Wines for your Thanksgiving dinner
Sometimes pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner can be very tricky. OK, all the time.
The variety of flavors of the food served with the traditional spread run the gamut; rich, earthy, sweet, savory, sour (and whatever the heck the flavor profile of your Great Aunt Helen’s green bean casserole is).
You can look at this a pairing challenge, as wines that work with earthy and savory elements generally are not selected to pair with sweet things, like candied yams, or sour things, like cranberry relish.
On the other hand, this challenge can be seen as an amazing opportunity to try some wines that may be a little different, off your radar, and be pleasantly surprised by how good they can be.
That being said, here are a few of my recommendations for wines to serve with Sly’s Thanksgiving Dinner, although I believe they’d work with any traditional Thanksgiving spread.
And don’t forget, Sly’s offers a 25% discount on any of our wines from the extensive Sly’s wine list if you’d like to pick them up with your to-go Thanksgiving Dinner from Sly’s.
Bring on the Bubbles
I think the best sparkling wines with Thanksgiving dinner are the slightly richer bubblies. Save your bone-dry brut for when you’re having smoked salmon at brunch, or blinis and caviar (if you’re so lucky). My favorite two picks are:
2009 Flying Goat Cellars “Goat Bubbles”: This is a lovely local sparkling rosé of mainly Pinot Noir grapes made by Norm Yost. Rosé is a great choice for Thanksgiving as the light dry berry notes pair really nicely with cranberries and will highlight the earthiness of the sage in our stuffing. A definite crowd pleaser with ripe strawberries on the nose and the perfect amount of “fizz.”
NV Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs: This is the sparkling wine you bring when you really want to impress. Blanc de blancs are made entirely with the Chardonnay grape, and the house of Ruinart has been making amazing Champagne since 1729, and is the first established Champagne house, named after the monk who established it. We have it available in both half and full bottles here at Sly’s. It has a lovely yeasty nose, with very fine bubbles, a bit of green apple sweet-tart on the midpalate and a lovely lingering finish reminiscent of toasted hazelnuts. This is far and away my favorite Champagne and will be a perfect pairing with our roasted organic range-grown turkey.
Thanksgiving dinner is a time for white wines with flavor-interesting blends, Alsace grapes and fruitier flavors come to mind. I tend to shy away from Chardonnays for Thanksgiving, as the California use of oak tends to overpower, but the very dry Chablis aren’t quite right either. However, everyone has an aunt that will drink nothing else, so I’ve included one of the better choices here, among my white wine picks for Thanksgiving. And they are:
2011 Au Bon Climat SB County Chardonnay: Jim Clendenen has been making wines locally for his proprietary label of Au Bon Climat since 1982. His own website calls this wine “Burgundian in sensibility, but with California style”. I couldn’t agree more. The use of oak is not heavy-handed so that the tropical fruit flavors SB County is known for can shine through. But it’s the acidity that makes this Chardonnay work with your Thanksgiving dinner … it can even cut through the buttery richness of our mashed potatoes!
2010 Chateau Chantegrive Graves White Bordeaux: This wine is 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon. It’s vinified in stainless steel to ensure a crisp, clean wine with hints of minerals and stone fruit. It is aged sur lees, however, so it keeps from being too flinty or tart. This is perfect turkey wine, but I suppose you’d find me guilty of drinking it with the apple crisp, as well.
2011 Jaffurs Grenache Blanc, Thompson Vineyard: This 91-point wine is hand-crafted in small lots and sings with notes of flowers, citrus and honey. Grenache Blanc is one of the best wines I know of for pairing with vegetables, as it is rich enough from 6 months of aging in oak to take on the deep green flavors in veggie side dishes like our Blue Lake green beans and famous brussels sprouts. However, it is still light enough and has enough citrus-like acidity to cut through the richest gravy. One of my personal favorites.
2012 Waugh Riesling, Fazio’s Vineyard: We are very lucky to have this wine, when only 305 cases were produced. The grapes are grown right here in Carpinteria, off Toro Canyon Road, and the wine is made by young and talented Napa Valley winemaker Ryan Waugh, who at 36 has already got 11 harvests under his belt. This wine is similar to the Mosel wines of Germany, with notes of honey and stone fruits. This is your crowd-pleaser wine, for with its bit of residual sugar, even those in your family who believe they don’t like wine may find themselves pleasantly surprised. This wine will make our cranberry orange relish really sing.
And why not try a Rosé?
