Day 26: Thanksgiving Day Wine Picks (Budget to Baller)
Wine's a funny thing. People both love it, and are terrified by it. Wine lists and wine stores can both be pretty intimidating, and I get it: there are so many dang choices! Unless you dedicate yourself to really studying grapes and vintages (not to mention countries and regions) it can all feel pretty overwhelming.
I love wine, and I find learning about it endlessly fascinating. And honestly, the best way to learn about wine - besides making friends in the wine industry (always a great idea!) - is to taste it. Try out different bottles, keep a journal and take notes - what aromas do you smell? What flavors do you taste? What do you like and not like? Reading about wine helps as well, but ultimately, it's your own palate that will guide you. To educate myself over the years, I've worked in several wine shops. For a wine enthusiast, that's the best (and cheapest!) way to get a crash course in wine varieties. By working in wine shops, I've been able to taste so many wines, talk with winemakers and wine salespeople, and learn from customers as well.
One of the biggest misnomers out there is that in order to find a good bottle of wine, you have to pay a fortune. Not true! When I'm buying everyday bottles, I usually won't pay more than $15. I love finding inexpensive gems - several of which I've selected to pair with your Thanksgiving Day meal.
In general for a dinner party (Thanksgiving being no exception), I like to start out with something sparkling to serve with hors d'oeuvres. Why sparkling? One, it's festive. And if you get a Brut (which means "dry"), the acidity will cleanse your palate and get it ready for the meal. I don't generally like serving red wine at the beginning of the night as it can dull the palate (especially if it's a heavier red wine). I like to progress from sparkling to something crisp and white, and then to a red for the main course.
For Thanksgiving, I recommend starting out with a sparkling (like Prosecco or cava or cremant) pre-party, then serving a choice of white and red with the meal. Turkey, gravy, and the slew of sweet and savory Thanksgiving sides lend themselves to a white with some body, nice acidity, and round fruit (like Gruner Veltliner, Chablis, or an unoaked Chardonnay) and to a lighter bodied red with bright fruit and a bit of earthiness (Pinot Noir is a great choice, with gamay being a great backup).
I've selected a round-up of my favorite budget picks (each bottle is only $12) as well as my "baller" picks for those of you who want to go all out. My high-end picks are some of my favorite French bottles that would be gorgeous accompaniment to your turkey-day feast (or any feast for that matter!). Cheers!
PROSECCO – Ca Furlan Cuvee Beatrice Extra Dry Prosecco ($12)
An Italian sparkling wine made from Glera ("Prosecco") grapes, produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the hills north of Treviso. This non-vintage bubbly has light citrus flavors, a hint of minerality, and just a touch of sweetness. A perfect pre-meal aperatif.
GRÜNER VELTLINER – Weinberghof Fritsch Windspiel Grüner Veltliner 2012 ($12)
Crisp and dry, with ripe stone fruit flavors and fantastic acidity, Grüner Veltliner is an extremely food-friendly white wine - and it's a perfect partner for Thanksgiving day turkey. Winemaker Karl Fritsch is well-known in Austria's Wagram region for creating distinct terroir-reflective wines, and this wine is no exception.
PINOT NOIR – Gravelly Ford Pinot Noir 2011 ($12)
This Central Valley, California pinot noir wine is medium-bodied with lots of bold red fruit flavors (think: cherries and raspberries) with an earthy finish and soft tannins. It's a great compliment to turkey, stuffing, and vegetable sides, without overpowering any of the meal's flavors. It's also an incredible bargain at $12!!
CHAMPAGNE – Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV ($85)
This is my all-time favorite rose bubbly. Barely blush-colored, with clean mineral notes, amazing acidity, and fragrant red fruit flavors, this wine is elegance personified. Whether you try it tomorrow, or save it for a New Year's Eve celebration, beware: you will fall head over heels in love.
CHABLIS – Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses William Fevre 2007 ($66)
I had the privilege of tasting this wine a few years ago in the actual vineyard where the grapes were grown (see the picture above). I love Chablis for its minerality and creaminess, and William Fevre makes some of the best bottles out there. Though the traditional pairing for this bottle would be shellfish or seafood, I think it actually pairs nicely with roast turkey and heartier side dishes like stuffing and sweet potatoes. The bright acidity of the wine cuts right through those rich flavors.
PINOT NOIR – Dominique Laurent Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru, Cote du Nuits, 1997 ($265)
This wine is just amazing. We were given this as a gift and opened it recently while doing our taxes (we didn't quite realize what a nice bottle it was until after we had opened it!). The nose on this wine was stunning. You're immediately hit with aromas of spice, red fruits, and a lot of Burgundian earthiness (which I love). The color is jewel-red and the layered flavors improve as the bottle opens up. This wine would be the shining star of a Thanksgiving table.