No meal on the American culinary calendar captures more attention than Thanksgiving. And deservedly so. It's a celebration, after all, of American bounty.
Wine, of course, adds to that celebration. And since the Thanksgiving meal often includes a wide array of flavors and turkey pairs well with a range of wines, opportunities and options abound.
"A way of removing the angst of deciding what wine to drink with Thanksgiving comes from the sure logic of the realization that almost any wine will pair nicely with one of the dishes on the table," says Tim Free of Mid Valley Wines and Liquor. "Most of these feasts have at least three side dishes, not counting the turkey stuffing. So don't be afraid of drinking your favorite wine with the meal."
Here's to zinfandel
If to you "favorite" means "red," Thanksgiving is the perfect time to fill your glass.
"Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday and turkey is a game bird, so I like big American reds with my feast," says Jim Morrison of Consumer Discount Wines and Liquors in the Dunning Road Plaza, Town of Wallkill. "And nothing says 'born in the USA' like zinfandel."
Morrison says the newly released 2006 Ridge Lytton Springs ($34.99) is "the quintessential zin." He also recommends Robert Biale's 2006 Napa Ranches "blockbuster" ($39.99). If you're looking for something economical, the 2007 Cline Zinfandel ($9.99) "is a steal."
A big pinot noir is another great choice "if you want something a little less punchy and a shade more elegant," Morrison says. His picks include the 2006 Hirsch "M" ($54.99) and the newly released 2007 Castle Rock Willamette ($14.99), "an amazing wine for the money."
Turkey Day, says Morrison, is also a great time for some unusual choices. "The 2006 Brick House Gamay Noir ($29.99) is an earthy full-bodied wine reminiscent of a great Moulin a Vent or Saint-Amour," he says, and Terry Hoage's 2006 Grenache ($47.99) "is a packed monster with loads of flavor and a mile-long finish."
It's the berries
Michael Taiani, a Pine Bush-based wine consultant and owner of Wines by the Glass Enterprises, looks for berry fruit-bombs with blackberries, raspberries, and/or cranberries. Why?
"They just tend to harmonize with turkey meat and all of the fixin's served on this festive day," Taiani says. His picks include the 2005 Pezzi King Sonoma County Zinfandel (about $36) and Rolf Binder Magpie Estate "The Schnell" Grenache/Shiraz blend (about $20).
On the lighter side
Tim Free of Mid Valley Wines and Liquor likes reds on the lighter side with his Thanksgiving dinner.
"Turkey is not hanger steak!" he says. "We consistently choose wines like pinot noir, richer beaujolais, barbera, and the 'other' cabernet — cabernet franc — even chianti," Free says. "These light-medium-intensity red wines won't overwhelm the food or tire your palate, and most of them have the added advantage of flavor compatibility with the slightly gamy, earthy tastes of turkey, mushrooms and potatoes."
Free's first pick is the 2006 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2006 ($17.99/sale price $15.29). "This pinot has a nice balance of fruit and earthiness, and the acidity keeps it balanced and fresh."
From Italy, Free recommends the 2006 Piazzano Chianti "Rio Camerata" ($15.99/sale price $13.99). "If you're thinking that this is a wine to pair with pasta and red sauce, you're right. But in Italy, chiantis are often served with game and mushroom dishes," Free says. "It transforms with turkey, and especially with stuffing that contains some mushrooms."
Free's third pick is the 2006 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly "Domaine Grand Croix" ($14.99/sale price $10.99). "It has a rich, complex aroma with olive hints, and on the palate it has more weight and less acidity than most beaujolais. In fact, it has the perfect body for turkey," Free says.
From Mendoza and New York
Marcus Guiliano, the chef and owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, likes the Familia Mayol, Motuiri Vineyard Malbec from Mendoza. "This is a single-vineyard Malbec and worth the extra few dollars," he says.
In cabernet franc, Guiliano recommends Basha Kill Vineyards Cabernet Franc. "This is one of the best New York cab francs that we have come across," he says. Also from New York, he suggests the Ravines Cellar Meritage, a bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot.
If you're buying for a crowd, Guiliano says the Huntington Petite Sirah from California at less than $10 boasts a "great concentration of fruit" and is "very easy drinking."
An earthy finish
Robin Mailey, owner of the Callicoon Wine Merchant, recommends wines with a "light, fruit-driven palate" and an earthy finish. His favorites with Thanksgiving include the 2006 Paul Granger's Beaujolais Villages "Le Bouteau" ($15); a cru beaujolais such as the 2006 Granger's Moulin a Vent ($21); the 2007 Thevenets Macon "Pierreclos" ($18); and the 2006 Mauro Veglios Dolcetto D'Alba ($18).
Each week, we ask wine and spirits professionals for advice. You don't need to own a shop to join the conversation. Wine and liquor lovers are welcome. E-mail Lisa Ramirez at Lmjramirez@hotmail.com.