It finally hit me that Thanksgiving happens on a Thursday, so you have three days to lose the weight you put on before having to go back to work. After all, in America "thanks" often is a synonym for "more" -- we love to put the fat-itude in gratitude. And that means we have to pick the right wines to enjoy as we eat our way through more dishes than we generally cook in a month in just one afternoon.
Because of that depth and range of dishes -- from the turkey to the cranberry sauce to the green beans to the sweet potatoes (please hold the marshmallows, at least) -- finding a magic bullet wine is nearly impossible. And that's not even getting to pairing things with the pumpkin or pecan pie. Indeed, it might be best to open up several different wines for the meal's many changing moods. But here are four ways to set a tone for the meal. All four are from California, because Thanksgiving is about America, and what's better about the old U.S. of A. than the Golden State?
A Classy Consecration: Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV
There's nothing more festive than some bubbly, and that people tend to only use it to ring in the new year shows we haven't escaped our Puritan roots. So, if you want to keep with that theme and still give yourself the excuse to have sparkling wine, think of it as the scrubbing bubbles of the palate. It really does work -- one reason it's often paired with cheeses rich in butterfat is it helps you have more. And since more is what Thanksgiving is all about, so you can be even more grateful, of course, this wine is a great choice. For years the northern California Roederer Estate, originally founded by esteemed French, that is real champagne house Louis Roederer, has been considered one of the U.S.'s best sparkling wines (people use terms like "thickly moussed" to describe it) especially for the price (about $20 a bottle).
Celebrating America's Differences: Foxen 2012 Chenin Blanc
Too many people do this boring math: turkey = chicken = white wine = chardonnay (further evidence our country's math skills are declining). But you know America, and white wine, is more diverse than that. Enter Chenin Blanc, which in the U.S. is often a blending wine, but Foxen in Santa Barbara has access to some wonderful old-vine grapes from the Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard that lead to a beautiful wine that has enough acid to fight all the fat of the foods, but runs a taste gamut from apple to lemon. If you want to learn what it means when people call a wine "minerally," try this Chenin Blanc -- in a way similar to the sparkling, it works as a fine palate cleanser that helps you dive in for more. Especially since you didn't even have room for Aunt Edna's stuffing on your first plate.
Tooting America's Food and Music Horn: Longoria 2011 Blues Cuvée
One of Santa Barbara County's elder statesmen at this point, winemaker Rick Longoria loves the blues and wine, so has been making this blend honoring both since 1993, featuring striking musician paintings on the label. This vintage is predominately Cabernet Franc, another grape people don't know well enough. Think of it as Cabernet Sauvignon's more approachable cousin, and you can probably see how roasted meats and gravies might get along with deep fruit that isn't fiercely tannic. Longoria suggests the wine tastes of "blueberry, boysenberry, and a hint of green olive," and that will sing a happy duet with the fully larded table, stressing how music and food and wine are three of the things we most have to be grateful for.
Go Big, You've Gone Home: Turley 2010 Zinfandel Ueberroth Vineyard
Zin rhymes with sin for a reason, as it tastes so huge you assume that you've done something very wrong to deserve it. If you want something to match the muchness of Thanksgiving dinner, have this Turley from Paso Robles vines so old, they could have shaken hands/tendrils with John C. Frémont. At 15.8% alcohol, the wine will also help you get a head start on your post feast nap. It's still surprisingly balanced, without any of the back of the throat alcohol spank you get from poorly constructed strong wines. So, like the America of our dreams, it hides its power in a velvet glove. Even better, that 1885 vineyard is now owned by Peter Ueberroth, so drinking it is like kicking Olympic ass once again.