GOURMET HIGHWAY: All-American Thanksgiving Wines

By Doc Lawrence –

The year is winding down and we’ll help it go in high style. Gatherings and homecomings are highlighted by feasts.  Laughter permeates and for a little more than a month we celebrate. Joy is the prevailing emotion, mercifully shoving aside distracting problems and disappointments.

Thanksgiving launches the holiday season where every day acknowledges joie de vevres. It is the most American of these wonderful days, incorporating much of what we hold dear. We return home even if the journey is just reliving precious memories. It is that day when we genuinely want someone-a lonely neighbor, a student far from home- who is alone to come on over and join the fun and share the harvest bounty.

Wine is enjoying growing prominence during holiday feasts and more wine is sold for Thanksgiving Day dinner than for any other meal of the year. With so many different flavors, tastes and traditions, Thanksgiving wine choices can be vexing. Given the great variety of foods and flavors, it’s smart to place different bottles on the table to reflect the many different dishes served. This is our special day so serve only American wines.

Because most foods on the dinner table are all consumed together, pairing wines appears a little daunting. Remember the most important consideration is taste, how each wine complements what you’re serving and what you like. There are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting the right wines. But some are almost perfect with turkey and all the amazing fixings.

Begin the feast with an American sparkler. Serve a flute or two of Gruet Blanc de Noir Sparkling, a highly regarded bubbly from New Mexico.  And, if you want a gift for your dinner host, the safe path is a good sparkling wine and Gruet has some rarity about it combined with a solid reputation. Biltmore Estate Blanc du Noir from the fabled Asheville, North Carolina resort is another top choice. Why not pour both?

Holiday White Wines

Instead of Chardonnay consider white wines that are refreshing, tangy, floral and fruity, the dominant holiday flavors. Oregon’s secret weapon white is Pinot Gris.  Unlike Pinot Grigio (the same grape), Oregon Pinot Gris has personality.  King Estate Pinot Gris is a sure bet, and is nice on the palate between bites of turkey, dressing and gravy. It goes nicely with vegetables like asparagus.

North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley offers a cornucopia of food friendly wines. Acclaimed Rag Apple Lassie’s Viognier or Pinot Gris are regulars for my Thanksgiving guests.

Riesling or Gewurztraminer belongs on the table. With a lovely, complex, and rich core of fruit flavors, and a bit of minerality, Gewurztraminer has enough acidity to work with holiday dinners. New York’s Finger Lakes is home to Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling, a benchmark for American Riesling that will lift Thanksgiving dressing, holiday oysters and shrimp and baked pork loin to new heights.


Red Wines

Don’t hesitate to serve red wine with turkey. Young bottles of Pinot Noir like those from Biltmore Estates are distinctively fruity with essence of plums, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. Another respected North Carolina winery, Hanover Park, produces a Mourverde and light Chambourcin.

Great Zinfandel grapes grow in pockets all over California, and producers like the Hope family have done their homework. This wine benefits from fruit harvested from hardy, gnarly old vines, some of them over 50 years old. This wine has real panache, spice and zing that defines Zinfandel.

Syrah is another bright wine that glorifies the holiday dinner table. Michael David Winery’s Sixth Sense 2009 release, a dark ruby delight, is balanced and very juicy, and demands to be poued for Thanksgiving diners. A cadinal rule: There should be one superstar wine showcased. Your loved ones and special friends deserve at least one glass of something in the upper echelon and the 2007 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is excellent. With nothing blended, this straight Cab stands on its own. Count on it: guests will express gratitude.

This is the time to reflect and express thanks. We toast to commence the Thanksgiving feast, happy to be together. The appreciation of life isn’t predicated on wealth or plenty, just simple gratitude for family, friends and the beauty of the world. Joy manifests in many ways: a Thanksgiving dinner or even a precious memory of a melody played on a trumpet long ago.


Doc Lawrence


(Doc Lawrence is a veteran travel, food, wine and spirits journalist.
Contact him at: editors@ docsnews.com.)


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