Thanksgiving Dinner – The Great Pairing

Thanksgiving is the largest family and friends gathering of the year next to Mother’s Day. But, no other gathering creates more anxiety or frustration with what to make, who to invite and what to pour with the “Big Bird”. Today you are inundated with more ways to fix the turkey than bottles of wine in your favorite corner market. We can prepare our turkey in the Southern Comfort style, the new urban farm fresh style, Southwestern style, Mediterranean style, Italian style, Pacific Northwest style, with French influence, Spanish influence, Big Apple retro and politically correct and bipartisan for all our feuding politicians in D.C. But it always comes down to what wine to bring to complement what course and how do you find the best wine for the “Big Bird”?

Over the years I have made at least 30 Thanksgiving dinners and to this day, I am almost sure, I have never fixed the turkey the same way twice. I have roasted the “Big Bird” at least twenty ways, cooked it in a brown paper bag, smoked, fried, cooked breast side up, breast side down, sugar brine cured, soaked in milk all night and have loved every one in its own way, well almost every one. I have paired the “Big Bird” with every type of wine, Bordeaux’s, Burgundies, Alsacian, and California in every price range. Some were great matches, others were okay and some, well we won’t talk about them.

During my crusade into cooking I started on the only obvious parallel adventure, building my eclectic wine cellar. Like my cooking journeys, my wine collecting has taken many absorbing, stimulating and yes, fascinating turns. I started out in the early 70s collecting all the monsters of California from Heitz, B.V., Caymus, Chateau Montelena, Diamond Creek, Mayacamas and Spottswood. Then in the 80s I found France, Spain, Italy and the rest of the world of wine. Then came the 90s and I was off on my multifarious adventures that have taken me down the road of the exotic and rare wines of the world. During these reincarnations of my cellar I went through three complete transformations. Today you will find bits and pieces of all my enterprises in my cellar and I am still looking for the mystical perfect wine for the “Big Bird”.

The old mantra, white wine with white meat, is a bit old but has evolved since it was first proposed. The two classic wines for turkey, as I learned, are Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer and after many experiments the basics are still basically true. The logic behind this mantra was, with turkey there are lots of different rich flavors from the spices on the turkey to the yummy, rich gravy. You don’t want to overpower the rich flavors but you do want to complement them. Finding fruit forward wines with the right amount of body and flavor are what you want to look for.

Realizing there are about 10,000 grape varieties in the world, you have many choices. This Thanksgiving why not try one or two of those exotic, rare wines to complement your festive holiday meal.

Whites are always a good start to the meal with the appetizers and will work right into the meal.
2006 Alta Vista – Torrontés, from Mendoza, Argentina. Light, crisp, fruity wine with great balance and notes of mango, papaya with a hint of summer jasmine.
2006 Marc Bredif – Vouvray – Chenin Blanc, from Loire Valley, France. Medium bodied, notes of peach, apricot fruits with hints of flowers and quince. The acidity is well balanced with a pleasant herbaceous complexity, a hallmark of a great Vouvray.
2004 Vina Nora – Nora De Neve – Albariño, from Rias Baixas, Spain. Full bodied and crisp with notes of apricots, pineapple, citrus and minerals. This is a fully mature wine with the complexity and flavor to stand up to any turkey and deliver a great food pairing.

Reds are also best when they have a fruit forward component that has good acidity and a fair amount of texture.
2006 Marc Bredif – Chinon – Cabernet Franc from Loire Valley, France is a great alternative to Pinot Noir with beautiful cherry, strawberry, raspberry fruit with spices and black pepper with well integrated tannins.
2005 Foradori Rotaliano – Teroldego from Trentino, Italy. Red plums with spices of cinnamon, clove, allspice, black cherries, black plums and hints of a mild pepper finish with balanced acidity that finishes with a velvety texture.
2007 Cantine Sant’Agata – ‘Na Vota – Ruchè from Piemonte, Italy. Bright plum with hints of violet, hay and vanilla on the nose and aromatic spices of cumin, cardamom and pepper. The wine is perfectly balanced and delicate with a lingering persistence that brings you back to the glass over and over.
2007 Viñedo de los Vientos – Tannat from Atlántida, Uruguay. Scent of dry autumn leaves, cacao bean, Asian spices, hints of morning dew, brilliant, bright fruit aromas of bush ripe blueberry and raspberry up front. On the palate, intense dark fruit, polished tannins with a mild gamey nature that defines the true Tannat grape expression.

To top off the holiday event, why not try one of the most fascinating dessert wines in the world?
NV Viñedo de los Vientos – “Alcyone” – Dessert Tannat from Atlántida, Uruguay. This wine is full of the most radiant and vibrant flavors of winter flowers, Madagascan vanilla bean, wild apple mint, marshmallow and a white cacao soufflé. Pablo combines the methods of making Barolo Chinato and Marsala that brings all these flavors together to create this unique wine. A must try!

This Thanksgiving venture out into the world of exotic and rare grape varietals that will amaze you and your guests and change some of your thoughts on great wines to serve with the “Big Bird”. It changed my perspective!

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