Wines to Celebrate with This Thanksgiving
Six Wines to Serve Plus an Autumnal Cocktail Recipe
Six Wines to Serve Plus an Autumnal Cocktail Recipe
Thanksgiving dinner is one of those American traditions, like all extended family gatherings, that are regularly greeted with joy or dread, depending entirely on one’s attitude and forbearance. The proceedings generally progress with greater joviality or at least cordiality when well-lubricated. Obviously, alcohol is key to various parts of the night’s proceedings, from cooking to cleanup. Just drink responsibly, or your Thanksgiving feast is likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Here are a few suggestions.
When it comes to pairing wines with your Thanksgiving meal, keep in mind that there is no perfect pairing. The goal of pairing wine with food is balance; neither the food nor the wine should overpower one another. General rules of thumb, like lighter foods go with lighter wines, and richer foods with richer, full-bodied wines, can be handy, but should not be thought of as absolute. The interplay of wine and food is necessarily subjective, but the differences among wine varietals and styles can seem dramatic.
With turkey, some prefer white wine, like an oaky chardonnay or perhaps a lighter, dry riesling, while others go for a hearty flavorful red like syrah or zinfandel, or the softer pinot noir. Some might even prefer to split the difference with a zippy rosé. Experience is the surest guide, so experiment liberally in advance.
When in doubt, provide guests with multiple options. Here are a few white and red options to consider:
Hagafen Cellars, Dry White Riesling, Coombsville Napa Valley, Rancho Weiruszowsky Vineyard, 2014 ($24; mevushal): this light, bright, bracing, dry riesling is superb with a nose of lychee, peach, lemon zest, and touch of ginger heavy allspice, following through on the palate to flavors of under-ripe white peach, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. Clean, vibrant, and refreshing throughout.
Covenant, Lavan, Chardonnay, Sonoma Mountain, California 2013 ($38): sourced from the Scopus Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, this brilliant, young yet refined, big, tight, rich, and creamy wine begins floral and rather fruity on the nose, leading into a more Burgundian frame with flavor notes of citrus, apple, and pear, brioche toast, a touch of fig and toasted almond, and loaded with minerals. Fabulous.
Hagafen Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc ($39): This is a lovely, refined, and impressive medium-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of black cherry, ripe plum, dried currant, and savory chocolate, with spice and cedar wood, and then a wonderful, complex finish. Softening but noticeable tannins and lively acidity make this one to hold for a few more years at least, but enjoyable now with a hearty, meaty meal.
Pacifica, Evan’s Collection, Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2012 ($25; mevushal): opens with ripe red and black cherry, wild strawberry, raspberry, along with mineral and herbal notes, and some lovely mushroomy earthiness. Nicely balanced with good acidity and tannins, it is really yummy now, and gets better as it breathes in your glass.
Finally, it should be noted that the available kosher box wines lend themselves rather well to Thanksgiving. Everything from food prep, to kibitzing with cousins, to washing down turkey with all the trimmings may all be greatly enhanced on the cheap and from a seemingly bottomless reservoir via the “(in)” brand from Baron Herzog. The To Life Wine Boxes by L’Chaim have begun to taste a little overtired, but the “(in)” wines remain vibrant:
Chen(in), Baron Herzog Wine Cellars, California, 2014 (1.5 liters; $15.99; also available in 750ml bottle format at $9.99; OU certified, mevushal): Sourced from Clarksburg grapes, but made in a drier style from the more familiar Baron Herzog brand, this is bright, crisp, frisky and fruity yet dry, with simple, pleasing aromas and flavors of green apple, honeysuckle, and sweet grapefruit. Eminently enjoyable.
Z(in), Baron Herzog Wine Cellars, California, 2014 (1.5 liters; $15.99; also available in 750ml bottle format at $9.99; OU certified, mevushal): sourced from Lodi grapes, but distinctly different from the more familiar Baron Herzog Old Vine Zin, this is light, dry, and plush with jammy berry fruits, ripe plums, and a very slight sweetness that rounds off the edges and perks up the flavors. Very drinkable.
Of course, wine isn’t, and shouldn’t be, your only alcoholic beverage. So, spirits-wise, think in terms of American whiskies like bourbon or rye, either straight, on the rocks, or in an autumnal pre-dinner cocktail.
Orange Whiskey Sour
In a mixing glass filled at least 2/3 full of cold, hard cracked ice, shake together 2 ounces of bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark here, even though Wild Turkey sounds more appropriate), 2 ounces of fresh orange juice, 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of sugar; shake the hell of out of it, then strain into a tall glass with fresh ice, rub the rim of the glass with the lemon wedge (you can also rim the glass with sugar margarita-style, according to your tastes), then garnish with an orange slice. This will whet your appetite and mellow your mood at the same time.