Thanksgiving Wines

Pairing wines with the Thanksgiving meal is an almost impossible task. There are just too many dishes with too many textures, weights, and aromas to find one wine that will work with them all.

My go-to wines with such variegated meals are either pinots or off-dry rieslings. Both are modest in weight so they won’t over-power salads or delicate appetizers. But have good acidity and will refresh eaters burdened with heavy food.  The pinot, at least a good one, is earthy roughly matching the earthiness of standard Thanksgiving food. The off-dry Riesling will have enough sweetness to stand up to Aunt Emma’s yams topped with marshmallow.

But, truth be told, unless you make the wine pairing the focus of the meal most of your guests will barely notice. There are just too many people with too many conversations, not to mention personality conflicts and simmering family feuds to quash, to focus on the finer points of wine and food matching.

The best thing to do is just open lots of bottles of various sorts and let people drink what they want. Include some crisp whites like sauvignon blanc, aromatic whites with some residual sugar such as riesling, pinot noir, and include some California cabernet or merlot for the I-only-buy-wine-at-Ralphs crowd.

I will be spending Thanksgiving in the Sierra Foothills where they are beginning to grow some very good Rhone varietals. With 21 grape varieties permitted in the Rhone region of France, if their American imitators in the foothills are growing only a portion of them, there should be plenty of diversity for our Thanksgiving table.

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