Instead of 1 Thanksgiving wine, try a cornucopia
With Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away, perhaps you, like me, are flailing about in the kitchen trying to ensure a smooth, three-point...
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Pick of the WeekHedges 2007 C.M.S. White; $13
This popular dry white wine is roughly two-thirds sauvignon blanc and one-third chardonnay. A splash of marsanne provides the "M" that completes the anagram. It's really a can't-miss choice for Thanksgiving, crisp and quaffable, with lightly ripe flavors of citrus and stone fruits. (Noble)
With Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away, perhaps you, like me, are flailing about in the kitchen trying to ensure a smooth, three-point landing for both food and wine when the pressure is on.
A recent recipe for roasted squash with prosciutto led me down some very interesting wine trails.
Mrs. G and I have fallen into a rut with our squash protocol, and this seemed like a good opportunity to experiment. After all, what vegetables are more quintessentially attached to Thanksgiving than these? My earliest memories (of butternut squash slathered with marshmallows and broiled to a crisp black) notwithstanding, I don't see the holiday table complete without something sweet and orange on it.
A quick scrounge through the fridge prompted us to make some "adjustments" to the actual recipe, but we ended up with a delicious casserole similar in most respects to the guidelines: cubed squash drizzled with a coating of sweet/savory spices and maple syrup. It wasn't until I strolled on down to the wine cellar that I realized that I was in virgin territory from a wine-matching standpoint.
The challenge is this: Although the centerpiece (probably turkey) is among the most wine-friendly foods on the planet, there are apt to be so many different side dishes — along with iterations on stuffing — that by matching one, you almost certainly conflict with another.
So, Rule No. 1 when choosing your Thanksgiving wines: First, do no harm! This is easier than it seems because of Rule No. 2: Accessorize!
In other words, use the wines as optional add-ons rather than main events. Most holiday meals are family affairs, and that means a medium-to-large group at the table. So instead of serving three or six bottles of a single wine, give yourself permission to play. Have one bottle each of several different wines. Realizing that it's fourth and goal, and the range of foods, flavors, seasonings, appetites and wine preferences rushing you means that no single wine will guarantee a score, throw the book at them!
By setting out a range of options, you invite your guests to pour small sampler tastes of several different wines, doing their own mix and match. In order to facilitate this, use small and inexpensive tumblers for wine glasses — you can buy them quite cheaply at most big-box stores.
If you can open at least three bottles of wine, why not do a sparkling wine, a white wine and a red? Great choices abound; I'll delve into the reds next week.
For openers, bubbly. As I'm suggesting a casual approach to this meal, let's save the true Champagnes (actually made in the Champagne region of France) for a later date and look at the inexpensive options made elsewhere.
In the spirit of giving thanks for local products, look no further than the sparkling wines of Domaine Ste. Michelle. These sell for about $10 (sometimes less) and now include a "Frizzante" bottling — lighter and slightly sweeter than the others. My own favorite is the Blanc de Noir, a pale pink wine that brings in nice, tangy berry flavors. Another good domestic choice is the Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico, priced a bit higher at $15.
You can find inexpensive bubbly from all corners of the world, and if you are willing to pay $10 to $15 for a bottle, you'll probably be amazed at the quality. Stick with the Brut (dry) styles, and look for some indication that the wine was fermented in the bottle (Champagne method) — your wine seller will know for sure. French wines labeled Crémant de "somewhere" (Loire, Bourgogne, etc.) are sometimes so close to Champagne as to be twins, yet cost far less.
By all means, have some nonalcoholic bubbles on hand as well, so everyone can share an opening toast. Bubbly is a most accommodating style of wine that will go well with most of the food on the table. These wines have moderate alcohol levels and high acids, which cleanse the palate.
For your dry, white table wines, I'd look first of all to our own dry rieslings, again putting a local spin on your choices. From Oregon, try the Amity Vineyards ($17) or Chehalem Reserve ($21) rieslings. From Washington, there are excellent dry rieslings from Barnard Griffin ($8), Columbia (Small Lot, $14), Hogue ($7), Milbrandt ($13), Pacific Rim ($10), Ste. Michelle ($8), Tildio ($14) and many more.
Often overlooked but truly delicious are the dry chenin blancs from the Loire Valley. Vouvray sec (dry) is available from a wide range of producers, as is Muscadet. Grab the 2006 or 2007 vintages, both offering fresh, nicely detailed wines at modest prices.
Oh, and what about that squash? For any sweet/savory dishes, choose a wine with some residual sugar. As when matching desserts, the wine should be slightly sweeter than the food. I grabbed a bottle of a Pfeffingen Gewürztraminer Spatlëse (10 percent alcohol, 6 percent residual sugar), and it soared against the syrup-soaked squash. Remember — accessorize!
Next week: Thanksgiving reds.
Paul Gregutt is the author of "Washington Wines and Wineries The Essential Guide." His column appears weekly in the Wine section. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
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