Wine & Spirits: To Pair or Not to Pair on Turkey Day

Bottle suggestions — and a spicy cocktail — to consider serving on Thanksgiving.

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Crowd pleasing wines for Thanksgiving. Photos courtesy of Segura Viudas, Jekel Vineyards, K Vintners and Monte Velho.

Crowd pleasing wines for Thanksgiving. (Photos courtesy of Segura Viudas, Jekel Vineyards, K Vintners and Monte Velho)

When it comes to pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner, wine writers seem to fall into two camps. Members of the first one may offer up wine suggestions meant to partner with specific ingredients or dishes (Pinot Noir with cranberry sauce, Zinfandel with turkey). Those in the second, on the other hand, boldly advocate throwing out any hard and fast rules, setting a bunch of bottles on the table, and letting guests have at it.

I kind of fall in-between these two factions. While I think it’s silly (not to mention logistically impossible) to find a wine that goes with the wide variety of flavors, aromas, spices and textures on the Thanksgiving table, I’m also not going to open any high alcohol, oaky Chardonnay or really tannic Cabernet — the meal is rich and heavy in itself without what’s in the glass adding to it. (That’s also the reason I typically eschew any high alcohol reds on the holiday — if the tryptophan in the turkey doesn’t make you comatose, a glass or two of 15 percent red Zinfandel will surely do the trick.)

So, for what it’s worth, here are a few bottles that you may — or may not — consider uncorking on Thanksgiving, as well as a festive cocktail that you can easily batch ahead of time and have ready when guests arrive. Happy Turkey Day!

Segura Viudas Riserva Heredad Cava ($18): Sure, you can serve this as an aperitif (maybe with a splash of Domaine de Canton in it and a lemon peel), but I personally like to drink bubbles all day, be they from Champagne, California or Penedes. Spanish Cava is made in the traditional method (like Champagne), and this one picks up great toasty, bready aromas from time spent on the lees. The palate offers a touch of honey and dried fruit, and a weight that is not overbearing but can hold its own. Oh, and the bottle looks gorgeous on the table, too.

2012 Jekel Riesling ($14): This cool climate Riesling from Arroyo Seco in Monterey, Calif. has delicate aromas of apricots and peaches that continue on the palate, and subtle lemony citrus. It’s medium-dry, so it will appeal to anyone at your table who likes a little bit of sugar in their wines. But the acidity keeps it from being cloying — you could even enjoy it with apple pie.

2011 K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah ($25): This Washington State Syrah from the Columbia Valley is medium-bodied and balanced with aromas of blackberries and black cherry. There is also an enticing minerality and herbaceousness on the palate, and an elegant finish. This is a wine that won’t overpower whatever you enjoy alongside.

2011 Monte Velho Red ($10): Hosting a large crowd and looking for a red wine to keep flowing all evening? Look no further than this red blend from Portugal. It’s got berry aromas, a medium body and enough tannin to stand up next to the turkey’s dark meat and sides like sausage stuffing, but still easy-drinking enough to go back for another glass.

And from Wild Turkey (how appropriate…) comes a cocktail that uses both its regular Bourbon and its spiced version. I love the addition of the cardamom-infused grenadine, which ramps up the spice. This can easily be batched in a pitcher and either shaken and served up or over ice. If you can’t find fresh pineapple juice, I would recommend using Dole Pineapple Orange Juice in place of it and the regular orange juice. Canned pineapple juice adds a tinny flavor.

This Bourbon-based cocktail uses the regular and spiced versions of Wild Turkey. Courtesy photo.

This Bourbon-based cocktail uses the regular and spiced versions of Wild Turkey. (Courtesy photo)

More Than a Barrel Full O’ Turkeys

1 Dash Absinthe
1 oz. Wild Turkey Spiced
1 oz. Wild Turkey 101
1/2 oz. Fresh orange juice
1/2 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
1/2 oz. Fresh lemon juice
1 Bar spoon cardamom-infused grenadine (see recipe)
Orange spiral, for garnish

Add all except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange spiral.

For the cardamom-infused grenadine
1 cup Pomm Juice
2 cups Sugar
20 Cardamom pods

Bring all ingredients to a slow boil to dissolve the sugar. Cover, remove from heat, and let set for 20 minutes. Strain out solids, cool and store in the refrigerator.

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