Just as the Plymouth Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians did before us, American at-home cooks gear up this month to prepare for the Thanksgiving Day feast. Whether host or guest, selecting just the right quaffing wine is part of the job.
The wine, whether red or white, must often stand up to an array of savory dishes made from family recipes. With so many possible pairings, I asked flavor experts (aka chefs) what they do when choosing wine for their Thanksgiving Day menu.
Roast turkey stuffed with oyster dressing is the centerpiece of Theory chef Tim Bando's holiday table. With a large family bringing lots of traditional sides to the table, selecting one wine becomes nearly impossible. His bet for pleasing a crowd is to place a white and a red wine on the table and let everyone pour their own. Bando prefers a full-bodied Chardonnay and a good-quality Pinot Noir.
John Kolar of Three Birds says Thanksgiving is all about "family, football and food." His fresh turkey is lovingly served alongside his mother's famous mashed potatoes and Dad's giblet gravy. For a red, Kolar likes the newly released Beaujolais Nouveau, a seasonal light red that's fun and festive. For a white, his family opts for a crisp, German Riesling.
Next to a mug of his mother's hot cider, fire chef/owner Doug Katz's favorite dish is dark-meat turkey with his mom's challah stuffing. The turkey is marinated with lemons, herbs and kosher salt, then slow roasted for five hours. To intensify the gravy, he adds a bit of red wine just before serving. Glasses are filled with either Pinot Noir from Oregon or a weighty Viognier.
Although I don't have the honor of preparing a Thanksgiving feast, I am in charge of bringing the wines. In general, good food and wine pairings can be made by matching the body of the wine with the body of the food. Knowing my family's menu by heart, I've opted for a crisp, Alsatian Gewürztraminer and a Côtes du Rhône from France.
Marianne Frantz, founder of the Cleveland Wine School, is joined by local chefs in selecting varietals for this month's Cellar Notes.
2002 Robert Weil Riesling, Rheingau, Germany ($20): light- to medium-bodied, flavors of apples and pears, crisp acidity
2002 St. Francis Chardonnay, Sonoma, Calif. ($14): full-bodied, flavors of tropical fruit and vanilla
2002 Incognito Viognier, Lodi, Calif. ($18): medium body, intensely perfumed nectarine
2001 Trimbach Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France ($19): fuller-bodied, intense apricot and spice, dry with a bit of peppery flavor
2004 Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, France ($9 estimated): light-bodied, juicy fruit (arrives every third Thursday in November)
2002 Chateau de Pizay Morgon, Beaujolais, France ($13): light-bodied, Grand Cru Beaujolais, more complex
2001 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Ore. ($25): medium-bodied with fruit-forward red berries and smooth tannins
2003 Duck Pond Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Ore. ($13): lighter-bodied, strawberry and raspberry flavors with a crisp finish
2001 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône, France ($14): medium body with cherry, pepper and herbal notes and mouthwatering acidity.