More than probably any other meal, Thanksgiving dinner covers a wide gamut of tastes from sweet to sour, spicy to fatty, and textures from light to heavy. The wines to accompany those dishes should be selected with a specific menu in mind.
Because fowl alone pairs well with red or white, it is wiser to look to the side dishes for guidance on the wine.
A full-bodied wine is served with rich foods and a lighter wine with less complicated and less fatty dishes. Tannic wines complement rich foods such as gravy and stuffing. Tart, tangy foods require a wine with equally strong acidity or they will taste flat. With desserts, I love a semi-sweet wine made from Muscat grapes or a late-harvest Riesling or ice wine that can stand up to the sugar in pumpkin or pecan pie. If you are serving chocolate or custard-y dishes, you might want to try a tawny port.
One of my personal rules regarding Thanksgiving wines is that they must be American. I only make rare exceptions.
Our state stores have a fresh list of Chairman's Selections at bargain prices. As always, these wines don't all arrive in stores at the same time but the following is a list of what I will be looking for to serve our guests. I like to offer a choice of white or red.
For a white with enough body to pair with almost anything on the menu but with great acidity to cut through rich and heavy dishes, there is:
Beringer Knights Valley Blanc, 2009, Knights Valley, Calif.
PLCB # 33035, $11.99
This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and Viognier grapes with lemon-lime and floral aromas and a touch of oak.
MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay, 2007, Sonoma Coast, Calif.
PLCB # 33010, $17.99
A strong mineral backbone behind apple and pear fruit and a touch of pineapple.
Pinot Noir is always a good choice to match with Thanksgiving menus. Not as heavy as the Bordeaux grape varieties, it nonetheless provides the proper amount of acidity and tannins.
Paraiso Pinot Noir, 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Calif.
PLCB # 33017, $15.99
This Central Coast Pinot has the proper fruit, tannin and spice to pair nicely with turkey and trimmings. I recently visited this beautiful winery and met the winemaker.
MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir, 2006, Sonoma Coast, Calif.
PLCB # 33009, $19.99
This bottle originally was priced at $40 and offers an opportunity to taste a Pinot with five years of bottle age. The tannins and acidity make it a good match for traditional turkey with typical side dishes.
Other varietals that will complement most menus are:
Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage, 2008, Sonoma, Calif.
PLCB # 33013, $17.99
This blend of the five noble grapes is rich and concentrated with powerful body, silky tannins and mild acidity.
Cheateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Sonoma, Calif.
PLCB # 33039, $14.99
A typical California Cabernet with lots of body and strong aromas of blackberry, red currant and cassis fruit and a round and full palate and long finish. Aged for 15 months in barrel, it has a heavy oak influence.
Clos La Chance Violet-Crowned Merlot, 2007, Central Coast, Calif.
PLCB # 33032, $7.99
This is a tremendous wine for this price. Medium body, fine structure, moderate tannins and some oak influence which delivers hints of vanilla on the palate. It was aged in French and American oak for 12 months.
We always start our meal with a glass of bubbly. There are plenty of fine, domestic sparkling wines but I think I will relax the "domestic" requirement this year to take advantage of a stunning value. From Spain, where bubbly wines are called Cava, we will serve:
Anna de Codorniu Brut, Penedes, Spain
PLCB # 33033, $8.99
A delightful aperitif. I'll be getting extra for the Christmas holiday. Nothing is more festive. Do be sure it is served icy cold.
And a fabulous feast for all.
Elizabeth Downer: email@example.com.