Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk
Aspen Times Weekly
Is there a better holiday than Thanksgiving for wine lovers?
The whole set-up, the prodigious food, the celebratory spirit, the gathering of friends and family, all combine to make it prime time for drinking good wine.
So, what to drink?
The answer depends on how many people you are having to dinner, what your budget is, what you are planning to serve and, of course, what wines you like.
Begin with the number of guests. The one sin you want to avoid is running out of wine. Nothing dims the day quicker than an empty glass just as Aunt Sally wants to toast Uncle George. So figure on buying at least one bottle per person. Not everyone will drink that much but you will be covered, unburdened by worry and blessed with good wine to drink with the leftovers.
Budget is a concern these days. If you have an unlimited one, then buy the best Burgundy and Champagne you can find and figure on two bottles per person. Hey, you can’t take it with you and, if you are so endowed, this is the time to share with friends.
If, however, you are amongst the other 99.99999% of the population, put a limit on your spending. It is very possible to drink well for less than, say, $25 per bottle.
Next, consider your menu. Thanksgiving is a bountiful feast full of robust and divergent flavors. The key is to serve wines that are versatile enough to complement a wide range of dishes without overpowering any of them. You should pour both a red and a white in consideration of your guests who may have specific preferences.
The wines should have some acidity, reasonable to low alcohol levels, and should not be too heavily oaked. You want wines that go down easy with a big heavy meal, something that does not compete with the dinner, but rather helps to lubricate both the palate and the conversation.
And then, most importantly, consider what it is you like. If you have wines that you love, even if they don’t fit the description outlined above, by all means share them. Tell their stories; let your guests enjoy the wines you like best. You are, after all, the host.
Now break the day down into four parts: the arrival of your guests, the celebratory beginning of the blessed event, the middle of the meal and a little something for dessert.
OK, it’s mid-afternoon, the bird is in the oven, and the unbeaten (as of this writing) Tennessee Titans are playing the winless (as of this writing) Detroit Lions in an unprecedented Turkey Day pairing.
Greet your guests with a brand spanking new, Georges Duboeuf Beuajoalais Nouveau 2008. The wines were just released this past Thursday and they are fresh and fruity and light. You should be able to find it at our local wine shops for around $15 a bottle.
Next up: Bubbles. Made in New Mexico using the traditional Methode Champenois, the Gruet Blanc de Noir NV is an exceptional value at less than $15 a bottle. The lovely salmon tint with ethereal bubbles floating to the top make this wine as much a joy to look at as it is to taste.
For dinner, I recommend a Pinot Noir from California and a Riesling from New York for a coast-to-coast celebration. While pinots are an indulgence for both the palate and the pocketbook, there are some bargains to be found. Indeed, $24 a bottle may seem a high price to pay, but the DeLoach Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 will drink like a bargain. Lush, lightly toasty, and full of fruit, this is a red wine that can’t help but enhance anything you serve it with.
Bookend the table with a Dr. Frank Dry Riesling 2007. This charmer from a third-generation winemaking family in New York’s Finger Lakes region will be a crisp, clean complement to the white meat of your turkey, as well as any fruit dishes that you might serve.
When it is pie time, the choice for me will be the 2006 Essencia. This dessert wine from the Quady winery is made from 100 percent Orange Muscat grapes. It is sweet and orange-y and brings out the spice in a pie. It also is great with chocolate. For a about $20 a bottle this is a treat at the end of the meal.
Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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