Thanksgiving dinner is arguably the biggest feast Americans enjoy in a given year. More time and energy goes into planning and preparing this meal than any other. Choosing a wine to serve that not only pairs well with a dozen side dishes but also appeals to everyone from Aunt Margaret to Cousin Bobby can be a daunting task. In the spirit of Turkey Day, IntoWine.com posed the question to a panel of wine experts: What pairs well with Thanksgiving turkey?
"The traditional Thanksgiving meal, to the English, who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, would be considered almost identical to their Christmas dinner. Turkey with all the trimmings. An English friend recently asked me what I thought of the difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The answer quite simply: a tree, gifts and crackers. Crackers are an indispensible accoutrement to the English Christmas dinner table. They look like small wrapped colorful tubes, inside of which are surprises [trinkets, indoor fireworks, paper hats and lame jokes]. These fall out, piñata style, when two people pull at each end, as it suddenly breaks open with a loud crack.
Drinking is an all day affair. I’ll be starting my Thanksgiving with Montsarra Cava, which I drink regularly as a perfectly delicious alternative to expensive Champagne. I might opt, instead, for my own Broadbent Vinho Verde, which has lower alcohol and a very subtle spritz. With the turkey, I’ll probably drink a white wine, perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite Spy Valley, the most delicious one I’ve found from New Zealand. However, Riesling is also fantastic with Turkey and selections like Guntrum Dry Riesling from the Rheinhessen or Dr. H by Dr. Hermann in the Mosel are not only delicious but also kind to the wallet! For the more adventurous, a Gewurztraminer, such as Aresti Gewurz from Chile offers a little more complexity to the meal. If you insist on a red wine with turkey, no question, my choice would be Chateau Musar, which goes with almost everything! However, they also make a wonderful crowd pleasing rose called Musar Jeune, which would be fun with turkey.
We all know the standard wine varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are an astounding 10,000 grape varieties here on Planet Earth. The majority of California vineyard acreage is planted to just eight grape varietals and less than 10 percent is home to grapes few people care about, and even fewer understand, let alone can pronounce. But an accomplished assemblage of odd-ball varietals and their winemaker shepherds champion these grapes. These winemakers are the first and only line of defense against the abyss of sameness. Here in alphabetical order are just 25 (there are more) of the most odd-ball grapes turned into wine in the Golden State, followed by their producer, and location.
In putting together a list of the top California Cabernets, there is sure to be some disagreement. I tried to include those wines that have a track record, the wineries still making great wines, those that seemed to have the commitment for the future and some personal favorites. I am sure I left some out.
1. Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – It’s always hard to name the number one wine. But this has a track record that’s very long. Even in less than stellar vintages, it is an outstanding wine. They just don’t seem to make a dud. My only complaint is the price at over $200 a bottle. But, in comparison to other Napa Cabs or elsewhere in the world, this is a fair price.
In my last article, I listed the Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking. In this article I look at the “non-dump bucket” list for wines from California. This proved to be a different task. First, very few wineries have a long track record of making great wine. Secondly, while California is diverse, it does not have the diversity of climates and terroir and grape varietals of France. Still, it does produce some of the best wines in the world and any wine lover should make it a point to try as many of them as they can. Here is my list:
1. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s hard to pick the first wine. This one is a great wine in every vintage and has been for a long time. Expensive but still possible to afford and made in large enough quantities to be found in grocery stores. Every lover of Cabernet should try this once.
If you are a wine lover, wine connoisseur, wine aficionado or even if you just like to have a couple of glasses on a Friday night, it soon becomes obvious that there are some wines that are held in a higher esteem in the wine world. Sometimes, it is because these wines are very rare. Other times, it’s because the wine has a place in history. Sometimes it’s because the wine is just that good. Here is a list of 75 wines from France that make up that category. A few caveats. I have not tried every wine on this list. Some I have and others I hope to. Many of these wines are rare and hard to find. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be on the list. After all, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it.
Our 2013 iteration of this list is intended as a source of education and discussion. The making of this list is never an easy process. Who are the most influential wine people in the United States, and how exactly do you define ‘influential?’ Does influential mean people who move markets, impact consumers, inspire winemakers, form policy, and create debate? Yes. Though some decry the consolidation of the wine industry (and that is an issue worth considering) we are not trying to suggest who is “good” or “bad” within America’s wine industry. We merely define the Top 100 people, from winemakers to law makers, bankers to bloggers, and sommeliers to celebrities who influence wine; how it is made, marketed, perceived, sold, shipped, purchased, shared and consumed. As was true in 2012, we sought help to assemble this list people from a diverse group of people and we are grateful for their input. And we chose to release it today, January 29th, as it was on this day in 1919 when the pathetic policy of Prohibition was ratified; the effects of this lunatic legislation still evident in our country’s inability to ship and sell wine across state lines. We honor winemakers, wine drinkers and wine lovers of every conceivable demographic. Use this list, comment on it, share it with everyone, learn from it, and continue your joy of being IntoWine.
There is a wine phenomenon every November when the cry goes out: Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive! For more information about this phenomenon, go here.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a popular wine to serve at Thanksgiving for a few reasons. First, they are prominently displayed on the store shelves at the same time people are shopping for their Thanksgiving groceries, 2) they are affordable wines that should cost less than $15 per bottle and can often be found for under $10, and 3) they match surprisingly well with Thanksgiving Turkey, cranberries and stuffing.
I find most Beaujolai Nouveau falls in one of two groups. They are either fun wines or wines that I wouldn’t drink. A good Beaujolais Nouveau will have lots of cherry fruit, perhaps a bit of banana aromas and should be smooth and easy to drink. Here are ten in the first group; wines that are fun, taste good and provide value. There are others out there as well, but these are go-to wines for me. One bit of caution, don’t buy too many. These should be consumed by the end of the year. The best thing about them is their freshness.
It seems most everyone has some kind of superstition: a lucky hat, the old stand-by the rabbit’s foot, a certain ritual before a specific event. We humans are curious creatures of habit and redundancy. Winemakers too have superstitions they employ during harvest to planting to verasion. So who in the U.S. is doing what, and when, and more importantly why? We do not judge, for these intrepid winemakers are doing great work so we can have great juice.
Syrah is a grape that most wine merchants will tell you is a difficult sell. It seems it’s always going to be the next big thing, but never is. For consumers, that’s a good thing. A great Syrah usually will cost far less than a comparable quality Cabernet or Pinot Noir. For my money, I tend to buy more Syrah than any other grape. A disclaimer here – I liked it so much, I started to make it.
In any event, as the temperatures start to drop, fall is great time for a hearty red with dinner or next to a warming fire. Syrah is a grape that really changes its personality depending on where it is grown. Cooler climate Syrahs can be quite different from warmer climate ones. California has plenty of each. While I love many of the cooler climate Syrahs, most of the ones listed below are warmer climate Syrahs. In my opinion, that is where the very best of Syrahs from California can be found.
It's nice to be a celebrity - people treat you well, you get what you want, you own nice things, and you drink expensive wines. Beyond that you usually have the money to do most anything you would like, say, starting a winery for instance, so you can drink your own expensive wines. Though we have a handful of celebrity-wineries here in Santa Barbara, it is Sonoma that seems to have a lock on celebrities-turned-vignerons. A visit to the bewitching wine country of Sonoma shows the diversity of celebrity styles and their wineries, offering diverse experiences from theatrical to tranquil amid the still rural setting of the Sonoma countryside.