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Thanksgiving and Wine

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By Larry Hanzo

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches we revelers are faced with the familiar quandary--"What to serve with the celebratory dinner?" While there are no quick, easy or definitive answers, there are guidelines that will help make the decision easier.

The before dinner cocktail choice is a natural. Have an appropriately named "Poinsettia." There are numerous recipes but they all usually include a sparkling wine. For this drink, fill a champagne glass half full using a good California or Washington state bubbly. Add a couple of ounces of cranberry juice, a splash of grand Marnier and, if you're adventurous, a shot of vodka. Feel free to adjust the proportions to suit individual tastes.

When we get to the actual dinner we have to decide if we're serving turkey or ham. There are certainly other possibilities but, for simplicity, focus on the two most frequent or traditional selections. At your table there will be variations from what is listed below.

A roasted turkey dinner usually includes: roasted turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and cranberries.

A ham dinner usually includes: ham with glaze, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, broccoli and cranberries.

Before I get to the wine selections, here are a few general guidelines:

1. Drink American - it is, after all, an American holiday.

2. Drink fruity and light rather than heavy and tannic.

3. If you are so inclined, drink sweet, as in Riesling.

With turkey, I personally like California Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley. They're usually fruit forward, complex, soft, and nicely balanced. They pair well with the main attraction and all of the sides except cranberries. (Let's be honest here, there is no wine that goes with cranberries.) Additional turkey dinner wine selections would include Washington state Rieslings and Gewurztraminer, Central Coast California Syrahs or other Rhone blends and older, much less tannic California Cabs and Zins. Remember, big, dry reds do not compliment turkey.

If you are in an adventurous mood, just go for it--throw out all the information you've ever received about food and wine parings, crack open whatever you like to drink and serve that with the turkey. There are enough different flavors in the meal that something just might click.

If you are serving ham, the soft plummy mouth feel of a Pinot Noir or a Merlot matches with the salty nature of the meat. Additionally, that salty taste goes very well when paired with a sweet Riesling. Good red wine and ham pairings include California or Oregon Pinot Noirs, Washington State Merlots and California Syrahs. For whites, go with Oregon Pinot Gris or Washingon Rieslings.

By the way, Thanksgiving is my absolute, most favorite holiday in the whole year. Here's why:

You don't have to dress up in suits or formal dresses.

You don't have to buy a gift.

You don't have to travel somewhere.

You don't have to go to church.

You don’t have to shoot off fireworks.

You don't have to celebrate in a crowd.

You don't have to fire up the grill.

You don't have to wear a silly hat.

You don't have to stay up until midnight.

You just stay at home, eat, drink and watch football.

What a wonderful concept.....

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL......and remember, everyone helps with the dishes!

Larry Hanzo