What Wine Should I Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner?

Ah yes.  The stress-filled holiday season is upon us.  Turkey day is tomorrow and I, shockingly, have been charged with bringing wine to dinner.  I feel like this happens a lot when you are about 30 years old.  You are old enough to sit at the adults table, and they trust you to bring something like wine, but no one really believes you have mastered the culinary Rubik’s cube that is the green bean casserole.  Wine is something safe that they can delegate to you knowing that even if you blow it, they can probably find a few dusty bottles around the house that will be better than whatever you bought.  It’s a 1 minute fix if you totally suck, as everyone expects you to.

For me, the bar is high.  People know that I love wine and I at least pretend to know a little bit about it.  I commonly get put in charge of vino when it comes to any gathering of people.  I usually love this task because it gives me an opportunity to hear what/why people like the wines that I think are interesting, or more importantly, why they don’t like them.  Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is generally a little more difficult.  First of all, you have the food.  Pairing something that will go as well with turkey as it does with salad and also with sweet potatoes with roasted marshmallows on top is close to impossible.  Second, you have the people.  Aunt Sally only drinks white, Dad only likes Zinfandel, Mom loves terrible $5 Merlot.  There are problems with all of these options.  Third, the issue is quantity.  I am spending my turkey day with my fiancés family.  I certainly would like to dazzle them with some gems from my, “cellar” (AKA box in the closet) but a bottle of wine doesn’t really get you very far when you have 15 people coming to dinner.

So what is the answer?  The short answer is that there is no answer.  At least none that I have worked out.  I don’t really want to stick with one wine and buy 5 bottles of it.  There is absolutely no fun in that.  So the formula I have worked out is this: Just do whatever the hell you want, but use your head.  There are general rules.  One big one is that you can use the measure of about half a bottle per person drinking, and I like to add in an insurance bottle.  If you have 8 drinkers, thats 4+1, so 5 bottles.  Another rule of thumb is given that you are eating turkey but also fat soaked sides, acid is key.  Turkey and Pinot Noir is a classic but I’d tend to lean for a Pinot from Sonoma Coast or Monterey county or a cooler, more coastal region of Santa Barbara.  The acid in these will cut through the butter in the mashed potatoes but still be light enough to have with the brussels sprouts.  I also wouldn’t go past a medium bodied wine.  Cab, Zin, Petite Sirah are all great but they aren’t going to get you a lot of compliments on pairing with Thanksgiving.  Syrah and Grenache are great options for Dad who likes a Zinfandel.  They should have enough body and spice to satisfy him but hopefully wont overwhelm the food.

The name of the game here, as always, is crowd pleasing.  That said, there is an opportunity to change minds.  Bring things that you have tasted and are comfortable with.  Explain to people what you like about it.  Don’t bring that really funky bottle that you have been saving for your friends who love wine.  Bring good quality stuff, but have it be pretty easy drinking.  Also, since people will probably be pretty sauced, you don’t really need to break the bank.  Make sure you know the stuff you are going to open first is the better stuff and wait until later to bring out the $10 bottle that you think is great because this snarky wine blogger called the Sybarite turned you on to it.  I will be bringing a variety of bottles at varying price points.  Some stuff is under $20 and some stuff is over $30 but nothing crazy.  I am not going to buy 5 $50 bottles to bring and serve it to people who drink wine a few times a year or let it get wasted on people who, “don’t drink white.”  Have fun with it.

Pro Tip:  Sparkling Rosé pairs really well with Turkey day food and makes people feel really fancy.  If you are going to splurge, get a good bottle of this and make sure everyone gets a little splash.  The acid will be great with the meal and the fresh, fruity flavors will make your drunk aunt smile.  Ask any good wine store for a good sparkling rosé with a “fine mousse.”  That just means, really tiny bubbles.  You can break that term out at the dinner table also and maybe you will finally impress Grandma.

Oh, and I guess you aren’t supposed to blog without a picture, so here’s a picture of my dog.





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