Perhaps no holiday can seem as traditional as Thanksgiving. It's easy to feel as if the proscribed menu leaves its deep rings on us just like the ones on the canned cranberry sauce Aunt Emmaline plops out into an heirloom dish each year. So while it's not my place to suggest you shake up your meal, I can certainly offer you a bunch of out-of-the-box options for potent potables. You don't have to fall back on chardonnay as the only white wine to go with a bird (although many certainly do), or pinot noir as the only red (ibid), or worse yet, fall for the marketing scam that is Beaujolais Nouveau.
After all, one of the trickiest parts of pairing with Thanksgiving is the cornucopia of the groaning board -- you've got a roast meat drowned in unctuous gravy; sweet yams accented with baking spices; green beans hopefully aren't cooked to mush; perhaps Brussels sprouts; and then cranberry sauce all tart and tangy. Each one of these dishes might call for its own pairing -- okay, nothing goes with Brussel sprouts -- but let's have some fun.
Don't hesitate to open a lot of bottles, it's a celebration of largess. And no one knows for sure what was drunk at the first Thanksgiving so don't worry about historical accuracy. Enjoy -- the worst that can happen is you end up too hungover to shop on Black Friday. Oh wait, that's the best that can happen.
2014 Habit Wine Grüner Veltliner
Winemaker Jeff Fischer (you might also know his voice from American Dad and elsewhere) has this Austrian white varietal down. Traditionally steely and known for its acidity and minerality, which, of course, makes it a great food wine, his Grüner has got the usual apple flavors, but are cut with just enough lime, pepper, and wildflowers. As a very seamless and smooth wine, it can start as your aperitif and take you right though a vegetable-dominated dinner.
2012 Arnot-Roberts Trousseau North Coast
Why not go for a grape practically no one has tasted? Wine as a conversation starter is never a bad thing. Trousseau is a red grape originating in the Jura region of France. Winemakers Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts found a few acres of it up near Clear Lake and soon had a cult favorite. It's pale, but it also has a surprising tannic bite. It's lively and refreshing -- exactly what a feast needs -- and best of all, one of the dominant fruit characteristics is cranberry.
2012 The Bubble Shack Sibling Bubblery Sparkling Grenache
Given the family nature of the holiday, it's too hard to pass this one up. The Bubble Shack is an off-shoot of Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard, a collaboration between siblings Eli Parker and Ashley Parker Snider. This festive sparkling wine gets matched by a bit of novelty here -- few make a bubbly from Grenache. So this has a bit more heft than some, and certainly more color, enough to keep Uncle Ned from making lame wise-cracks about not wanting to drink a frou frou wine.
Russian River Brewing Company Temptation
And why not an ale for Thanksgiving? This one might even please the chardonnay-craver at the table, as it's a sour blonde made with special yeasts and aged in oak barrels used for chardonnay. Then there's the addition of the bacteria brettanomyces that a brewer considers funky fun. As a Belgian style, you get both a grape-y characteristic and some bread-y yeast. It's a good first sour beer to sip, as it's more tart than puckering. It will certainly refresh the palate with each sip. And, after all, surrendering to temptation is what Thanksgiving is all about.