Log In / Join Now

Turkey Two Ways and California Pinot Noirs for Thanksgiving

A traditional turkey, a new way with leftovers, and 12 recently rated reds for the holiday table

Laurie Woolever
Posted: November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving is almost here: How's your menu planning and wine shopping shaping up? Last week we covered side dishes and California Chardonnays; this week it's turkey, the main event. We've got a recipe for a brined, stuffed and roasted turkey that's both classic and delicious, and a new idea for the leftover-turkey sandwiches that will get you through the holiday weekend. And, because no holiday table is complete without both red and white wines, we've put together a list of outstanding and very good recently rated California Pinot Noirs, priced at $36 or less, with a balance of fruit, spice and herb to complement the holiday's traditional flavors.

Brined, Stuffed and Roasted Turkey

Brining the holiday bird came into vogue in the past 10 years; far from a passing trend, it's a tried-and-true method for a moist, juicy and flavorful turkey. The hardest part is finding enough refrigerator space for a 5-gallon container the night before Thanksgiving.

For the brine:
• 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
• 3 cups dark brown sugar
• 2 cups honey
• 1/2 bunch parsley (about 20 sprigs)
• 1/2 bunch thyme (about 20 sprigs)
• 1/2 bunch sage (about 10 sprigs)
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 lemons, cut in half
• 2 1/2 gallons boiling water
• 1 14-pound turkey

Combine all ingredients except the boiling water in a 5-gallon, heat-proof container that is large enough to hold the turkey. Pour the boiling water over the brine ingredients and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight.

For roasting the turkey:
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Basic bread stuffing (recipe below)
• 1/4 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.

2. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with cold water. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper, lightly spoon the stuffing into both cavities, tie the legs together to hold in the stuffing, and brush the skin with the butter.

3. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 3 hours, turning once or twice during the cooking process to ensure even cooking. Serves 8 to 10.

For the stuffing:
• 8 tablespoons butter
• 4 cups peeled and chopped onion (about 3 medium onions)
• 2 1/2 cups chopped celery (about 6 ribs)
• 2 pounds good-quality sliced white sandwich bread
• 1 3/4 cups homemade chicken broth (or 1 14-ounce can)
• 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves, or 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Increase the heat to high and add the onion. Sauté about 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until onions just start to turn brown. Lower the heat, if needed, to prevent burning. Scrape the onions into a large mixing bowl. Put another 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan, add the celery and cook, stirring periodically, until it just starts to turn brown. Add to the onions.

2. Meanwhile, put the chicken broth in a small bowl. Lightly dip slices of bread into the broth. Squeeze out the excess moisture, then crumble the bread into the large mixing bowl with the cooked celery and onion. Season with the sage, parsley, salt and pepper, and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Place the pan used for cooking the celery and onions back over medium-high heat. Add half of the remaining butter. When the butter stops sizzling, add half of the stuffing. Cook, turning every few minutes with a spatula, until the bread stuffing is lightly toasted. Lower the heat if needed to prevent burning. Remove to a bowl, and then repeat with the second batch. Allow stuffing to cool.

Barbecue Pulled Turkey Sandwiches

Leftovers are an inevitable part of Thanksgiving. Turkey sandwiches on toasted white bread with mayo, lettuce and tomato can be nice, but if you're in the mood for something a bit spicier, try a barbecue pulled-turkey sandwich. You can use any barbecue sauce you prefer, be it bottled or homemade. We like the following recipe for its smoky, meaty taste, courtesy of a bit of bacon. Zinfandel is a classic match with barbecue, though full-bodied Pinot Noirs will also work, if you have any leftovers from the main event.

• 1 cup ketchup
• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon molasses
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoons Tabasco sauce, or to taste
• 1/2 tablespoon chile powder, or to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1/3 pound bacon, diced
• 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
• 3 pounds cooked turkey, white and dark meat, shredded with a fork
• Sliced pickles, for garnish (optional)
• 10 soft white hamburger buns or brioche or potato rolls

1. In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, molasses, mustard, Tabasco, chile powder and black pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the meat is crisp. Add the shallots and cook over medium-high heat until soft and golden brown.

3. Add the ketchup mixture to the bacon and shallots in the pan, pouring carefully to avoid splattering. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is dark, thick and rich. Adjust sweetness, sourness and hot pepper to taste.

