Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Wines

Ah, the flavors of a Thanksgiving meal. With tastes and textures that range from savory to sweet, delicate to heavy and herbaceous to creamy, it can be tough to find wine pairings that work.

We gave you a few tips last year and they still hold as general guides and specific wine recommendations. Here are a few more tips to help you through the holiday meal.

Two whites that work better with traditional Thanksgiving foods than go-to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are Pinot Gris and Riesling. Look to Oregon for Pinot Gris that are richer in style and body than Italian Pinot Grigio, made from the same grape. Most Northwest Pinot Gris have soft fruit and floral flavors with a light earthiness and plump body that pairs well with turkey and traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Try Bethel Heights 2009 ($15 at LQ Wine on Washington, near the La Quinta Trader Joe's), Elk Cove and other reliable producers such as A to Z Wineworks, or California's tangent for a homegrown taste of Alsace style.

Riesling is another white that can carry the Thanksgiving meal. Two German Rieslings that finish dry and have the added bonus of low-alcohol content are Mönchhof Mosel Slate 2009 Riesling Spätlese ($16 at LA Wine Company) and, for closer to $10, Dr. L Riesling by Loosen Bros. in the gorgeous sleek teal bottle (Dan's Wine Shop, Trader Joe's and grocers). Both are screw-cap and go down smooth and easy. Flavors of stone fruit, green apple and lime work well with turkey while both have just enough kick and slatey earth to pair with more exotic holiday spices. If you haven't tried too many Rieslings - or if you think all Rieslings are sweet - here's your chance to discover why this varietal is so food-friendly and a chef favorite.

Rosé is another wine that stands up to holiday fare. Rosés made from Cabernet Sauvignon can be a tad tannic for turkey so look for Provençal and other French styles, or American rosé made from Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. Plus, rosé delivers the biggest bang for your holiday buck, especially if you have lots of hungry, thirsty mouths to satisfy. Look to sunny Spain for the dry 2009 Márques de Cáceres ($7 at Trader Joe's) or 2009 Borsao (also $7 at LA Wine Company). Ask local wine merchants about their favorite rosés from Oregon, France and California producers such as Frog's Leap and Belle Glos. Chances are you won't go wrong with rosé.

If only red will do, Pinot Noir fits the bill. Low in tannin and medium in body, Pinot Noir has bright cherry flavors, floral and baked spice aromas and the mouthfeel to pair beautifully with many traditional Thanksgiving foods. Splurge with a special bottle from Oregon (Shea, Domaine Serene, Adelsheim) or Elk Cove for quality at a gentler price. Our local wine merchants carry excellent Pinot Noirs – ask about their favorites. We love California's cool-climate gems Millworks for value and reliable, delicious Byron. BTW, Byron's Pinot Blanc also makes a good Thanksgiving pick.

Another red alternative is Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. Unless you're feeding a group of guzzlers, spend a couple dollars more for the greater complexity and elegance of cru Beaujolais over fruitier Beaujolais Nouveau. Look for the quality designation cru on the label. And, while you're in the French section, many red or white Côtes-du-Rhône wines are worth a pop with holiday foods.

End your meal with a refreshing Moscato and let the skinny kids devour the rest of that pumpkin pie. Or bust open that bottle of port you haven't been sure about. Enjoy a dessert wine and walk away from your holiday table feeling lighter – and thankful for all we have in this beautiful country.

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