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Two Women on Wine: Wines for a traditional meal

With a variety of foods you need a variety of wines

Posted: November 12, 2010 2:51 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2010 2:51 p.m.
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier

We've always kept things pretty traditional at Thanksgiving - your basic turkey and all the fixings, pumpkin pie, and a good red wine with dinner, usually a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Nouveau. We're going to mix it up a bit this Thanksgiving and serve less traditional but nevertheless terrific wines with our holiday fare.

As we've done in the past, we're adding an elegant, festive note to our Thanksgiving celebration. As guests arrive, we will open some chilled Brut Rosé (pink champagne), place a few cranberries in the bottom of a flute and pour in the bubbly or a refreshing, beautiful Italian sparkling rosé. Crisp and light, sparkling rosés pair well with appetizers, such as prosciutto, goat cheese and fig.

We uncork two or three red wines selected to serve with the main course 15 or 20 minutes before dinner is on the table. Reds, even the lighter ones, need time to breathe.

Speaking of dinner, the "basic" turkey dinner is a tapestry of colors, aromas, flavors and textures: white and dark turkey meat, herb-filled stuffing, savory gravy, spicy pumpkin pie, tart cranberries, sweet yams, and buttery, creamy mashed potatoes.

With such a wonderful meal to share, it seems unfair to expect just one good red wine to complement all that amazing food. That's why we expanded our Thanksgiving wine menu to include the sparkling rosé as well as a few different reds chosen to frame and enhance the menu.

This year rather than the traditional Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Nouveau, we decided to serve a Tempranillo. This is the signature grape of Spain, typically medium bodied with red fruit aromas and flavor. It makes for a perfect pairing with our turkey. Tempranillo is also a wonderful accompaniment to roasted loin of pork or chicken.

Since we will serve a sausage stuffing to accompany our turkey, we'll consider offering guests a California Syrah. This varietal is well known for its blackberry, plum and peppery flavors sometimes with hints of bitter chocolate and mocha. This will definitely be a nice complement to our spicy sausage.

And the final red at our Thanksgiving table will be a Zinfandel. This California varietal brings more personality to the table, with its plumy sometimes spicy flavors. It is more intense than Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. We recommend choosing one that's lower in alcohol (under 14 percent) so its heartier, deeper flavors won't be overwhelming.

So now that we have enjoyed our meal let's not forget dessert. We're still very traditional in this department: pumpkin pie with whipped cream and an occasional apple or pecan pie. Sweet likes sweet, so we suggest a tawny Port to sip with dessert. Fortified with brandy, which gives it a higher sugar and alcohol content (up to 20 percent), Port stands up to our sweet Thanksgiving desserts.

Another favorite of ours to enjoy after dinner is a Brachetto di Aqui. This is a wonderful red sparkling wine from Italy that has a touch of sweetness. You might want to try this very refreshing, delicious wine if you're looking for an alternative to Port. It's a nice treat after a big meal to help digest all the good food you just enjoyed.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules about which wines to serve at Thanksgiving. If you prefer white wines we suggest Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris or Viognier to enjoy with your meal. But if your tastes are similar to ours and red appeals to you, we're happy to share this year's Thanksgiving red wine list to get you started. Happy Thanksgiving!


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