Thanksgiving is the most scrumptious of all holidays,…
mainly because it’s centered around simply sharing time, food, and wine with friends and giving thanks. No fireworks show, eggs or bunnies. No jolly fat man in a red suit. No haunted houses. No roses or boxes of chocolates. Thanksgiving is just friends and family getting together to hang out, eat, and maybe watch a parade and some football. But seriously, it’s time to rethink the central ingredient of your Thanksgiving celebration.
It’s time to change things up. It’s time to slow down, spread the feast over seven or eight hours, and leave the turkey for those guys who burn their houses down trying to deep-fry them. It’s time to enjoy the process at least as much as the result.
It’s time to drink wine. And, it’s time to plan your Thanksgiving menu around what wine you choose to drink...not around what Jell-O mold your mother-in-law decides to bring. So, in that spirit, here are some suggestions for how to build a Thanksgiving meal that you will never forget, one wine at a time.
For budget-conscious readers, all wines are about $20. Just remember, small portions, people. Small portions.
An apéritif is a refresher. It’s a palate cleanser to get you ready for the main event. It’s a slow-down-and-have-a-sip-before-the-craziness type of thing. Some drink Campari. Some choose vermouth, Lillet, or Pernod. Go elegant and unique. Mix a little of your favorite Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine with some fresh strawberry juice. Pour a bit into a fluted glass, add a twist of orange peel, and toast. The festivities have begun.
Sauvignon Blanc & Antipasti
You have to start a feast of this size on the lighter side. A Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley or New Zealand (Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc – $22) will do the trick. It’s light and crisp, heavily acidic and sports herby, grassy and fruity flavors that blend perfectly with grilled ciabatta and slices of fresh mozzarella or brie. Add some salami or prosciutto, roasted nuts, some dried figs and dates and some apple slices, and you have the beginning of the best day ever.
Chardonnay & Crab and Citrus SaladKing Crab Salad with Citrus Fruit – Lidia’s Italy
Enough of this green, leafy, boring salad stuff. How about a crab and citrus salad. It’s different and delicious, and you can make it ahead of time. Relax a bit. Then pop the cork off a California Chardonnay (Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay – $16) and enjoy. The slight oaky quality and very light buttery hint will blend with the crab and make your family wonder why you don’t pair the two together more often.
Pinot Noir & Butternut Squash Soup
You can’t have a holiday meal without a luscious Pinot Noir. Go with an aged Burgundy (five or six years), Willamette Valley or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – $24). And, what is autumn without a solid butternut squash soup? The richness of this soup and the depth of the cilantro pesto blends perfectly with the delicate and smokey nature of a mature Pinot Noir.
Sangiovese & Penne with Brown Butter and Sage
After you’re done with soup, move from the subtle, smokey, and mysterious Pinot Noir to the much more fruity and acidic Sangiovese. By now, you’re probably four or five hours into this feast, and it’s time to get serious. Butter that is cooked in a pan until it turns brown takes on a nutty flavor. When mixed with pasta, black pepper, salt, and a few sage leaves and paired with a Chianti Classico (Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico – $23), this light pasta dish turns holiday-ish in a big way.
Malbec & Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloins
Enough of this turkey nonsense. It takes forever. It’s boring. It puts you to sleep, and you have to load it with gravy. Doesn’t a pepper-crusted, seared and roasted beef tenderloin sound better? Sear those puppies in a cast iron pan, then roast them to 130 degrees of medium-rare loveliness. And, there is no better wine to have with beef than a Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina (Bodega Norton Riserva Malbec – $19). Throw some asparagus on the plate, cooked however you like, and open the wine. The Malbec will be big, robust, and perfect.
Dessert Wine with Dessert
This is the easy one. Riesling or Gewürztraminer, Port or Muscato. Add a sweet wine with your sweets. What dessert do you like? Pumpkin pie? Pecan? French silk? A good Riesling or Gewürztraminer is best for pumpkin pie. Port or Muscato will knock your socks off with anything chocolate (Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port – $19). If you’re bold, go flourless with this chocolate love cake.
Buy the wines listed here:
It may seem like excess, but when it comes to the best holiday in America, don’t skimp.
Enjoy seven wines for seven courses. Get eight or 10 people, pour tasting sample amounts (2-3 ounces), and you’re only talking a combined volume of three drinks per person over several hours.Base your adventures in gastronomy on wines, and drink and eat until you are truly thankful. That, friends, is the difference between eating and dining this Thanksgiving.