DCWAF Sommelier, Brooklyn Bain's Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Recommendations
With Thanksgiving approaching, it's time to look at versatile wines with pairing options and tastebuds! If your family is anything like mine, there will be many palates and preferences. It's hard to please everyone, but this list to build a mixed case will help get you there. There is something for everyone: comfortable and familiar, adventurous and nerdy, and classic pairings. Domestic and international, all at a variety of price points.
Chardonnay is a must. I know Chardonnay can be a polarizing wine, but it can also be chameleon-like. Look for one with moderate oak usage, which lends itself to many tastes and food pairings. I think the entire DCWAF staff would agree that Alpha Omega Napa Valley Chardonnay is hard to beat. It presents aromas of McIntosh apples and starfruit, accented by notes of toasted coconut, nutmeg, and crème brûlée, with a soft, rich, and balanced palate leading to a long, flavorful finish.
Rosé is for every season. Especially in the South, where it could be winter on Monday and summer on Friday. Provence, France is synonymous with rosé and Bandol is the crème de la crème of Provence. You really can’t get much better quality than the Bandol Tempier Rosé which offers a unique blend of complexity and freshness. It has a fine structure, with no tannin.
‘Tis the season for Gamay! Gamay has low tannins and refreshing acidity, making it an ideal red wine partner with most foods. While Beaujolais may be most known for it’s simple and fruity “Nouveau” style, they make some very serious and delightful wines from each of their 10 “crus.” One of the unofficial "gang of four," trailblazing producers of Beaujolais, the Marcel Lapierre Morgon is a muscular Gamay oozing with flavors of sappy blackberries, tart red fruit, and crushed stones—powerful yet balanced.
Comfortable & Familiar
The Barnett Vineyards Tina Marie is fragrant upon popping the cork. This beautiful ruby red, incredibly aromatic wine is immediate with pomegranate, white chocolate, and black pepper. While it is on the more decadent side for Pinot Noir, it has excellent acidity on the finish to balance it off.
The “Red Blend” category of wine has taken off and remained trending for a while now and with good reason. Blending grape varietals adds an extra layer of control for the winemaker. Think about it like adding spices to your pantry – the more you have, the more creative you can be! On the bolder side of red blends, the Epoch Estate Blend is asking for a holiday meal. Starting with a traditional Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre blend, adding a little lagniappe of Tempranillo and other varietals, this wine starts off with savory roasted meats and herbs and opens up to reveal juicy black cherry, black licorice, vanilla, and violets as it first flows across the palate.
The first rule of food and wine pairing is to drink what you like and eat what you like. No matter if it's the "perfect pairing," if it's something your taste buds simply don't like, you'll never really care for it. While Cabernet Sauvignon is not a typical pairing for most Thanksgiving foods, I know many people who strongly prefer these wines to anything else. Now, if you're going to go big, you should do it right. The Jarvis Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is their flagship wine with a minimum of 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels and is only released after nearly five years of aging in perfect cave conditions. A wine of superior balance, it is incredibly versatile for food pairings.
Adventurous & Nerdy
The Lang & Reed Mendocino Chenin Blanc is a new release from the winery and a must-have for any and every occasion. It is a bright, mouthwatering, and refreshing wine, exuding confidence and personality from start to finish. If you typically lean towards Sauvignon Blanc, this will be a fun one for you to try!
At Clos Solène in Paso Robles, they make a wine called “Hommage Blanc.” This white Rhône blend is lovely on its own: Crisp, very balanced, a great length, and a stunning complexity of aromas. Often said, it is a white wine for red drinkers—full-bodied with bright acidity, inspired by the whites of the winemaker's childhood vineyards. 80% Roussanne,16% Viognier, 4% Grenache Blanc.
If you ask any sommelier about the most underrated wine regions, I guarantee you Sicily is a hot topic. We love championing wines that over deliver, and this Sicilian white wine is no exception. The Feudo Montoni Grillo. The nose has notes of white peach and orange blossom. On the palate, it is fresh, persistent and has a remarkable acidity that is well-balanced with a long and soft finish.
Medium-bodied and very approachable, the Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso is a fresh, aromatic, charming wine with a Piedmontese character—expressive, continuous, and delicate red cherry and spice aromas. Paolo Scavino is an iconic Italian producer, and this entry-level red will surely surprise you.
Last but not least, you must remember the bubbles! Sparkling wine is not just for celebrations; it should be enjoyed every day! It's the perfect thing to open and sip on while you're finishing up in the kitchen or to enjoy throughout your meal. Bubbles go with everything.
For traditional method sparkling wine, I am still dreaming about the delicious 2019 Phifer Pavitt DATE NIGHT Blanc de Noirs Sparkling we had at the Harvest Wine & Food Festival. Blanc de Noirs literally translates to "White from Black," meaning the winery uses red grapes in the production to make this white sparkling wine! Phifer Pavitt uses a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for this traditional grapes used in Champagne. This wine is vibrant, bright, and energetic, filled with rich créme brulée and citrus zest flavors. This expressive glass of bubbles has enough personality to stand alone or offer a beautiful compliment to an array of dishes. (Fun Fact: Sparkling wine is only called "Champagne" if it comes from the Champagne region in France. Otherwise, it is just called sparkling wine or may have its own style name. IE Prosecco and Cava)
For something equally delicious but less effervescent and at a slightly more family-friendly price point, don't forget the Lambrusco. Okay, okay. Before you stop reading, hear me out. Not all Lambrusco is sweet! It's not all the Riunite of the 70's! A very affordable, approachable, goes-with-everything sipper is the Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Lambrusco. It's slightly fizzy and tastes like biting into a fresh strawberry. Just trust me on this one!
If you're anything like me, it's hard to narrow down your favorites, but hopefully, this will guide you in the right direction.
Published on Monday, November 13, 2023