Working in a wine shop, I spend a lot of time fielding the what wines pair best with turkey question this time of year. My answer is unless you’re doing something very out of the ordinary with your bird, don’t worry about the turkey. Turkey is the blank canvas. Concentrate on the sides. The sides are where it’s at! (By the way, I happen to believe that exclamatory declaration is not just true for wine pairing purposes. I have often dreamed of a Thanksgiving dinner made up entirely of sides.)
Mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts and bacon, creamed corn, sweet potato casserole, butternut squash, mac and cheese, and cranberry sauce are among the most popular sides on Thanksgiving tables across the country. That’s a wide variety of flavors – creamy, salty, tart, sweet, buttery, cheesy – that the vast majority of us will eat all at the same time rather than course by course. So what do these myriad sides with their diversity of flavors have in common? Richness. Let’s face it, even if you throw a salad in there, the traditional Thanksgiving meal is not light fare.
What pairs best with dishes that are rich, weighty, and textured are wines that are light, bright, and fresh. Enter white wine. In my opinion, white wines are superior pairing partners at Thanksgiving for their unique ability to lift up the heavier dishes and keep palates refreshed throughout what is probably going to be your longest meal of the year. In light of that, why not consider an all white wine line up at the table this year? If your mom can’t live with out her favorite Pinot Noir or it just isn’t Thanksgiving to your Uncle Dan if there’s no Zinfandel to be had, by all means throw those into the mix if that makes them happy. But if you can go white-heavy or white-only with your selections, you won’t go wrong.
In the spirit of this all-American holiday, here are three excellent, all-American white wine picks for Thanksgiving 2016 (pricing is approximate).
Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut (low $20s) – Philo, CA
If you only drink bubbles on New Year’s Eve, for wedding toasts, or milestone celebrations, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to try one with a meal. Using this as an aperitif is a lovely idea, but you’ll be rewarded if you have enough on hand to savor with the food. Sparkling wines are incredibly food friendly, especially with rich fare because the acidity cuts through creaminess and the bubbles scrub your palate clean. I’ve long considered Roederer to be among the very best California sparkling wines, and the price is extremely fair considering the quality you get. This bottling is typically about 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.
12.4% abv. Cork closure. Organically farmed.
2015 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc (around $20) – Paso Robles, CA
This wine is a blend, the majority of which is Grenache Blanc (56%) followed by Viognier (23%) , Roussanne (12%), and Marsanne (9%). The beauty of Grenache Blanc is that it has both the weight and texture required to hold up to Thanksgiving fare, but is also cut by a touch of acidity that can bring some levity to the table. The other grapes in the blend add their high and low notes — honeysuckle and nuttiness among them — to create complexity. The result is a flavorful, fresh, and just deep enough wine to charm everyone at the table.
13.5% abv. Screwcap closure. Blend of 9 of the best vineyards for white Rhone varieties in Paso – many organically farmed.
2014 Rose Rock Chardonnay (low to mid $30s) – Eola-Amity Hills, OR
For those who want/need to have a Chardonnay in the mix, this is one of my favorite recent discoveries. Period. First, I should disclose that I am generally inclined to like Chardonnay regardless of its origin, but that I am not personally a fan of the big, oaky/buttery style. However, I am not a fan of the austere, stainless steel style either. Both are too extreme for me. So where does that leave me? I never knew until I tasted the first release from Rose Rock earlier this year. It’s beautifully textured, stone fruited, with a fresh squeeze of lemon and just a hint of toast on the finish. Rich and uplifting at the same time. This may be one of my favorite new wines this year. If you have the opportunity, definitely give it a try.
14% abv. Cork closure. LIVE certified. Sustainably farmed.
At the end of the day, choose what you like and what makes you, your friends, and family happy. Most importantly, enjoy and be grateful for the food, wine, and company you choose to keep this Thanksgiving and beyond.