Hmmm, what? Thanksgiving is Thursday you say? Don't mind me, but WTF? How did that happen?
With all my years in the wine industry a common theme I notice is people suddenly remembering they want to serve wine with their meal, and the ensuing panic. Or, I get texts, emails, and other requests to recommend wine. For a few years I kept a wine blog, and, honestly, the only time I posted was this time of year.
First off - don't panic. Unless you have horrible luck and end up with a bunch of corked wine (although there are ways to avoid that, which I'll talk about in a bit), your wine choices are not going to make or break your Thanksgiving meal enjoyment. The main rule, really is serve what you like. But if you want some more thoughtful pairings, read on.
Thanksgiving meals are hard in terms in wine pairings. There's tons of factors - traditional meal? Not traditional at all? It's a very fatty and sweet meal, more so than most meals at home. Full of big starches and many people either have no meat (vegetarian/vegans) or go the other extreme and have at least two different meats or seafoods on their tables. Some even combine the two with things like oyster stuffing in their turkey. And, many people's favorite part of the meal is the dessert with the multitude of pies and sweet treats.
How do you pair wine with this? It'd be insane to suggest a particular wine for the turkey, and then another wine for the sides, and a completely different wine for dessert. who has time for that?
If you're wanting to have some Wautoma Springs on your table (and we think you should), we recommend our whites. The 2014 El Prat would also work, although our red wines are very dry with a good layer of oak - things that don't work particularly well with this mix-match meal. If you're opting for prime rib, lamb or some other red meat - then yes, please. But if it's a more traditional meal, you'll enjoy our fruity, dry Rosé and grassy, bright acid Sauvignon blanc. Why they work? They're both high in acid which helps cut through all that fat. The flavors are also similar to things that would be found on our table: cranberry, herbs such as bay leaf, thyme and sage, and green vegetables. Rosé in general makes a great Thanksgiving wine, the fruity nose and dry finish work well with the range of foods. Ours would be particularly nice with salad dishes, stuffing, ham, and your appetizers. Sauvignon blanc is one of the few wines, period, that pair really well with vegetables. The high acid and grassiness would be a great pairing with green bean casseroles, regular green beans, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and of course, the center-piece - turkey.
If you don't have our wine, or don't have time to buy our wine (contact us - we'll see what we can do), we're still here to give you good advice.
The perfect Thanksgiving wine? Riesling. Can be dry or slightly sweet (save the sweet and super sweet for dessert). Riesling pairs with almost anything. Why? It's always fruity, even when it's dry, which helps enhance food. It's also very high in acid. Makes your mouth water and refreshes your palate for more food. We, of course, recommend Washington Rieslings.
Prefer red wine? Then you'll want some Pinot noir. Like Riesling, Pinot is fruity and high in acid. It works for exactly the same reason. There are some great producers of Washington State Pinot noir, especially from the Puget Sound AVA, Lake Chelan AVA and/or Columbia Gorge AVA. And they tend to be quite a bit less expensive than our neighbors in Oregon.
Neither of those wines sound appealing? Both Riesling and Pinot noir seem to evoke polarizing opinions (people either love or hate them). So some fun alternatives to look for:
Albariño - once thought to be a clone of Riesling because of it's fruity and high acid combo, Albariño is a great wine found in northwestern Spain or Portugal. There's quite a few Washington Albariño's on the market these days.
Pinot gris - there's a lot of boring Pinot grigio's and Pinot gris' on the market. Luckily, even the most in-expensive Pinot gris/grigio's from Washington are still very interesting and delicious. Fruity, tropical notes with lemon and apple followed by a rush acidity, an easy choice.
Bubbly - we suggest choosing a sparkling that's non-oaked for this meal, but really any bubbly would work well. Sparkling wine is typically made with high - acid still wine as the base and the bubbles enhance the acid. The final dosage (sugar added back in) brings a hint of sweetness when first drunk (even when dry) - making it incredibly good with all foods, and a fun celebratory wine.
Grenache - a fun varietal that does very well in Washington producing high acid, light bodied wine. It's similar to Pinot noir in structure, but flavors are more cranberry, raspberry and lots of spice ranging from black/white peppers, to warm baking spices.
Lemberger - this German varietal has found it's home in Austria with
its vacation cabin in Washington. I've always described Lemberger as a spicy (not hot) Pinot noir. Cherry notes - from sour to deep black cherry, some blueberry, and lots and lots of spice. Light to medium bodied with soft tannins and strong acid.
Cheap Reds - seriously. Look for bottom shelf or grab a box of wine. We want to stress - FROM WASHINGTON. Our bulk wine quality in this state is top notch. Many of these lower-priced wines are produced as inexpensively as possible, which is great for Thanksgiving. Usually very fruity or even a touch of sweetness to these wines and oak is usually used conservatively, and in some newer wines, not at all - opting for a very 'fresh' tasting red wines. These are great table wines.
Finally - look for screw caps this holiday season. We put them on our whites for a reason. One, for ease, but another is nothing bums us out more than pulling a real cork from one of our Reserve wines to find it's 'corked' - tainted with TCA. White wines get away with the screw cap more than red wines due to perception. When you're planning a big meal, it's good to go for screw caps, or boxes, or cans even, knowing that you won't worry about a corked bottle.
For such a heavy meal, if I'm cooking or invited, I like to include fresh or light side dishes. One of my favorite salads is very easy, but incredibly refreshing. Please note salt & pepper in this recipe. Few people think to season their salad - it's an important step and might be why restaurant salads taste better than your salads at home.
RECIPE - Herb Salad with Toasted Seeds
Serves 12 as a side salad
6 cups mixed salad greens
4 cups mixed herbs - cilantro, Italian parsley, basil, and any other light herb you have access to or wish to include (dill is great, chives - go lighter on very strong tasting herbs)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (green or white) unsalted, unroasted
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (unroasted/salted)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
De-stem herbs. This is the part that's time consuming, but well worth it (be careful to not bruise). Rinse herbs and mixed greens and set aside to drain.
Combine ingredients to make dressing - either whisk in a bowl or put in a jar with lid and shake.
Toast pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, tossing, until golden brown. Remove from heat, and let cool.
Combine herbs, mixed greens, toasted seeds, season with salt & pepper and toss. Add dressing and toss. Taste - season with more salt or pepper as needed. Top salad with pomegranate seeds.
Serve immediately (recommend adding dressing directly prior to serving, keeping separate if you're bringing this dish)
Cheers & Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Wautoma Springs