Thanksgiving is the perfect time for Rosé! I know people generally associate rosé with late spring/early summer, but the herbaceous flavors in our Thanksgiving dinner cry out for the balanced acidity and depth of flavor from a really nice rosé. Here are two of my favorites, one from California and one from over there in France:
2011 Hitching Post “Pinks”: Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini make this dry rosé from 75% Valdiguie, which is a Provencal grape, and 25% Pinot Noir. The Valdiguie is light and floral, while the Pinot Noir balances it out with some red fruit and fuller body. This is lower in alcohol at 13.7% and works well with nearly everything on your Thanksgiving plate, supporting flavors without overwhelming them. Highly recommended.
2011 Commanderie de la Bargemone: This Provencal rosé is a lovely very light salmon color that would please any of the “wine geeks” in your family. The Commanderie was founded in the 13th century by Knights of the Templar, or so the story goes. This wine is light, dry and floral, with notes of wild strawberries and red currants. Serve this one to your white meat-eaters.
And if you really want a great Red Wine …
Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to pull out of your cellar big Cabs or Merlots. They will overwhelm many of the delicate poultry flavors of a really good organic bird and stomp on the sage in the stuffing. The higher alcohol content in most California cabs and merlots also seems to deaden the palate to more subtle flavors. For Thanksgiving, I like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais (although not the dreaded nouveau) and lighter southern Rhones. Here are a few of the best from our list at Sly’s:
2009 Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir: This is the Pinot to fool your cab-loving friends, as the Santa Maria Valley nurtures grapes that make for a rich and fruit-forward Pinot Noir. Winemaker Tyler Thomas seems to draw forth the earthy flavors inherent in Pinot Noir, and you can find hints of mushroom, cedar and dark berries in this wine. This is an excellent match for your dark-meat eaters, as well as those who always go for “extra gravy”.
2011 Babcock Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir: A bit lighter in style than the Dierberg, this wine brings more red fruit flavors to the table, one of which is tart cranberry, which is one of the reasons this makes such an excellent pairing at Thanksgiving. Bryan Babcock’s motto is “Optimum Quod Possum”, which means “the best that I can”, and this 90-point Pinot is indeed one of the best.
2008 Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanee: This is at the optimum age for enjoyment right now. 100% Pinot Noir from the Cote de Nuits in Burgundy, this wine will show bittersweet cherry notes as well as an herbaceous quality that stands up to sage and onions beautifully. This is an elegant wine, a bit soft-spoken, low in alcohol so that it overpowers nothing, not even the most delicate of flavors. This is also another of those “wine geek” picks, if you’re trying to impress someone at the table.
2011 Georges DuBoeuf Morgon: This is a lovely Beaujolais, which is 100% Gamay, the “other” red wine grape from Burgundy. Lighter in color and body than Pinot Noir, it is gifted with a very full nose and flavors of blackcurrant, strawberry and kirsch. This is one of those “sleeper” wines that no one else will have thought to bring but will be one of the favorites at your family gathering, for its acidity and earthiness matches the richness of our Thanksgiving dinner elegantly. Morgon will make you look good if you bring it to the table.
2009 Whitcraft Santa Ynez Valley Grenache, Stolpman Vineyard: Another often-overlooked varietal, grenache is one of the lighter Rhone grapes with a subtle spiciness that works well with the richness of our mashed potatoes and giblet gravy. Drake Whitcraft has a commitment to making wines that are lower in alcohol, as well as unfined and unfiltered. This wine in bottle is very much the same as when it went into the barrel. You can expect to find notes of raspberry, eucalyptus and minerally earth in this wine.
2010 Clos de L’Oratoire des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Hallelujah! Not only is this wine gorgeous on the outside, with the traditional crest stamped into the glass of the bottle and ornate artwork on the label, but it’s gorgeous in the glass, as well. A wise man once told me that Chateauneuf-du-Pape pairs with everything, and I tend to agree (although I have questions about sushi). This particular wine is 80% grenache, with smaller hints of syrah, mourvedre and cinsault. Plenty of spice and fruit on this wine, but they are borne up by the mineral notes of the limestone soil in which it is grown. This wine is also available here at Sly’s by the half bottle, in case you want to secret a little away for yourself for when the family all goes home.
All of us here at Sly’s hope that you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner to the fullest, and I believe that excellent wines can enrich your dining experience. Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance in helping choose a wine for you … it’s one of the best parts of my job!
Mandy Huffaker Chinn, Sly’s Manager