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Wine Wisdom: Tyler Colman's Thanksgiving Picks



November 24, 2009


wine glass Your turkey is bobbing in brine, you've devised a hard-and-fast schedule for your oven and stovetop, and you've struck the last ingredient off the grocery list—every minutia of your cooking game plan is nailed down, but what about the wine? With so much emphasis weighing on what to eat on Thanksgiving, it's no surprise that pairings can get second billing. Fortunately, we've sought help from our friend Tyler Colman, wine expert and author of A Year of Wine: Perfect Pairings, Great Buys, and What to Sip for Each Season and his Dr. Vino blog. As we learned from his Beard on Books appearance, Colman believes that occasion, setting, and company ought to be taken into greater account when choosing a wine. So what does this mean for Thanksgiving? "Pairing wines with Thanksgiving is hard because of two things: the side dishes and the relatives," Colman explained to us. "The side dishes are often sweet and the relatives (or distant friends invited to join a big table) may not be that into wine." With these conditions in mind, Colman suggests six appealing wines that will be embraced by your menu as well as any vinophobic guests. Best of all, they are all $25 and under. François Pinon Brut Vouvray ($19) From an organically farmed vineyard on the north side of the Loire River, this sparkling wine is a delicious value. Chenin Blanc is known for its aromatics and the wine has an invigorating blend between acidity and a hint of sweetness. Start with this as an opener, but feel free to bring it to the table as well. For bonus wine geek points, serve it in white wine glasses (instead of champagne flutes) to capture the enticing aromas. Willi Schaefer Estate Riesling 2008 ($18) Great Riesling is always welcome on the Thanksgiving table: by wine geeks for its food-friendliness (even with sides) and by wine newbies for it's oh-so-easy drinking with slight sweetness. Willi Schaefer, a cult estate in the Mosel, shows the gulpable appeal in this estate Riesling with a balance of sweetness and acidity. Berger Grüner Veltliner 2008 ($11 for a one-liter bottle) This Grüner Veltliner, an indigenous grape from Austria, comes unoaked and with a zip that will refresh cloying side dishes. And the one liter bottle makes it a particularly attractive price-per-glass for pouring to the gathered crowds. D. Ventura Viña do Burato Mencia 2008 ($18) Fresh, light, and fruity reds are usually the domain of Beaujolais wines on the Thanksgiving table. But this fall, why not change it up and try a Mencia, an unheralded grape from Northern Spain? This one comes from 80-year-old vines and has aromas bursting with appealing raspberry and pepper notes that are a great complement to the Thanksgiving plate. Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Pinot Noir 2007 ($25) Cristom makes good Pinots. What makes them particularly good for Thanksgiving is that the winemaker, Steve Doerner, does a lot of whole cluster fermentation, which brings liveliness, spiciness to the notes of cranberry in the wine. Great for sides as well as relatives. Ridge Three Valleys 2007 ($23) This blend of mostly zinfandel fermented with natural yeasts has 13.8% alcohol, refreshingly low for a Zinfandel. While I generally prefer lighter reds at Thanksgiving, Zinfandel is a popular choice for this national repast. The Three Valleys is a great way to go for a lush, yet not overextracted Zinfandel. It will be popular with guests who like big reds and turkey legs.