Do you think the Pilgrims fussed over malolactic fermentation, disgorging techniques or terroir when they sat down for their first known Thanksgiving 380 years ago? No, they were happy to have a bird on the table and a roof over their heads at Plymouth.
That’s why when The Wine Police start dictating what you can drink with what dishes next Thursday, it all seems rather trivial. The Pilgrims were thankful for another harvest, and so should wine lovers. Besides, Thanksgiving is such an eclectic meal to begin with, it’s difficult to pair wines with all those sweet, savory, fresh, baked, fruity, starchy, hot, cold, meaty dishes.
One wine does not indeed fit all. Sure, there are a couple of hardand-fast rules like pinot noir with pork, but there are also variations within that such as shiraz, gewürztraminer or even riesling, depending on your preferences with ham or a pork roast. And we can’t forget zinfandel, the most American of grapes. A bottle of this must make it to the table.
You also have a lot of money wrapped up in Thanksgiving. It’s one of the few times each year when your extended family gets together in one location; you’ve bought enough ingredients for a dozen dishes, appetizers and desserts, and you don’t need to go broke on wine. One of the wine world’s great wine bargains hits stores on Thursday, as beaujolais nouveau, the delicious, young gamay-based French wine, is released. These typically cost around $10 a bottle. After you’ve added a couple of these to your basket, look for these other Thanksgiving Day favorites.
• 2004 Trinchero Family Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, $12. This wine is consistently one of California’s most impressive value-focused pinot noirs. Super ripe fruit offers a big, bold experience full of strawberry, wood and earth, even cola flavors. A serious pinot noir at an entry-level price. Turkey, ham, you name it.
• Z-52 2002 Old Vines Zinfandel, Agnes’ Vineyard, $16. I’ve been hearing "Lodi this and Lodi that" for a couple of years but didn’t quite get it. All I knew is that the region was somewhere between Modesto and Sacramento in the heart of California’s breadbasket. I pictured pears and chickens, not great wine grapes. Then I sipped this massive zin. Concentrated blackberry, plum and pepperspice fills your nose and palate. You want to cut it with a knife and fork. It’s rich, lush and speaks to the Golden State’s rich agrarian heritage.
• Thomas Fogarty 2004 Gewurztraminer, Monterey, $17. You can’t discuss Thanksgiving and wines without mentioning gewürztraminer — a holiday favorite. This brand in particular is a standout. I love the zesty, concentrated tropical fruit, flowers and spice that are clean and easy to drink. Acids are wellbalanced, which make it ideal for food. This is a wine to eat, drink and be merry with.
• Murphy-Goode 2002 Reserve Fumé, Sonoma Valley, $17. Rich and satisfying, just like your sister’s stuffing. Fumés generally refer to sauvignon blanc blends, and in this case a healthy dose (29 percent) of musqué clone adds fun and flavorful tangerine impressions to an already great wine full of peach and pear flavors. Some barrel aging adds vanilla and honey touches as well. Sip on its own or as you graze through the meat, cheese and veggie trays.
• Foolish Oak 2002 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $11. The long growing season of eastern Washington benefits this grape — and this wine. Loads of exotic flavors and minerals are pulled from the earth, adding to its complexity. The vintage show classic cab characteristics like ripe blackberry, fresh herbal spice and toasty vanilla. Winemaker Ray McKee did a good job controlling tannins through oak fermentation. Made for beef.
Everything is in place: The family, the bird, the wine. Let us be thankful.