Wines for Thanksgiving

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 20, 2013 - 2:56 PM

Thanksgiving is a singularly American holiday. So when it comes to wine for this annual feast, I say:

Three cheers for the red, white and … pink.

Yes, rosé absolutely has a place at the table a week from now, because of its fabulous versatility in pairing up with all manner of food, from yams and chutneys to gravy and green beans. The same goes for pinot noir and riesling, which complete this Thanksgiving triumvirate.

Even with riper pinots and lusher rieslings, there’s enough underlying acidity to play off both the sweet and savory, plus whatever herbs and spices might be infusing individual dishes. These wines might not be perfect, but perfect is the enemy of good, and that’s what we want on Turkey Day — something good if not necessarily good for us.

And there’s no reason to break the bank, especially since it’s highly unlikely that the table will be packed with “cork dorks.” Plus, there’s more great wine than ever that costs less than $20, where the following recommendations fit.

Many folks might not consider rosé to be “in season,” but actually this is the perfect time to showcase its food compatibility and versatility. These wines also can work for those who generally are particular about the color of their wines, because the good rosés combine the freshness and brightness of whites with some of the depth and heartiness of reds. They also could be appealing to guests who might be having wine for the first time since last Thanksgiving.

Obviously, local shelves aren’t as packed with the pink stuff as they are in summer, but there is plenty of good juice out there (not just leftover because it didn’t sell). Among those swell brands that I was able to confirm are readily available: Domaine D’Arton, Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels Rosé, Dusted Valley Ramblin’ Rosé and Martin Ray Pinot Noir Rosé.

Non-pink pinot noirs are just as welcome, with their earthy and often mushroomy or umami qualities particularly suited for the savory dishes. They also tend to be light-bodied, lively, juicy and rarely slammed with food-unfriendly oak.

One problem for pinot noirs: Few that I would recommend are priced for casual consumption, whether from Burgundy or Oregon or New Zealand. (A just-over-$20 “splurge”: Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County.)

Among the better priced-in-the-teens possibilities: Dancing Coyote, Montoya and Murphy-Goode from California (the latter is “jammy” enough to work for the neophytes at the table); A to Z from Oregon; Ritual Casablanca Valley from Chile, and Kris from Italy.

But for me, the vinous star of the table should be riesling, not just because of its firm, mouthwatering qualities but also as a wakeup call for the inevitable guest who says, “I don’t like sweet wines.”

First off, rieslings have varying levels of sweetness, and many brands now have dry-sweet gauges on the back label (a host would do well to buy a pair from different levels). Also, you’re probably eating “sweet” potatoes and definitely wolfing down “sweets” for dessert, so why are liquids eliminated from this formula?

Suggested options come from all over: Anthony Road and Dr. Konstantin Frank among the increasingly available offerings from New York’s Finger Lakes region; Charles Smith “Kung Fu Girl,” Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington Hills, Barnard Griffin and Hogue from Washington; Baron de Hoen from France’s Alsace region; and Clean Slate and Rudi Wiest Mosel from riesling’s heartland, Germany.

Whatever you choose, be very thankful that we live in a world with so many great bottles worth gobbling up.

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643

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