Thanksgiving – the one day of the year when Americans gather around the table to focus on gratitude and the joy of being with those we love. This day centers on one epic meal, incorporating a cornucopia of flavors, textures, and spices that makes the most seasoned chef shudder.
The complexities of this meal prove difficult to pair with one wine to achieve its fullest expression. This could be a contributing factor to more wine being consumed on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. To make the meal preparation and presentation easier, here is a dish by dish guide to pairing wine with Thanksgiving.
Sweet potato casserole is a crowd favorite. The sweet, creamy texture of the sweet potatoes with a touch of cinnamon, all-spice, and maple syrup make this dish taste more like a dessert than a side. A perfect wine pairing for sweet potato casserole, butternut squash soup, or roasted acorn squash think white wines of Southern Rhone. Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne provide a fuller body experience with a creamy texture, lovely aromatics and low to medium acidity.
Recommendation: 2017 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Blanc Applegate Valley Oregon ($25): you’ll love the structure of this wine, 52% Marsanne and 48% Viognier co-fermented to create a white wine that is rich, elegant, and bright. Purchase from Troon Vineyards.
Thanksgiving side dishes are not lacking in starch. Another staple is mashed potatoes. Who can deny the creamy comfort of golden potatoes whipped with cream, butter, and even a dollop of sour cream or mascarpone? Pure heaven! Mashed potatoes pair well with either red or white wine. However, I am choosing a traditional pairing this year – California Chardonnay. California Chardonnay lean on the fuller side, rich texture and notes of oak, but I am not suggesting a “butter bomb,” you want a Chardonnay with balance to pair with the delicate potatoes.
Recommendation: 2016 William Hill Chardonnay North Coast California ($17): A refreshing blend of fruit and brown spices balance beautifully on the palate, fermented in stainless steel and oak for an overall delightful wine. Purchase from William Hill.
Another classic American side dish is Green Bean Casserole, created in 1955 by the Campbell’s Soup Company. The main aspects to consider in pairing wine here is the earthiness of this dish. Cream of mushroom soup with Worcestershire Sauce are interesting elements that complicate the table. However, a Burgundian style Pinot Noir is an ideal pairing with this dish. Look for a Pinot Noir with notes of bright, tart red fruit such as cranberries, pomegranates, and currants, along with earthy notes of mushroom and tea. If you alter this side into a more modern dish Pinot Noir will pair well with any side that offers the same earthy characteristics. Bonus pairing: cranberry sauce will also pair beautifully with the Pinot Noir you select.
Recommendation: 2015 Windrun Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills California ($33): Balanced notes of black berries with earthy notes of black tea, smoke, a touch of spice, and minerality; round and balanced in a Burgundian style. Purchase from Windrun.
No Thanksgiving table is complete without the stuffing/dressing. However, there are so many varieties to this side dish with an array of spices and flavors it can be a wine pairing nightmare. Cornbread, white bread, sausage, pancetta, apples, pears, cranberries, nuts, fresh herbs, dried herbs, what wine pairs with all these choices? Actually the pairing is quite simple: Dry Riesling. Riesling is an aromatic wine that has a German heritage. It offers bright citrus and orchard fruit flavors with ginger, honey, and at times petrol. Caution, when selecting a Riesling to pair with your dressing/stuffing make sure it is dry! Its offers crisp and round acidity that will blend beautifully with the layers of textures, flavors, and spices of this complicated side dish. It is a must have on every table for Thanksgiving.
Recommendation: 2017 Trefethen Family Vineyards Dry Riesling Napa Valley California ($26): This wine is a long-time favorite of mine; bone-dry with powerful acidity; jasmine, stone fruit and citrus mingle for a delightfully elegant and refreshing wine. Purchase from Trefethen.
Last but not least is the Turkey. With all the incredible side dishes, it can easily be overlooked. There are many ways to prepare a turkey; dry brined, wet brined, no brine, roasted, fried, smoked, baked, and hundreds of seasoning recipes. Do not fear your wine pairing, it’s the easiest pairing on the table. Each of the wines mentioned will pair beautifully with your turkey; however, we all want a big red on our table at Thanksgiving. Be careful, if the wine is too big it will overpower it. A balanced wine selection is Washington State Merlot. Much maligned, the fruit forward nature and balanced mouth-feel make Merlot an ideal wine for this complicated meal.
Recommendation: 2016 Seven Hills Merlot Walla Walla Valley Washington ($22): A blend of 85% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Cabernet Franc create an elegant wine reminiscent of right bank Bordeaux. It offers a balance between juicy fruit and savory herbs. Purchase from Seven Hills.
*Bonus pairing: To simplify your wines for Thanksgiving two wines will pair with everything on the table: rosé and sparkling wine. Both rosé and sparkling wine contain loads of acidity, making them very food friendly wines, as well as crowd pleasers. Even if you chose all five wines to pair with each dish include rosé and sparkling wine on the table to increase everyone’s enjoyment!
2016 Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuvee Sparkling Wine ($28): light and refreshing with notes of bright fruit and crisp minerality; dry and elegant, this wine illustrates the winery’s long-time support of the Prescott Western Bluebird Recovery Project. It is a lovely brut style wine to share and enjoy. Purchase from Sokol Blosser.
2017 Diving Into Hampton Water Rosé Languedoc AOP France ($25): a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 15% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah; fresh and fruity with notes of citrus, strawberries, and stone fruit, crisp on the palate, a real crowd-pleaser and conversation wine since the wine is produced by John Bon Jovi and famed French winemaker Gerard Bertrand. Widely distributed.