Besides preparing my favorite dishes, I absolutely love wine pairing. This year, however, I will not be shopping for Thanksgiving wines. Thanks to numerous winery visits, too many wine club memberships, and an excessive wine buying habit, my wine cellar is overflowing. So my challenge is to pick a few bottles from my collection for the big meal:
|Thanksgiving wine pairings - Cava, Riesling, Grenache, Burgundy|
NV Castell d'Or Cava Flama d'Or Imperial Brut
OK, this is an easy one. You can't go wrong with sparkling wines. They go with everything; as an aperitif with cheese and crackers, a complement to the roast bird itself, or even a digestif with pumpkin pie. In addition, you could concoct all kinds of cocktails - a splash of orange juice, a splash of Campari, and/or a splash of St Germaine. It is like a party in a flute.
I love to indulge in a good grower's champagne or one from a high quality champagne house, like Veuve Clicquot and Möet et Chandon. I love the dry taste of dough and fruit, the weightlessness brought on by a million bubbles.
However, there are many budget-friendly options: like a Crémant or a Cava. Both are sparkling wines made the same way a Champagne is made, but outside of Champagne: in France and Spain respectively. Known as method champenoise, these sparkling wines go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is accomplished by adding a mixture of sugar and yeast, called the liqueur de tirage, to the still wine. This secondary fermentation creates the bubbles in the sparkling wine as carbon dioxide is released.
While I am out of Champagne right now, I do have a couple bottles of NV Castell d'Or Cava Flama d'Or Imperial Brut. The sparkling wine is made of a blend of Spanish grape varietals - Xarel·lo, Macaque, and Parellada. It is probably my favorite budget-friendly Cava, and it will be a great way to start the celebration.
2013 Brady Cellars Grenache
If you prefer a red for Thanksgiving, Grenache is an excellent choice. It is medium-bodied, fruity, and vibrant; a great accompaniment to turkey, ham, and all kinds of Thanksgiving sides.
Old world Grenache-based wines, like Chateauneuf du Pape and Priorat, have a smokey and earthy profile that make great pairings for dishes that are spiced with sage, rosemary, and thyme. New world Grenache is even more fruit-forward and can be very aromatic and easy to drink.
My pick for the meal is the first vintage of Grenache by Brady Cellars. A relatively young winery that has been focusing mostly on Bordeaux grapes, Brady took a stab at making Grenache in 2013 both as a rosé and a red. Both were wildly popular. The red won him a gold medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Very shortly, they were all sold out. I'm lucky to have a bottle of the 2013 Grenache left. Unfortunately, he didn't make a 2014 vintage. But his 2015 vintage Grenache is really promising based on last month's barrel tasting.
The 2013 Grenache is extremely aromatic, floral, and delivers delightfully on the palate. The blend of fruit and spice is elegant. It is going to be perfect with the meal.
2008 Joseph Drouhin Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Damodes
The other red that is often selected for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir. It is often the no-brainer pairing. Like Grenache, Pinot Noir is often medium-bodied, very aromatic and vibrant with fruit, spice, and earth. A good Pinot Noir also offers a bright acidity that increases its aging potential.
Famous Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy, where the wines are prized for their elegant and complex expression of the terroir. This is particularly important because Pinot Noir is a finicky varietal. It thrives where there is the perfect combination of climate, soil, and topography. Even within Burgundy, you can absolutely taste the subtle differences in the wines from the different subregions.
There are also good Pinot Noirs from the new world, such as New Zealand and the United States. In fact, Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon is often regarded as a nod to Burgundy in terms of acidity and flavor profile.
The pick for the meal is the 2008 Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru from Joseph Drouhin. The Les Damodes vineyard is located near Vosnes-Romanee with an east exposure. With a mix of clay and limestone in the soil, this is a promising wine of great finesse, befitting the special occasion.
2010 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling 'Rotlay'
Riesling is the Thanksgiving meal's best friend. The high acidity and minerality of a dry Riesling pairs well with turkey and refreshes the palate as it cuts through the rich gravy. A sweeter Riesling is perfect with pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream.
Known as the noble grape from Germany, the best Rieslings come from the Rhein and Mosel regions. As one might expect, the Germans have a very organized way of classifying Riesling to help consumers, but sometimes confuse them instead. One of the classifications is based on the increasing ripeness of grapes during harvest; from Kabinett (or cabinet) to Spätlese, Auslese, and all the way to Eiswein (or ice wine). The riper the grapes during harvest, the more sugar will be in the juice.
Unlike many cheap sweet wines, a good German Riesling is complex, with delicious minerality and bright acidity. You can also find wonderful Rieslings in Austria and in the United States, particularly Washington state.
This year, I'm picking the Rotlay from Selbach-Oster for dessert. A wonderful producer, Selbach-Oster defies the traditional practice by combining grapes of varying ripeness levels from the Rotlay parcel into a single wine. As a result, this Riesling cannot be classified although it is closest to an Auslese. A few notches below the Eiswein in terms of sweetness, the Rotlay contains just enough sugar to please the palate and make for a delightful finale.
My Verdict: These are the picks from my cellar. I have updated the notes after opening all of them up. What are your picks? Ultimately, the best wines are the ones you enjoy with people you love. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!