Depending on how you look at it, Thanksgiving can either present a near impossible wine pairing challenge – or it can present a wine pairing opportunity. In terms of the challenge, the diversity of food at the table and the assortment of friends and family feasting mean that it’s almost impossible to pick one wine that both goes with all dishes and will please everyone at the table. My solution? Don’t even try.
This leads us to the wine pairing opportunity of Thanksgiving. In my opinion, the best way to approach the holiday is to have an abundance of wine on hand which should both provide something for everybody while allowing people to experiment with different pairings and find out what works best. It also livens up the day’s discussion, in case any livening up is needed!
I recommend having a wide assortment of wines, from sparkling to whites, rosés, and reds. My only rule for Thanksgiving wines is this – don’t break the bank. It’s a busy day and the wine is flowing freely. And there’s nothing worse than watching than watching your least favorite uncle pour himself a half bottle of your most coveted wine and throw it back in three seconds flat.
Sparkling wines provide the most breadth in terms of pairing and can work as an aperitif and all the way through to dessert. Treveri Cellars offers a tremendously broad assortment of sparkling wines all of which have a place at the Thanksgiving table. Domaine Ste. Michelle also offers tremendous quality for the price.
In terms of whites, I like to go with Riesling, as it is also a versatile pairing wine. Here Washington offers an embarrassment of riches at can’t-be-beat prices from the Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling Columbia Valley 2011 ($8) to Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Washington 2011 ($12), Milbrandt Traditions Riesling Columbia Valley 2011 ($13), and Magnificent Wine Co. House Wine Riesling 2011 ($12). At the higher end of the price spectrum, the Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley 2011 ($20) is among my favorites that the winery has produced.
Chardonnay can also work well with that Butterball turkey. Here try the exceptionally well-priced Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay 2010 ($12) or the winery’s H3 Chardonnay 2010 ($15). If you’ve got a smaller gathering, the Abeja Chardonnay Washington State 2011 ($36) is a wine worth swooning over, as is the Januik Chardonnay Cold Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 ($30).
Dry rosés can also work well for Thanksgiving – steer clear of the clear of the sweet stuff as its bound to make your cranberry relish taste sour and won’t have the acid complement the other dishes at the table. Here, you can’t ask for more than the Maison Bleue La Famille Rose of Mourvedre 2011 ($20). It’s a simply marvelous wine, and isn’t Thanksgiving all about family? In terms of value, it’s hard to match the Charles & Charles Rose Columbia Valley 2011 ($11). Read more rosé recommendations here.
In terms of red wines, I recommend leaving the big, bold trophy wines for after dinner. The oak and tannins on these wines will obliterate the turkey you’ve been slaving over. Instead, go with lighter bodied reds like Pinot Noir or Grenache and associated blends.
In terms of Pinots, the Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2010 ($20) provides good value with abundant strawberry and cherry aromas and an elegantly styled palate that will fit in perfectly at the table. In terms of Grenache and blends, let’s return to the wines of Maison Bleue where the Jaja Red Wine Yakima Valley 2010 ($25) is about as high a quality wine as you can find at this price. After that we move into wines better suited for smaller gatherings due to the increased price, such as the Maison Bleue Gravière Red Wine Upland Vineyard 2010 ($45) or Maison Bleue Le Midi Grenache Boushey Vineyard 2010 ($35). Also on the higher end of the price scale, check out Rotie Cellars Southern Blend Washington State 2011 ($40) or the Gramercy Cellars L’Idiot du Village Columbia Valley 2009 ($45) (and for goodness sake, if you are lucky enough to have a bottle of the winery’s rosé still, open it!).
No matter what you choose this Thanksgiving, remember that the holiday is, most of all, a time to be… thankful – for family, friends, and life’s many pleasures, including great wines. Happy holidays!