There are Plenty of Wines to be Thankful for When Serving a Harvest Dinner
This article originally appeared in the October/November, 2016 issue of Bellingham Alive magazine
The fall and harvest season is upon us, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and big, indoor feasts will soon be the order of the day.
Trying to pull off a near-flawless menu, especially while coping with family and out-of-town guests, can be a thankless task. So you might be happy to know that choosing wines to serve with traditional autumn foods is a relatively easy, practically fool-proof undertaking.
Baked squash, creamy pumpkin soup, sautéed carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, and even turkey and bread stuffing all have one thing in common…they don’t require much more than either a drizzle of butter or a spritz of salt and pepper to make them complete.
Serving these foods – or for that matter, any other foods that aren’t too heavily seasoned or spiced – gives you the luxury of pairing them with a number of different wines. And because there’s a wine to fit every budget, all you have to remember is to provide your guests with plenty of variety. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
START IT OUT LIGHT
Riesling and Gewurztraminer are considered by many to be standard Thanksgiving wine choices, so why not mix things up and start off with a bottle of bubbly or something light as a nice alternative? These wines should pair well with appetizers or can also be served during the early stages of the meal.
From Northeastern Italy, the Bisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco (about $25) is a great opener to have on hand for your harvest dinner. Gentle green pear and apple flavors lead off and then melt into more of a citrus taste-profile that suggests lemon cream. The sparkling wine’s ultra-fine bubbles also give it a near-silky quality and luxurious finish.
For a lighter-style white wine, try the Tall Sage 2015 Chardonnay (about $10) from Washington’s Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards & Winery. It should pair well with your traditional Thanksgiving dinner and it’s priced right for those on a budget.
Rosés are also price-friendly wines that look pretty, taste delicious, and often make excellent food-pairing choices. A couple of suggestions: The Bergevin Lane 2015 Linen Rosé from Walla Walla (about $15) and the Frescobaldi Toscana Alie Rosé (about $18). The Bergevin Lane Rosé displays juicy watermelon and strawberry flavors to start, with edgier rhubarb and a trace of lime zest on a dry finish; while the Frescobaldi Rosé is a bit more understated, with gentle aromas and flavors of field berries followed by a brisk finish that’s highlighted with a splash of kiwi fruit.
THE MIDDLE STANZA
Red wine with white meat? Absolutely! In fact, Pinot Noir may be the quintessential red wine to serve with a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Its light to medium-bodied style and high acid content make it a natural to pair with poultry and allow it to cut through creamy sauces and gravies.
Winemaker Evan Bellingar has done a fine job with his first commercially released vintage, the Bellingar Estates 2014 Oregon Pinot Noir (about $20). It opens with fragrant red cherry aromas and flavors before transitioning into brighter, leaner fruits of raspberry and cranberry and a crisp finish with a touch of earthiness. An added bonus for Oregon Pinot lovers: the highly affordable $20-a-bottle price tag.
Another outstanding and nicely priced Pinot is the Kim Crawford South Island, New Zealand 2014 Pinot Noir (about $19). Lovely star anise on the nose, berry fruit on the mid-palate and tangy, dried cranberry accents make this wine a sensory delight. It also carries a smoky, almost sultry quality, enhanced by the toasted oak finish and an underlying trace of herbaceousness.
If you prefer to stay with white wines, New Zealand has you covered as well, with the Kim Crawford 2015 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (about $18). Bold citrus and lime aromas start you off, with tangy gooseberry and tropical fruit flavors, racy acidity, and crush of green herbs on the finish. A possible food-pairing suggestion: oyster stuffing.
And those who prefer their Chardonnays unoaked should enjoy Oregon’s Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Chardonnay (about $25). Freshly baked brioche aromatics, bright Fuji apple flavors, and a slightly citrusy finish with a hint of lemon chiffon all add up to a delightful wine that should pair well with roasted root vegetables, chicken, goose, or turkey.
There’s also absolutely no reason one can’t serve a more full-bodied red wine such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah with a harvest meal. Just avoid a younger, bolder, and overly tannic red (which might overwhelm the food) and choose something softer, mellower and perhaps a touch on the fruity side and you should be just fine.
The Lobo Hills 2013 Right Bank Blend, Columbia Valley (about $20) is a perfect example of an excellent red wine to have at your Thanksgivingtable. Comprised of 87-percent Merlot and four other Bordeaux region red varietals, it features a tasty array of blackberry, black currant, and cherry fruit along with vanilla bean nuances that are perfectly balanced by a trailing note of gentle acidity.
Also notable is the Ginkgo Forest 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (about $30). Sourced from Washington’s Wahluke Slope region, this Cabernet is drinking beautifully with luscious black cherry and plum flavors that are accentuated with a whisper of smokiness on a plush, velvety finish. It’s a gorgeous red wine that should be served and savored at the latter stages of your meal.