sugar at all), or has a little or even a lot of residual sugar, it is usually beautifully fragrant and fruity, and balanced with bright acidity that effectively cleans the palate of any lingering sweetness. Because of its combination of complex white fruit flavors (like pear, apple, peach, and pinepple), riesling pairs well with almost everything. For the same reasons, other German or Alsatian varietals to consider for Thanksgiving include an Austrian gruner veltliner, an Alsation pinot bianco, or a Washington gewurztraminer– all of which we have in stock! Read more about riesling
Roussanne and Grenache Blanc
Roussanne and Grenache Blanc are two of my current favorite white varietals; we tasted and enjoyed several during recent visits in southern France and also in Spain. To our delight, we have also found a number of delicious roussannes right here in Washington, and I only recently discovered that some vineyards in Washington are also trying out grenache blanc. That was pretty exciting since I had enjoyed the varietal so much last year, and felt that it was likely to become the Next Big Thing in white wine in America (we’ll see about that). Right now we have delicious Washington roussannes from Mt. Baker Vineyards and from Syncline, which also happens to make– wait for it– a grenache blanc with fruit from one of Washington’s premier vineyards, Boushey. These tend to be full-bodied white wines, soft and fruity, rich on the palate, yet still with enough crisp acidity to stand up to a full-flavored holiday dinner.
Another versatile favorite for the holidays is pinot noir, the grape made famous in America a few years ago in the movie “Sideways.” Pinot has many different faces, but all of them should work well (in different ways) with a big holiday dinner. California pinot tends to be big, ripe, rich, and fruity, with notes of both red and white fruits and berries. It should stand up well to turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Oregon pinot can be big like California, but usually tends to be less fruit forward, more acidic, and more balanced, making it more food-friendly in general, while French burgundy is often the most acidic, but can vary wildly according to vintage and vineyard location.
This week’s wines
Calcu Rosé ’11 Chile $11
Unusual blend of malbec, syrah, and petite verdot; beautiful pale pink-arange color, crisp acidity, and nice minerality with notes of citrus and green apple. Not to mention, a really great label!
OS Riesling ’11 Washington $14
Here’s a nice video of winemaker Bill Owen talking about this riesling. A few years ago we had an earlier vintage with Thanksgiving dinner, and it was, if I may say so myself, a brilliant pairing!
Syncline Grenache Blanc ’11 Washington $22
A lovely wine that manages to combine a sense of rich earthiness with fine acidity, with fruit flavors of nectarine and green papaya.
W. H. Smith Maritime Pinot Noir ’09 California $35
While in Napa two weeks ago we got a great deal on one of our favorite California pinots, and had a case shipped up. It’s here, it’s delicious, and it’s $20 less than usual. Come check it out!