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Monday, November 24, 2014

Article #237 on "What wine for Thanksgiving"

If you do a Google search on "Thanksgiving dinner wines" you'll find lots of people telling you what to drink with your turkey. Often though it's something like, "Get to 2013 Spier Chenin Blanc from South Africa."  Huh? Now I have to run all over looking for this specific wine? No thanks. Besides, a wine that's available in the 'burbs of New York City isn't necessarily going to be found in St. Paul.

If you want a successful meal note some of the characteristics mentioned below and do your Internet research or go to your knowledgeable wine shop person.

I've found there are three types of California wines that work well with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. This is a meal that's savoy and buttery. The only oddball in the meal would be the cranberries that aren't exactly what you'd call savory.

Sparkling wines - white or rosé, a little sweet, but not too sweet

Sparklers are a go-to wine for many meals whether it's a little spicy, salty, or fatty. Turkey dinners aren't spicy, but they qualify as salty and fatty. The relatively high acid of a sparkling wine works well. It's also nice to have a glass or two before dinner while everyone is standing around the kitchen getting in the way.

Something too dry might seem acidic for your mashed potatoes and dinner rolls. Go with one in an off-dry style. Most Bruts and Rosés work well. 

There are many quality producers in California. Some of the ones usually in my house are Roederer Estate from Mendocino County, Iron Horse from Sonoma, and Schramsberg from Napa.

If your old aunt claims she only drinks sweet wine get her a sparkling apple cider to save yourself some money and save her a headache later. Cheap, sweet "Champagne" is one of the grossest beverages on the planet.

Chardonnay - a little buttery, but not too much

Most California Chardonnay has gone through a process that makes it taste buttery. This is called Malolactic Fermentation, or ML. These wines tend to show a lot of oak barrel, too, so the characteristics are vanilla, caramel, and butter. These are not really good food wines. Some Chardonnays are at the opposite end of the spectrum and have no butteriness or oak. These can be described as clean and acidic and are often called naked Chardonnays. Somewhere in between is best to match the meal--something lightly oaked, a bit fruity, and with a touch of butter or creaminess. 

More and more California producers are backing off of the oak and Malolactic. FYI, most Chards aren't going to work with the cranberry sauce, but will be fine with buttery potatoes, stuffing and rolls.

Pinot Noir - simpler, softer, not too much alcohol

Pinot is the best red to use in white wine situations for those of us that don't drink much white wine or think white wine season is over on Labor Day. I believe you are wasting your money on one of those complex, expensive Pinots. I want something not too acidic and with some nice, tart fruit flavors. Be careful of the alcohol level as once you hit the mid-14s they are often unpleasant with food, especially with something as neutral tasting as a turkey dinner.

Many California Pinot Noirs have a cranberry characteristic to them, especially ones from Carneros. 

A Grenache (what I think of as "Pinot Noir lite") would work, too. And then there's the beer option like an amber or brown ale.