Just in time for the holiday meal planning, Chef Dave Bodi, sommelier and owner of FERM & fare wine shop and Kelsey Daniels, sommelier and owner of Flights Wine Bar, share their expert knowledge about what pairs well with your turkey and your pies.
- Courtesy Donna Britt
- With so many wines to choose from these days, turn to the local experts for help in choosing a great bottle for your holiday meal.
While there may be no perfect Thanksgiving pairing, perhaps this time of gathering and sharing isn’t about perfection but rather about being together and enjoying each other’s company. With that in mind, these two wine experts suggest choosing wines with your guests in mind. Perhaps you’ll have a few folks who are willing to try something new while others prefer the familiar. Read on for some fine recommendations.
“Thanksgiving foods can easily be overpowered by some of your traditional varieties,” explains Daniels. “For example, Cabernet Sauvignon can easily make your lighter turkey and rolls taste bland and weak in comparison.” White wines like Chardonnay, Rosé and Champagne generally go very well with turkey and the like, but, as Daniels points out, “not everyone likes white, so where do you go from there?”
Chef Bodi has this to say: “Keep the reds light, crisp and bright with minimal tannins.” As he puts it, “The traditional Thanksgiving table doesn’t have dishes that warrant aggressive tannins.” Daniels agrees and chooses two favorite Thanksgiving reds with more red fruit flavors: Beaujolais and Grenache.
Starting with the Beaujolais (the grape is Gamay), she recommends the dry Beaujolais-Village category versus the fruity Beaujolais Nouveau type. Look at the label closely and you’re sure to find a bottle of the drier style that won’t break the bank. If you’re up to spending a bit more, look for a Beaujolais Cru, which will list the name of the village on the label such as “Morgon”, “Fleurie” or “St-Amour.”
Grenache is another Thanksgiving winner for the bigger red wine drinkers according to Daniels. “This red-fruited and earthy variety will still give you a ton of big flavors without totally overwhelming your cranberry sauce,” she says. Daniels suggests you look for bottles from the Southern Rhone region of France, Paso Robles, California and even Southern Oregon.
One of Bodi’s suggestions is Nerello Mascalese. Also known as Etna Rosso, the grape comes from the high slopes of Sicily’s Mt. Etna where it has been dubbed the Pinot Noir of Sicily. He also likes Gamay Noir which originated in Burgundy, France. Oregon is also coming onto the scene with this variety, Bodi says, which is similar to Pinot Noir but with more floral and crisp red fruit notes.
Both sommeliers agree that you want to be careful with oaked wines as they can be overpowering with the typical Thanksgiving dishes. So along with Rosé and Champagne, Bodi also recommends Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, which not only goes well with mashed potatoes and stuffing but also compliments fruit pies. Gruner Veltliner, an Austrian grape variety, is another good choice for the Thanksgiving table. “Its brilliant citrus aromas and herbaceous green flavors allow it to pair beautifully with Brussels sprouts, asparagus and other difficult to pair vegetables,” explains Bodi.
If you’re interested in tasting before you commit, Flights is currently offering both its “Dark Side” and “Light Side” flights geared toward pairing with your Thanksgiving meal. The Dark Side features a festive and rare “Ruby Brut” sparkling red made with 100% Pinot Noir from Argyle Winery in the Willamette Valley. Next up is a Beaujolais from Jean Foillard which is 100% Gamay. Last up is Grenache from Sardinia, Italy. There it is known as Cannonau and its earthy flavors and full bodied texture make it perfect for the bigger red drinkers without overpowering the main course.
For white drinkers the “Light Side” features a Sparkling Cava from Spain, Giró Ribot Masia Parera Cava. Made in the traditional Champagne method but without the price tag. There’s also a Chardonnay from Flaneur in the Willamette Valley. With only 13% new oak it’s nicely balanced and bright. And the final wine in this flight is perfect for pairing with your dessert or for anyone who likes just a touch of sweetness. It’s a fruity Riesling from Ryan Patrick out of Yakima Valley Washington and it will pair with dinner and help stand up to most of your desserts.
At FERM & fare Chef Bodi has selected four of his favorite Thanksgiving wines and rolled them up into a four pack available now. This year’s selections include Alex Foillard 2020 Beaujolais Villages, France; Calabretta NV Cala Cala Rosso, Sicily; Hajszan Neumann 2017 Gruner Veltliner, Nussberg Wein, Austria and Domaine de la Renière 2020 Saumur Blanc “La Cerisaie,” France. You can also stop by the wine shop’s tasting bar to sample and for more recommendations.
Throughout history, wine has been with us. It plays a symbolic role in bringing us together and strengthening our bonds. So whether red or white, dry or sweet, let’s raise those glasses up and give some thanks.
Wine Tips for Thanksgiving-If you prefer a red wine, think light, crisp and bright with low tannins.
-Be careful with oaked wines as the oak and smokiness can overpower turkey and other lighter fare.
-Keep guest tastes in mind when making selections and remember it’s really about the company and camaraderie.