Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Wines

We took four wines on a Thanksgiving test drive at the October food and wine pairing dinner last week at Cooking with Class – an Australian white, an Italian rosé and two southern hemisphere reds. In the end, it was a photo finish as each wine held its own as a pairing contender for Thanksgiving dishes.

As with so many other aspects of wine enjoyment, Thanksgiving wine choices reflect personal tastes and preferences. Do you relish a complementary or contrasting pairing? Would you rather stick with one wine to carry the meal or do you prefer a variety of wines to pair with Thanksgiving’s schizoid sides? What about lighter wines to balance the heft of holiday dishes? Or do you crave savage reds that will wage battle with gustatory gut-busters? 

We began the face-off with the Yalumba 2012 Y Series Viognier, served with Chef Dave Schy’s warm shrimp and mango salad. This medium-bodied charmer has aromas of ginger, lychee and pear with just the right amount of lightness for turkey. On the palate, the wine offers a refreshing burst of spice and pineapple to pair with exotic side dishes, too. Winemaker Louisa Rose knows how to coax goodness from unpredictable Viognier grapes at Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, where she makes Viognier in a variety of styles. The Y series is stainless steel fermented but aged for a few months on its lees. Such aging gives the wine a balanced richness that won’t fatigue your palate, as with Viognier styles that are weighted down by too much oak. Make a toast to Thanksgiving’s roots with a Viognier from Virginia or try another domestic winner from California’s Central Coast tangent winery.

To pair with our next course of butternut squash soup, we served a crisp and zesty rosé made from 100% Barbera grapes grown in the Asti province of Piedmont. As I’ve described before, rosé is a favorite choice to carry a Thanksgiving meal, and this rosé was no exception. Made by an Italian family with Coachella Valley roots, the aptly named Bella Blush is as dangerously delicious as winemaker Lorenzo Lombardelli promised. If you’re stymied by Thanksgiving wine suggestions that seem all over the map, take a short-cut to holiday magic with a dry, red-fruited rosé with crisp, mineral or citrus overtones.

Red wines don’t fare as well with many Thanksgiving dishes, especially tannic reds or those with blowtorch alcohol levels. Instead, we opted for the medium-bodied Neil Ellis 2010 Sincerely Shiraz from South Africa’s Stellenbosch and Darling regions. This is a balanced, lightly oaked wine with dark berry, spice and fruitcake aromas and flavors that do justice to many holiday dishes. And it’s red, for all the whiners at your table who won’t be satisfied with a white or rosé.

We closed the meal with a plummy, full-bodied Malbec from Argentina’s Altocedro winery. The 2012 Año Cero has a captivated nose of lavender and blackberries. Bright on the palate, the wine has weight that’s balanced by a mineral streak and enough acidity to keep the palate refreshed and ready for more. Malbecs have the fruitiness to pair with many Thanksgiving fruit-accented side dishes without the heft or tannins of Cabernet or the earthiness of many old-world standard-bearers.

So there you have it: four very different wines that will bring wine pairing pleasure to your Thanksgiving meal. Join us at Cork & Fork and see how well all four match up to a variety of dishes or try a glass at the bar.

If you want to explore more Thanksgiving wine pairing options, take a look at these earlier posts:

We’ll explore a new group of holiday wine pairings at our November food and wine dinner set for Sunday, November 24 at 6 PM. Make your reservations here or by calling 760.777.1161. See you then!

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