Talking Turkey about Wine

Selecting the Right Bottle for Your Thanksgiving Table

Kent Rosenblum

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which seems strange since as I write this, Kathy and I are picnicking on a secluded beach in Northern Oahu, enjoying a huge plate of local shrimp cooked in butter and garlic (which, by the way, pairs perfectly with Rosenblum Kathy’s Cuvee Viognier).
    Selecting the right wine for the Thanksgiving table is no easy task. One that I have really enjoyed with turkey is Pinot Gris from Oregon. (King Estate and Archery Summit are good ones.) A crisp, lightly oaked Chardonnay from Australia or New Zealand can also be quite complementary. Lighter red wines such as Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley or Santa Rita Hills work well, as do Mouvedre and Southern Rhône blends.
    But before you choose the wine, you must prepare the turkey. I love a great turkey, and I know farmers wish there were more opportunities for us to gobble up this delicious bird. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with one, so let’s make it spectacular. There are lots of ways to prepare a turkey: roast it in the oven, cook it on the Weber with some wood chips, boil it in oil or do a long cold smoke with a brined bird. They all have some advantages in terms of flavor and texture, but the bottom line is to keep the meat moist. I usually like to take it off the grill around 160 degrees rather than the recommended 180. Then, I cover it with foil as it continues to cook, which generally keeps the turkey moist. Create a gravy that reflects your cooking style, and you’ve got the basics for a great meal.
    There are, of course, other possible choices for the table’s centerpiece, such as prime rib, baked ham, fresh Dungeness crab, vegetarian lasagna and many possible wine combos. We’ve often enjoyed slow cooking a prime rib on the barbie using an applewood smoke. This goes much better with a rich red wine, and with Thanksgiving being a unique American holiday, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a unique American varietal such as a rich, fruit-driven Zinfandel or a spicy, peppery Petite Syrah. Yours truly has quite a few choices of either one, but some good names to look for in a Zinfandel are Biale, Seghesio, Green & Red, XYZin, Ridge and Hartford Court. Petite Syrahs are a little more limited in terms of total producers, but some good ones are Stags’ Leap, Concannon, Foppiano and for a great bargain, Bogle.
    Experimenting with the turkey leftovers is the part of the experience that, in my mind, is often more fun and creative than the big get together with aunt Flossie and the relatives. If you’re turning your leftovers into turkey curry, try pairing the dish with an Alsatian Gewürztraminer. If turkey chili’s your dish of choice, try a California Syrah with the meal. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc goes well with a turkey sandwich and a fruity Sangiovese is the wine to serve with turkey enchiladas. Turkey Tetrazzini should be paired with a nice Chardonnay from a cool climate like Sonoma or Mendocino.
    Whatever your Thanksgiving plans, just remember to toast when you roast. 

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