4. Add the turkey to the sauce and fold to evenly distribute sauce. Heat through for a few minutes, then serve the meat on your chosen bread, with pickles if desired. Makes 10 sandwiches.

RECOMMENDED CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More California Pinot Noirs can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

ROBERT STEMMLER Pinot Noir Carneros 2008 Score: 93 | $36
This aromatic red shows smoke, mahogany and sandalwood notes that carry all the way through the finish. Smooth, rich flavors of black cherry, boysenberry and wild strawberry are expressive, concentrated and refined. Drink now through 2018. 4,000 cases made. —M.W.

MORGAN Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Twelve Clones 2009 Score: 90 | $32
Tight and well-structured, with vibrant acidity and minerally, taut and crisp wild berry and raspberry notes that are clean and nuanced. Ends with a pleasing mix of fruit and acidity. Drink now through 2018. 12,000 cases made. —J.L.

DAVIS BYNUM Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009 Score: 89 | $35
Offers a mix of delicate cherry, wilted rose, cola, sassafras and spice flavors that are full-bodied and intense, without being heavy. Ends with a mocha edge and firm tannins. Drink now through 2016. 5,000 cases made. —J.L.

ROBERT MONDAVI Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros 2009 Score: 88 | $26
Trim and spicy, offering a band of black cherry, mineral, cedar and black licorice flavors. Elegant and medium- to full-bodied, this is clean and cleansing on the finish. Drink now through 2018. 15,000 cases made. —J.L.

PINE RIDGE Pinot Noir Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo-Monterey Counties ForeFront 2009 Score: 88 | $24
Supple and fleshy, with complex berry, spice, mineral and herbal scents. Medium- to full-bodied, showing the art of the blend of several appellations. Drink now through 2016. 7,747 cases made. —J.L.

SAINTSBURY Pinot Noir Carneros 2009 Score: 88 | $28
Complex, detailed and understated, this delivers a trim mix of black cherry, wild berry and mineral notes. Medium- to full-bodied, ending with a touch of cedar and graphite. Drink now through 2016. 9,226 cases made. —J.L.

VILLA MT. EDEN Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009 Score: 88 | $20
An elegant style, with a leafy edge to the ripe berry, spice and mineral notes. Full-bodied, complex and focused, ending with a persistent finish. Drink now through 2017. 9,300 cases made. —J.L.

ACACIA Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros 2009 Score: 87 | $28
Wild berry flavors are direct and focused, with herbal shadings and firm, tight tannins. Features spicy notes on the finish, including a touch of cayenne. Drink now through 2017. 50,000 cases made. —M.W.

CALERA Pinot Noir Central Coast 2009 Score: 87 | $24
Firm, offering an appealing mix of savory herb, dried berry, anise, cedar and rhubarb notes, turning somewhat simpler on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 12,368 cases made. —J.L.

KENWOOD Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009 Score: 87 | $16
Offers a savory mix of dried berry, sage, cedar and mineral flavors. Medium-bodied and well-balanced, ending with dried herb notes. Drink now through 2015. 34,240 cases made. —J.L.

PARAISO Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2009 Score: 87 | $25
Appealing for its easy-drinking allure, with ripe plum, raspberry, wild berry and spice flavors. Medium- to full-bodied, showing off a racy earthiness on the finish, which gives this a nice touch. Drink now through 2016. 19,060 cases made. —J.L.

FESS PARKER Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 2009 Score: 87 | $28
Firm, with ripe, generous plum and blackberry fruit that's spicy, with a minerally edge and a cedary berry and cola aftertaste. Drink now through 2017. 11,439 cases made. —J.L.

Steve Balmuth
San Clemente, CA —  November 19, 2011 3:45pm ET
I love the Luli 2010 Pinot Noir. Sells for around $22 and is made by Jeff Pisoni. Wine come from the Santa Lucia Highlands and is one of the richest Pinots I've tasted under $30.
Martin Johnson
Walnut Creek, CA —  November 22, 2011 1:50am ET
I agree with your Pine Ridge Pinot Noir recommendation. It is complex and the finish is medium to long. I had a bottle a few weeks ago with bacon cheese turkey burgers, and with a little A-1 Sauce; a fantastic combo!

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.