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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Wine to Serve at Thanksgiving?

The first day of November finds many of us contemplating our Thanksgiving dinner.   Should I brine the bird?  Smoke or roast it?   Who in the crowd likes Brussels sprouts?  Who doesn’t?   Pumpkin pie or one of my new recipes---or both?    The plethora of questions often include what wine?   

Assuming you’re serving turkey, my suggestion is either a Pinot Noir or a dry Gewurztraminer, or both of the varietals.   These two wines work beautifully with turkey and most of the trimmings (with the exception of asparagus which is a horrible pairing with most wines.).   My preference is to conduct an informal experiment using both the Pinot and the “Gewurtz.”  I place two glasses at each setting and ask folks to try both wines with their dinner.  Guests are asked them to keep their preference to themselves during dinner and unveil their favorite after.  At the end of the meal, choices are revealed.  I  am always amazed that we typically get the same answers over and over:  50%  prefer the Pinot; the other 50% prefer the Gewurtz.  Often the majority are surprised at their preference.

For a dry Gewurztraminer, I recommend one from Alsace (this tiny piece of France makes the best Gewurtz on the planet….but just make sure the wine is dry.)  Great producers with good penetration in the US market include Trimbach, Domaine Weinbach, and Albert Mann.   Prices for these Alsatians range from $25-100, depending on if it’s a Grand Cru).  If you want an American Gewurtz, look no further than Claiborne and Churchill (California, Edna Valley).  This one is a steal at $20.

Pinot Noir can be pricey, especially those from Burgundy.  My suggestions for California Pinots are Dehlinger or William Selyem, neither of which are cheap ($55-75 for the latest vintage).  A good alternative for less is Melville’s Verna Vineyard at $26.  Oregon is also making some lovely Pinots---I suggest Domaine Drouhin or Ken Wright (both in the $30-50 range).  New Zealand’s Craffy Range
Te Muna Road   
by Martinborough offers an excellent quality/price ratio at $29.  Want to up the ante with a Burgundian?  Opt for Dujac or Meo Camuzet, both of which can be plucked for $50-450, depending on vineyard and vintage.

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