Thanksgiving is almost here: Have you planned your menu, yet? More importantly, have you chosen your wine, yet? Wine should be an integral part of any gathering. It can make a festive occasion even more festive, and it can make a tense gathering way more tolerable.
Traditional Thanksgiving menus include one or more of the following meats: turkey, ham and pork tenderloin. These are all fairly mild meats—sometimes smoky, sometimes sweet, depending on the recipes used. Dressings and stuffings are mostly bread and seasoning. Sweet potatoes are sweet. Cranberry sauce is kind of tart. You won't want to pair any of these with a big, bold red wine because the wine would completely overpower the food. You should stick with medium- to full-bodied whites and lighter style reds.
A Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc would be a good choice for a white. One of my favorites is the Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay (about $23). It's full-bodied, toasty, creamy and buttery—all of the things I like about holiday food in a glass! The Adelsheim Pinot Blanc (about $16) from Oregon is another good one to try. It's nice and rich like a Chardonnay, but with a dry finish. This wine shows fresh tropical fruit flavors with a touch of creaminess. If you prefer crisper, drier white wines, be careful not to get one with too much tartness. That would be a poor match. Go for a blend, like the Hill of Content Benjamin's Blend (about $13) from Australia. The Sauvignon Blanc in this wine will give you the crispness you want, while the Semillon and Chardonnay will give the wine the richness it needs to match up with your yummy, fattening holiday cuisine.
Oh, you're a red person? Pinot Noir is a good style for this type of food. It tends to be a little smoky and earthy, with more understated, semi-sweet fruit character. A few good ones with easy price tags to try are Lorane Valley by King Estate, Oregon (about $15), Cartlidge & Browne (about $11) and A to Z from Oregon (about $18). If you're looking for something special and have no budget concerns, try any one of these tasty treats: Loring–Rosella's Vineyard (about $50) from California, or Ken Wright (about $57) and Bethel Heights–Freedom Hill Vineyard (about $37), both from Oregon. Boy, will the in-laws ever be impressed!
For those of you who are fans of a congealed cranberry dish (aka Williamsburg Salad) with nuts, celery and something creamy in it (you know who you are, Mom), I have no suggested wine pairings because I have spent my life avoiding such concoctions.
Don't forget about dessert. If you're having pecan pie, go for a Madeira. I recently tried the 1995 Broadbent Colheita (about $28). It was a fantastic, nutty delight. For sweet potato or pumpkin pie, try the Pennyfield Late-picked Viognier from Australia (about $35). This wine is rich and sweet with a touch of spice—a great diversion from the norm.