A High Country wino’s guide to Thanksgiving (column)
December 9, 2015
With apologies to Independence Day, Thanksgiving is the most authentic of our national holidays. It is the one day when, in the middle of a workweek, we pause our digital devices to gather and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for.
Oh, and there is football. And, of course, there is wine — usually lots of wine.
While there are no rules when it comes to wine (despite what some might tell you), there are some things to pay attention to that will ensure everyone is thankful at your Thanksgiving repast.
First of all, be sure to buy enough wine. When the Packers and Bears are headed to overtime, you don't want your guests to be cheering them on with empty glasses. The rule of thumb for a gathering is to have at least a half-bottle of wine per person, which works out to about 2 1/2 glasses each. Some drink more, some less, but that amount is usually foolproof … except at Thanksgiving. If you are having multiple courses and are in a celebratory mood, or perhaps need some fortification from dysfunctional family ties, then get a couple of extra bottles.
For example, Samantha has been charged with buying wine for her extended family of 40 folks. Twenty bottles, as the rule of thumb goes, may be enough. But to be on the safe side, she should consider upping it to 30. If there is a budgetary issue, she can opt for wines with a lower price point for before and after the main course and serve the best wines with the turkey and the fixings.
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And don't forget to buy a little something extra for yourself. The best part of a Thanksgiving dinner may well be the day-after leftovers. Treat yourself to a good bottle or two for the upcoming weekend. You deserve it.
So what to buy? As this is an American holiday, buy American wines. Wines are made in all 50 states — yes, even Alaska and Hawaii have wineries — so there is plenty of juice to choose from, north, east, south and west.
Next, keep it simple. Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with obscure grapes or even regions. Stick with wines that folks will like. You can be exotic on your own time.
Start with bubbly, or sparkling wine. Sparklers work great with just about any appetizer and lend a feeling of celebration to the early part of the festivities.
With your turkey, the tried and true pairings are pinot noir and chardonnay, the Burgundian grapes that grow so well in the Americas and are perfectly suited to a variety of dishes. If you want to step a little further afield, then Riesling and zinfandel or Syrah are wonderful pairings with fowl and trimmings, as well.
Be sure to have something for your pies. There are a number of American port-style wines being produced these days, or you can find a "sticky," as the Australians call their late-harvest wines. Also consider an ice-wine. They go so well with pumpkin and pecan pies.
Need more direction? Here are some specific recommendations:
• Head south to New Mexico for your bubbly with a nonvintage gruet sauvage. With this, a French family comes to America and makes amazing sparkling wines using the traditional methode Champenoise: 100 percent chardonnay and bone dry; $17.
• Go west for your chardonnay, specifically the 2014 Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay. This may sound like an obvious choice; it is, after all, the largest selling chardonnay in America over the past two decades. But there is a reason. A consistent, clean, rich and full-bodied chard, those who regularly drink chardonnay will be pleased, and those who don't will be surprised; $17.
• Look north to Oregon's Willamette Valley for your pinot noir. The folks at the Belle Pente (pronounced bell-pont) are killing it. The Belle Pente Willamette Valley 2013 Pinot Noir is a lighter Burgundian style wine (12.6 percent alcohol) that will make your Thanksgiving feast taste even better. Get an extra bottle for a leftover turkey potpie; $22.50.
• Finally, I'm breaking the American rule. Look east for dessert. Treat yourself and your guests to a 2013 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine from southern Ontario, Canada. Try the un-oaked version for sweet heaven in a glass; $50 for a 375-milliliter bottle.
Happy Thanksgiving, all.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab, Vino. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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