Like most Americans, I really enjoy Thanksgiving. I love the time with family, the traditional food, and the chance to match that food with some traditional — and non-traditional — wine.
As we barrel toward another Turkey Day, I went down to the cellar to create a list of possible pairings for our Thanksgiving feast. It’s a diverse list and one I thought I’d share.
For easier consumption, I’ve broken things down into three categories: sparkling, white and red. This should give you plenty of options based on palate, menu and price point (the prices are based on average listings).
Let’s start with sparkling wines, one of the most overlooked categories when it comes to food and wine pairing, and one of the most flexible wine selections when considering style, country of origin and cost!
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Zonin Prosecco Cuvee 1821, $12.99
At just $12.99 retail, this light but lively Prosecco hits all the right notes. Serve this bubbly before the meal with crackers and cheese, then have a bottle on hand when the bird hits the table. Zonin’s Prosecco is at home in both environments, and at that price, you can afford multiple bottles.
François Montand — Brut Blanc de Blancs, $14
Another bargain sparkler, this one from France, Francois Montand’s Blanc de Blancs is a unique blend of Colombard, Ugny Blanc, and Chardonnay grapes. It’s creamy, smooth and tart at the same time, a difficult combination to pull off. Leaner than the Prosecco, this lovely sparkler still has the depth to feel right at home with your holiday turkey and all the trimmings.
Francois Schmitt Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, $32
Stepping up the ladder in both price and complexity, let’s stay in France for a bottle of Francois Schmitt’s Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. First, sparkling rosés are one of my favorite wines on the planet. Secondly, they are amazing with a wide range of food. Third, this one is really good. With notes of tart fruit and herbs, the wine is well-balanced and complex — a perfect wine to handle both the roast turkey, stuffing and gravy, and the sweet/tart sides like cranberry sauce.
Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé, $100
This one’s a guilty pleasure for me. At $100 retail, this classic rosé Champagne is way out of my normal wine budget. But, for a once-a-year special occasion, it hits all the right notes. The wine starts with a careful selection of grapes from Grand Cru Vineyards before heading into a vinification process involving a separation of free run juice followed by a light pressing of the remaining grapes to capture the true essence of the pinot noir grapes. After secondary fermentation, the wine rests on the lees for at least five years! The result is one of the most complex, delicious and memorable bottles of wine you will ever have.
A lot of people turn to chardonnay when picking a white wine for your Thanksgiving table. And while that’s a solid choice, I’d like to give you some other options.
Suavia Soave Classico, $14.99
I was recently introduced to this great Soave and I have to say that I’ve become a big fan. From a winery run by three sisters (love that, too), this wine is what real Soave is meant to taste like — the perfect balance between fruit and earth with terrific acidity and a long, lovely finish.
Inama Soave Classico, $13.99
I’ve been buying and enjoying Inama’s Soave ever since I filmed with Stefano Inama for my television show, “Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert.” Stefano took the estate over from his father in 1992 and the wines have been on an upward projection ever since. Bigger in style than the Suavia Soave, Inama’s version is a bit more chardonnay-like, yet still elegant and balanced. And, at $13.99 retail, it’s a holiday steal.
Dry Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, $20
These guys have been turning out delicious, full-bodied Sauvignon blancs for decades and they continue to both amaze and impress. I consider Dry Creek’s SB to be its signature wine. Citrus notes on the palate combine with a creamy mouthfeel. But what makes the wine so good and so malleable with cuisine is its acidity. This Sauvignon blanc cries out for more than a piece of fish. I’d feel quite comfortable with it on my table this Thanksgiving.
King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, $40
How about a little local love? The King family has roots in Kansas City, so I often consider their wines my hometown wines. For King Estate’s flagship wine, the Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, the grapes are primarily sourced from the estate’s biodynamic and organic vineyard. Wherever they come from, they comprise one tasty bottle of wine. Leading with aromas and flavors of peach, pear and melon, the pinot gris finishes with bright acidity — the hallmark of any great wine and the perfect quality for handling the varying weights and sweetness levels of your Thanksgiving fare.
Finally, a handful of red wine options, or what some of my wine-loving friends call “real wines.”
I’ve been drinking a lot of Beaujolais Cru these days, but then, I always drink a lot of Beaujolais Cru. For the uninitiated, Beaujolais Cru refers to the 10 areas within the Beaujolais region that produce the highest quality wine. The wines can vary wildly from Cru to Cru, but they all have a number of qualities in common. They comprise 100 percent of Gamay grapes. They can be consumer young or aged for 10 years or more. They are some of the food-friendliest wines on the planet.
Here, I will recommend Beaujolais Cru wine, both from the “King of Beaujolais,” Georges Duboeuf.
Georges Duboeuf Jean Ernest Descomes Morgon, $12.50
This is a wine I’ve enjoyed for a very long time. Morgon’s are generally considered fuller-bodied and more age-worthy than other Beaujolais Crus, and this wine is all of that. Still, the wine is harmonious in its structure and loaded with bright red fruit aromas and flavors. This terrific Thanksgiving wine with complement any turkey — roasted, smoked, or deep-fried — and I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too bad with the pumpkin pie either should you have some left in your glass or bottle.
George Duboeuf des Quatre Vent Fleurie, $15
Fleuries are often light in style with floral and perfumed notes and an enticing finish. This is one of my favorite wines from the Cru. A supple wine with hints of violets, black fruits and spices on the nose, the des Quatre Vent finishes with a silky elegance that leaves you wanting more. It is, in a word, delicious.
Hahn Santa Lucia Highland Pinot Noir, $20
Hahn makes a number of single vineyard pinot noirs from Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands and they are all delicious. But, if you want a less expensive, yet still tasty, introduction into the wines and the Highlands, then Hahn’s SLH pinot is the way to go. With notes of cherry and mushroom, the wine is buttressed with layers of toasty oak. This is full-bodied pinot capable of handling any Thanksgiving food you put in front of it.
Castello di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva, $23
Finally, something a little out of the ordinary, a Chianti Classico from the heart of Tuscany for your bird in the heart of America. This Riserva is a lovely and balanced expression of what the Chianti Classico region can produce. Versatile and fruit, this medium-bodied wine holds up to, but doesn’t overpower, the cuisine it’s paired with. And, that my friends, sounds like the perfect wine for my Thanksgiving table.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.