Can it be? The holiday season is really upon us once again? Thanksgiving is a week filled with sights, scents, and memories that take us back in time. Grandma’s traditional stuffing and sweet candied yams, Auntie’s addictive pistachio-marshmallow salad, wondering which family member will be caught tearing a piece of crispy buttery skin off the turkey before dinner, and hoping someone remembered Dad’s mustard. New dishes infiltrate the tradition like warm Brie with herbed cranberry sauce and cheesy shredded potatoes. Is it time to set the table yet?
It is truly a meal focused on everyone’s favorite flavors while at the same time having little focus at all. What I mean by that, solely from a culinary standpoint, is that the dishes run the gamut of palate emotions, usually all at the same time: sweet, salty, rich, creamy, light, heavy, briny, herby, tangy and so forth. The most common question I get this time of year: “How could I possibly pair wine with everything that’s going on?”
The easy answer is: “Well, you can’t.” But that just wouldn’t be accurate (or fun) at all! In fact, certain wines pair perfectly with a Thanksgiving feast. Whether you are playing host or a visiting guest, following are a few tips and suggestions to keep in mind.
Generally speaking, I first recommend that you drink what you and your guests like. If you prefer Old World style of wines, let’s find a French that will work. Only satiated by Washington reds or California whites? No problem. When pairing reds or whites to specific foods, you will want to remember to try to match acidic foods with acidic wines, creamier and richer foods with weightier and richer wines. Let’s get more specific.
In the realm of white wines, Chablis, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay will be your best options. Chablis (northern Burgundy) is crisp, lean, complex, and loaded with an unmistakably delicious minerality. Pinot Gris, especially those from Oregon, exude a touch of creaminess while maintaining a dry lightness on the palate. Chardonnays with a kiss of oak enhance buttery and roasted notes in everything from the turkey to the mashers.
Red wine options include the light to medium bodied Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Burgundy, and Beaujolais. Pinot Noirs and one of my personal favorite varietals, Gamay Noir, are great matches for lighter, leaner fare. Pinots have more of an earthy-mushroomy characteristic (think roasted root vegetables!) while Gamays are bright with flavors of black cherry and raspberry with a touch of spice. Red Burgundy is primarily made from Pinot Noir, exhibiting solid raspberry and strawberry notes, good earthiness with great balance and complexity. Beaujolais (technically the southern region of Burgundy) is made from Gamay Noir. They offer a light and refreshing, more fruit forward style. These four red wines, by and large, are higher in acid and lower in tannin, creating perfectly balanced wines for food. Full bodied, bold Cabernet Sauvignons or red blends from Walla Walla or Napa are also sure to be big time crowd pleasers too.
Save room for dessert? Finish dinner off with a Sauterne or Port. Both pair well with the tartness of a freshly baked apple pie and the spiciness of pumpkin chiffon pie, while not being too overpoweringly sweet or syrupy. A delicious way to end a hopefully delicious meal.
Some of Our Favorites
2015 Albert Bichot Chablis, $20
2016 Elk Cove Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $17
2015 Leschi Cellars Chardonnay Columbia Valley, $17
2015 Cedergreen Cellars Columbia Valley, $17
2016 Nicolas Idiart Loire Valley, $10
2015 Illahe Estate Willamette Valley, $21
2015 Domaine Pecheur Poulsard Cotes du Jura, $25
2016 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois, $15
2014 Leschi Cellars Reserve Walla Walla, $20
2016 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem, $13
2010 Chateau Lamourette Sauterne, Vin de Bordeaux, $20
Kenneth Benner, a Seattle area native, is a trained chef and has worked in such restaurants as Barbacoa, B.O.K.A. Kitchen + Bar, and Dahlia Lounge. Ken is the wine buyer at Leschi Market. He has a passion for learning, a meticulous palate, and a tenacity for searching out the best for his customers while offering some of the most highly coveted wines in the area. His monthly column is intended to inspire and explore new choices in wine, learn about wine with his readers, and share his knowledge and experiences in the wine world. Check out the latest at www.LeschiMarket.com.