Normally, in the days preceding Thanksgiving, I feel compelled to use this blog to convey some wisdom about wine with the traditional holiday dinner. Although I can easily riff for 500 to 1,000 words about it, this year I did not. For future reference, it’s to drink youthful New World wines. White or red, doesn’t matter.
Why youthful? So many of the customary dishes have enough sweetness (think cranberry sauce, yams, fruit-flavored stuffings) to challenge a delicate or older wine that it’s best to leave the classic Bordeaux or the 25-year-old Cabernets for another occasion. Wines with forward fruit can handle it, even if they are dry.
I know, too little, too late for 2010. Where was I last Wednesday?
Actually, I was rummaging around in my own cellar, homing in on what to pull out for the occasion. Our tradition is to drive to Oakland and enjoy the T-Day dinner at the home of our longtime friends Paula and Ed. She’s a former food writer and he’s a chef, now retired. They cook the dinner for a crowd—it’s always great—and I bring the wines. The arrangement works.
Rather than my usual choices of recent-vintage Syrahs and Zinfandels, this year I went for Pinot Noir. I chose three 2005s: Amisfield from Central Otago in New Zealand, Bethel Heights West Block from Eola-Amity Hills in Willamette Valley and a magnum of Ayoub from Dundee Hills in the Willamette. The 2005 vintage seemed like the right age, old enough to have gained some refinement, yet young enough to retain plenty of the necessary fruit.
Being a chef, Ed tones down the sweetness in the traditional dishes. No marshmallows on the sweet potatoes for him, and the stuffing always shows plenty of savory flavor to balance the fruit he likes to add. But would these Pinots, with their delicacy, stand up to the mix of flavors?
Oh yeah, they did.
The best was the Ayoub, a richer style that has matured into a wine of considerable finesse to go along with its ripe berry, earth and mineral characters. Without missing a beat, it wrapped itself around the flavors of the moist turkey, light-textured gravy and stuffing made with green apple and apricot. It also held up to the yams and Paula’s carrot ring.
A wonderful purity of blueberry and cherry fruit made the Bethel Heights, a more delicate style, perform almost as admirably. The outlier was the Amisfield. Its elevated acidity clashed a bit with the sweeter elements, but the turkey and gravy made its supple texture and ripe flavors sing. The wine’s earthy, anise overtones paired terrifically with a side dish of fennel bulbs braised in milk. Lesson: In such a mix of flavors, something is bound to benefit from almost any wine.
Knowing that Ed was making a bay scallop dish for starters, I brought along two bottles of Argyle Chardonnay Willamette Valley Nuthouse 2007. It’s on the richer side for Oregon but still softer and less opulent than many California or Washington wines. I heard lots of "yummy" around the table for that wine with the scallops.
Anyone care to share their Thanksgiving wine choices? How well did they work?
David Rossi — Napa, CA, USA — November 29, 2010 3:55pm ET
Michael Opdahl — Los Angeles, CA — November 29, 2010 5:22pm ET
Marc Liberts — Santa Barbara, CA — November 29, 2010 6:06pm ET
Michael Bonanno — CT — November 29, 2010 7:46pm ET
Fred Brown — Maryland — November 29, 2010 7:46pm ET
Christopher J Ascher — Shorewood, MN — November 29, 2010 10:44pm ET
Steve Order — Massachusetts — November 30, 2010 9:32am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions