Because of its focus on food, friends and family (not to mention its post-harvest timing) Thanksgiving is often cited as a favorite holiday by local winery owners and winemakers. Each and every year, readers of magazines and newspapers are inundated with wine pairing advice and suggestions for Thanksgiving dinner.
This year, instead of offering advice, I decided to ask people in our own local wine industry what foods they were eating and what wines they’d be drinking this year on Thanksgiving. Here are the results.
“Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays as well as my family’s because we all love to eat! Our Thanksgiving is very traditional and I think that’s what makes it special. Aside from the old standard, my wife makes make a mean sweet potato dish with maple syrup, pecans and cream. And a Brussels sprout dish with buttered bread crumbs is one of my favorites – I think I’m the only one in my family that enjoys sprouts.
For wines I always enjoy some nice Rieslings to start, especially from Alsace, which are my favorite. I also enjoy the Nahe versions as well as some nice selections from the Finger Lakes. Traditional Thanksgiving dinners are a hodgepodge of flavors and sweetness so it’s almost ‘anything goes.’ I often enjoy trying the latest French Beaujolais Nouveau, which seems to go well with turkey. To me, lighter styled reds work best, like Loire Valley Cabernet Francs, Pinots from Burgundy or Barbera or Dolcetto from northern Italy. From L.I. I would suggest the Lenz Gew¸rztraminer, Osprey’s Dominion Cab Franc, Channing Daughters Fresh Red or one of the lighter-styled merlots from any of our local producers.” – Richard Olsen-Harbich, general manager and winemaker, Raphael
“Our family is somewhat Italian/traditional for Thanksgiving. We prepare the usual turkey and trimmings, but in addition we have homemade manicotti, baked clams, shrimp or calamari, cod or stuffed flounder. We eat until movement becomes difficult before finally serving the turkey, which we look at, have one tiny piece of and send the rest off for leftovers. We will be drinking Roanoke Vineyards 2004 DeRosa Rose, 2001 Wolffer Estate Selection Chardonnay and the Roanoke Vineyards 2000 Merlot.” –Richard Pisacano, owner, Roanoke Vineyards, vineyard manager, Wolffer Estate
“Typically we have Turkey like most people, although I would like to try a goose one of these days. Our stuffing is probably less conventional as we use lots of chestnuts with prunes, apples, bacon and sausage and spices. The prunes and apples moisturize the whole thing. Since Turkey is cooked “well done,” that tends to dry up the meat. Cranberry jelly is used in this case as the sweetness makes it feel more moist. Therefore one of the wines we serve is our Vin Rose, a sweeter blush wine, which has flavors of strawberry and cranberry and serves the same role as the jelly. But a Merlot or Cabernet Franc goes really well with such a dinner and we serve these too. A sweeter Riesling is always available, of course.” –Charles Massoud, co-owner and winemaker, Paumanok Vineyards
“Traditional foods at my house include stuffed mushrooms, sweet potatoes, stuffing of different varieties. My family tends to be pretty basic. However, there has been a turkey revolution with my family. Last year I tried a little experiment. I purchased a fresh turkey from Miloski’s Poultry farm as well as a frozen turkey. My mother baked the fresh turkey and I fried the frozen turkey. Most every one preferred the fried turkey. My mother was pretty much the only hold out – I think it is more of a traditionalist’s thing with her. So, there is no doubt that there will be fried turkey along with the more traditional baked bird this year.
As for wine, this tends to vary from year to year. Typically, we do serve the Pellegrini Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and the Finale with dessert. In addition to this I will also have some Zinfandel and Malbec. I find these two varieties also pair well with bird.” –Juan E. Micieli-Martinez, production winemaker, Pellegrini Vineyards
“My family (in-laws) that I usually spend Thanksgiving with are Polish-Italian. The dinner has the usual turkey with the addition of pierogies, lasagna, potatoes and eggs and a bunch of other culinary delights I don’t know the names of because the recipes have been passed down through several generations. As for the wine selectionÖI’m sorry to say that it isn’t too elaborate. I have tried to educate my in-laws in the ways of fine wine but they are not as interested and I’m not that pushy a winemaker!” –Greg Gove, winemaker, Peconic Bay Winery
“Our ‘family’ at Thanksgiving becomes the nearly 200 folks from all over the country and beyond who will be dining with us at our ‘home’ (Home Restaurant in Manhattan). We serve a “little bird-big bird” feast, which includes birds of all sizes from quail up to duck, and for the main course the big turkey. Many of our customers come year in and year out for this traditional meal being served for the 12th time at Home. For wines, we are pretty New York-centric at this time of year. We serve local sparkling, rosÈ, cab franc, pinot (noir) from upstate and merlot from our own vineyard.” –Barbara Shinn and David Page, owners Shinn Estate Vineyards and Home Restaurant
“For us, Thanksgiving is traditional, but with a little bit of a twist. I like to make a brined turkey and this year I am getting a fresh turkey from the Miloski poultry farm. I am going to my friend’s house upstate on Wednesday afternoon to spend the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, but I said I would bring the turkey so I am going to start brining on Sunday night and then take the turkey with me upstate and cook it at her place. I can’t stand the regular pumpkin pie from a can and so I was racking my brain trying to come up with something different. I decided to make pumpkin-parmesan ravioli and serve it with butter and herbs as a side dish to the turkey. I am going to get a cheese pumpkin from the North Fork to bring upstate for this.
Since my husband and I are going to my friend’s house, and there are two others going for the whole weekend as well, I will probably bring a case of wine as a gift/to drink while we are there – my own wine, of course! Probably a little bit of everything, including rosÈ, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet, since over the course of a few days there will be a lot of meals.” –Theresa Dilworth, owner and winemaker, Le Clos Therese
“In most likelihood, I will be enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, except that I will be in California visiting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time. I understand that Chardonnay is a house favorite there, and I will be bringing a few bottles of both the estate and the reserve Osprey’s Dominion Chardonnay to hopefully make a good first impression. I’m wishing that we’ll be having some red wine or rosÈ, possibly of Rhone Ranger origins, with our turkey, but I cannot imagine what they will have. Actually it may be a light red from Italy which I would also find very suitable.” –Adam Suprenant, winemaker, Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards
“Our Thanksgiving is pretty traditional. In fact, it’s very traditional in terms of the food. Like most people, we have variations on the basic themes, like a Brussels sprout with bacon and cream side dish that’s great, but not exactly low-cal. Potatoes roasted in duck fat – the best! I am always told I have to make a chestnut and sausage stuffing, too. We generally drink Lenz Cuvee to start and Lenz Old Vines Merlot with the main meal. If we have other wines it tends to be varieties we don’t grow, like Riesling, Pinot Gris (though we’re planting some of this next spring!) and Pinot Noir.”–Peter Carroll, owner, The Lenz Winery