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Thanksgiving Wine Picks From The Pros

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Just as your Thanksgiving dinner is only as good as the guests who show up -- "and who invited crazy cousin Carl? "-- a round-up of wine suggestions for the big day is only as good as the people making them. So you're in great hands here, folks, as you shall see. To give our experts a bit of a twist, I asked what their pick would taste best and worst with, since matching the full groaning board of T-Day delights is near impossible (especially as long as people insist putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes. Please note that modifier in the name and then stop).

George Cossette, owner/manager, Silverlake Wine
Pick: Rhythm "Midnight Companion" Lagrein Santa Clara Valley 2013 California

I am proud to say my Thanksgiving wine this year will be Midnight Companion Lagrein 2013, the premier release from Jasper Dickson's Rhythm Wine Company. Lagrein is a grape that is extremely rare in California and limited mostly to Italy's Alto Adige region. What I like about it is its intense, black fruit flavors (think blackberries and boysenberries) and savory notes, that will cut through the richness of the traditional Thanksgiving fare. It's distinctive without being overpowering. Not syrupy or tannic. Ideally you should decant it for an hour or so and serve it a few degrees below room temperature. I would apply that advice to any wine you serve on Thanksgiving. This is always the warmest meal of the year, served to a full house that has been overheated by the stove and oven, blazing away for hours. A warm red wine will not taste nearly as good as one with a slight chill. I didn't offer a specific pairing but if one were to do a duck or goose instead of turkey, that would be a great match. Cheers!

Caroline Styne, co-owner and wine director of Lucques, a.o.c., Tavern, The Larder
Picks: white: 2013 Matthiasson, Chardonnay, Linda Vista Vineyard, Napa Valley
red: 2011 Kitá, Pinot Noir, Hillard Bruce Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills

The Matthiasson is a really well made chardonnay that has great structure and beautiful acidity. Its fruit component works extremely well with turkey itself, highlighting the sweetness of the meat while also cutting through the richness of all of the traditional accompaniments. The Kitá is from the only Native American owned winery in America, which is strikingly appropriate for the occasion. But aside from this, it is a really outstanding pinot noir. It shows deep red and black fruit notes and gorgeous aromatic spices in the background. The wine will work so well with sweet potatoes and any kind of stuffing as well as starters like rich soups or salads with persimmons or pomegranates.

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Margo Tyler, Wine Director and Chef/Owner Suzanne Tracht, Jar
Pick: 2012 Villa Creek Avenger (60% syrah, 30% mourvèdre, 10% Grenache), James Berry and Luna Matta Vineyards, Paso Robles

Blue and black brûléed berries in a butter crust, violets, curing spices (ginger, coriander, cinnamon, and clove), wet earth, minerals, and black tea with a velvety mouth-feel. Some items below from Jar's Thanksgiving menu would be perfect with Avenger: Chestnut chick pea soup, roasted turkey, corn bread turkey sausage stuffing, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato au gratin gruyere, Reggiano.

The Avenger is a California Rhone blend. It's dark and brooding but velvety; it's like the wine gives you a hug. It would pair well with traditional Thanksgiving meat -- turkey and ham, as well as dishes rich in cream, either in mashed potatoes or an au gratin dish. It also goes well with stuffing especially if there is a sausage base and would bring out the flavor of any style of gravy. But the wine will not play well with marshmallows or star anise as the sweet richness of the combination might be too overwhelming and destroy the good experience. Then the hug might turn into one unwanted like that of a creepy uncle. (This wine is not available in retail stores; only winery direct to order.)

Bob Wesley, The Winehound
Pick: a not-too-lean pinot noir

I tend to favor riper pinots, but the In Pursuit of Balance movement is lessening the number of choices, dammit. There are still many in the market, though. Sta. Rita Hills is a good appellation to choose from for a more forward style. Because of the sweetness level of side dishes like candied yams topped with marshmallows, and Aunt Beatrice's Cranberry Jello mold, it's best to have a fleshier, juicy, less austere pinot. An ugly apocalypse may well occur on the palate otherwise. And, fortunately, pinot won't bulldoze the turkey or stuffing, either. As an avowed low carb guy, I consume stuffing only once a year, but I adore the flexibility of it: Sausage, apple and pear may not work well year round as a trio, but slap some sage and diced bread in the mix, jam it in the bird, and you've got some good eatin'.

[Wesley also warns even pinot doesn't work with everything.] Canned anchovies with capers, which, for some reason, our family was always forced to endure as an amuse bouche during the holiday.

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