Every wine writer or blogger has to write a wine-pairing column for Thanksgiving dinner. It's a must. It's one of the un-written rules — along with the mandatory New Year's Eve sparkling wine column, which you can expect to see in just a few weeks.
Of course, no two Thanksgiving wine-pairing columns are alike. As it should be, everybody has his or her favorites for the holiday. Sparkling wine, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, Beaujolais, syrah, Rioja, sangiovese, zinfandel…the list goes on and on and on. There are as many suggestions as their are wine raconteurs.
Me, I tend to like pinot noir and riesling best. The average Thanksgiving table is covered with a abundance of different foods with varied flavors and textures.
You've got somewhat neutral turkey, highly spiced stuffing — with or without sausage — sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and rich gravy. Pinot noir and riesling, with their typically food-friendly acidity will cut the richness of the heavier dishes while their fruit flavors will enhance and enliven the other flavors.
For local pinot, look to Jamesport Vineyards, Laurel Lake Vineyards and Castello di Borghese on the North Fork and Wolffer Estate in the Hamptons. If you want riesling, I like Peconic Bay Winery, Waters Crest Winery and Paumanok Vineyards — and a plethora of bottlings from the Finger Lakes and, of course, Germany.
Okay, my wine writerly duties are fulfilled — now let's get down to it. What am I actually planning to serve on Turkey Day?
Nena, Ben Roethlisbeagle and I are heading to Pittsburgh to spend Thanksgiving with my family and its — obviously — my job to bring the wine. My family's doesn't throw me many curveballs — we serve fairly traditional and straightforward fare, with the possible inclusion of 'macaroni' to keep my Sicilian grandmother happy.
I always like to introduce la familia to Long Island sparkling wine as an aperitif. This year, I'm taking two — both soon-to-be releases from Martha Clara Vineyards. Martha Clara Vineyards 2001 Blanc de Blanc ($N/A) is made with chardonnay grapes and displays a lightly toasty nose with apple, citrus and minerals aromas. Those apple and citrus flavors carry over to the palate with great acidity and a lingering, appetite-whetting finish. It's dry, but not harsh, making it perfect for the beginning of a festive day..
Martha Clara Vineyards 2001 Brut Rose ($N/A) is made with both chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. It's fruitier with cherries and citrus dominating the nose. It's dry too, but softer, and flavors of cherries and raspberries live within a slightly fuller-bodied frame. Rose sparklers are an under-appreciated food foil.
Next, I plan to serve Macari Vineyards' 2006 Early Wine ($15) — a perennial favorite and I think the best edition to date. It features a clean, bright and fresh nose of crisp apple, pear, lime and subtle minerals. Lively pear, green apple and lime flavors are delivered with terrific acidity and finish that is longer than you might expect. This might be the ideal Thanksgiving wine.
Considering we're going to be in Pennsylvania, I thought I'd also bring a bunch of PA wine for my family to try. Few of the wineries in Western PA making anything I'd write home about, but Chaddsford Winery in the Eastern part of the state is well regarded. So, I'll take a few of their wines that I picked up recently.
At the end of the day, just drink what you like. The "difficulty" in wine pairing is grossly exaggerated. As long as you don't serve cabernet sauvignon with delicate fish or a feather-light white with rustic lamb stew, you'll be fine. But, if you'd like a little help, there's always What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, which I wrote about a couple weeks ago.