As we embark upon the holiday season, it’s again necessary to consider the role wine plays in our upcoming celebrations, which will be so much more appreciated now that most travel restrictions have abated. Let’s consider how we can make them as enjoyable as possible.
For Thanksgiving (which happens to be the holiday when most wine is consumed), wine will not only complement the food, but offer a chance to relax and hopefully ease any tensions.
So, if you are hosting, what wine will that be?
If you’re a traditionalist, then the menu revolves around turkey. Most medium- to light-bodied wines will complement the bird and lately I have been enamored with pinot noir. While France still dominates the production of pinot noir in Burgundy, and a favorite is Domaine Des Farondes, California has come a long way in producing great wines. Balletto from the Russian River Valley has demonstrated fine nuances of flavor and would be a great accompaniment to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. If you prefer European, a good Beaujolais from Dubeouf or Chianti from Badia a Coltibuono would serve well.
If your preference leans toward white wine, consider a dry sauvignon blanc such as Ferrari-Carano. If a little sweetness is necessary, a nice Vouvray would suffice. There are even sparkling Vouvrays if that is your pleasure. Keep in mind that Champagne or any sparkling wine goes well with most foods, but your guests may think you are overdoing it. The hot white wine currently is Abariño, a crisp, but delicate Spanish wine now also made surprisingly well in America at the Biltmore winery.
But perhaps you don’t want to go the turkey route. Maybe you prefer beef or are committed to a vegan diet. Roasts or chops demand a strong red such as a cabernet sauvignon from Gamble Family Vineyards or a merlot-based wine like Château Magnol. Vegans need to consider congruent pairings, where, for example, a cashew-based sauce with pasta is paired with an oaked chardonnay such as Ram’s Gate. A complementary pairing would include an unoaked chardonnay for the same dish or a crisp sauvignon blanc from The Paring.
If you are still unsure of the reception your choices will make, why not ask guests to bring their own wine? No one is going to complain about something they brought. However, under no circumstances should you encourage a home winemaker to bring a bottle. It can be a recipe for disaster.
Remember that each bottle contains four to five glasses, so having more is better than not enough. A good idea would be to have a bottle of red and one of white for four people and adjust accordingly for more guests. If these hints are not sufficient to ease your mind, consider having your meal at a restaurant. Many Sarasota venues, like Mattison's, Grove and Michael’s on East, have special Thanksgiving menus and some offer private rooms.
Right after Thanksgiving, the holiday season rolls on with Hannukah, which kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 28. If you're celebrating, consider Yarden Wines from Israel's Golan Heights Winery. Enjoy the season.
Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.