Right around now, people start thinking about which wines to serve with the bird. First, don’t wait until the last minute unless you like lines. The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for wine shops.
You can go in so many directions depending on how you cook your turkey. But to keep things somewhat simple, let’s assume you are a traditionalist and are going to roast the turkey in the oven using the usual seasonings. On my end, I’m going to start with a time-honored Thanksgiving wine: Beaujolais.
It is almost impossible to go wrong with these French wines at this time of year, or other wines made from gamay noir. As yummy as sweet potatoes, cranberries, turkey with gravy and stuffing are on their own, these foods are made all the more delicious when accompanied by a fruity, spicy gamay. Pumpkin too. Actually, all winter squash, but I digress. Here are two to get this list started:
Importer Kermit Lynch has been working with Domaine Dupeuble since the late 1980s, carrying his wines while also relying on his talent to craft wines under the KL label. The 2010 Kermit Lynch Beaujolais ($12) is a youthful, vibrant crowd-pleaser with watermelon, cranberry and a hint of pepper.
On the other side of the Beaujolais/Burgundy border, Maison Trenel (which is based in Beaujolais) makes a terrific Macon Rouge ($15) from gamay. Mellow but not subdued, this gamay rouge brims with spicy strawberry and raspberry fruit underscored by moderate tannins and bright acidity.
Gamay is not the only wine to consider for Thanksgiving. Pinot noir is always a good choice. Eschelon’s 2010 California AVA Pinot ($13) blindsided me — literally, as I tried it in a blind tasting. Spicy with ripe, red cherries, it is balanced and has some length, something that cannot always be said of pinot noirs that are much more expensive.
On the white wine side, chardonnay is a good pairing with turkey. I might shake it up a little, though, and instead try one from France’s Jura region that is made in an oxidized — or as the French would say, “vin jaune” — style.
The 2008 Domaine de Montbourgeau Vin Blancs de L’Etoile is a steal for $20. The wine can stay open for weeks and you don’t need to drink much, as it has a sherrylike quality.
OK, you want California chardonnay? Try the 2010 Terra Savia Chardonnay ($13.50), an unoaked, crisp and fruity wine. This organic producer from Mendocino County has a knack for the grape. The 2009 Terra Savia Reserve Chardonnay ($16) is a richer wine but not necessarily better, just different.
These wines can be found through Bi-Rite Grocery, Canyon Market, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, K&L Wine Merchants, Rainbow Grocery and Weimax.
Pamela Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.