What’s not to love about a day that is focused on eating, drinking and enjoying the bounty of Fall? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to open up a variety of wines that can be drunk throughout the afternoon, as well as pair with a lengthy dinner. Here are picks from our wine guru Nathan Adams that you can taste at Persephone or Picnic in preparation for the big day.
Full disclosure — I favor wines that are made naturally and practice sustainable farming (organic, biodynamic, etc.) and that have no, or very limited, additions made in the winery. These wines will usually have lower sugar, lower alcohol, lower tannins and (often) higher acid, making them excellent to drink throughout a (long) day of noshing.
To kick things off, I always have ample bottles of bubbles around at times of celebration. Here, I would look to something lower in alcohol like a Pétillant Naturel (aka. Pet-Nat), which are perfect to drink before noon and onwards, prepping your palate while you inevitably wait for the turkey. At Persephone, we have two of these naturally sparkling wines that are made in the Ancestrale style. I recommend Pascal Pibaleau “La Perlette” a Pet Nat Rosé which is made from Grolleau in the Loire Valley, or Podere Il Saliceto’s “Falistra” from Lambrusco Di Sorbara.
I am also a firm believer in Rosé as a year-round wine. While many associate Rosé with Summer (due to its close ties with the Côte d’Azur and, of course, it is easy drinking on a hot day), it’s also a fabulous wine to carry you into pairings for the Fall and Winter. Turkey with cranberry sauce meet Rosé, a match made in heaven. At Picnic, you’ll find Skinner Rosé made from Mourvédre and Grenache from El Dorado County in California (by former JH resident, Chris Pittenger), or Donkey & Goat’s “Isabel’s Cuvée” Rosé, made from Grenache, also from California. At Persephone, we have several options, but for a gathering of friends, I would opt for a magnum of Commanderie de Peyrassol’s Rosé from Côtes de Provence, in Southern France (where I write to you from currently).
You’ll need a white wine and I find a well made Chardonnay is always a hit, even with those who do not fancy themselves a Chardonnay drinker (or, of course, to please your Aunt Myrtle who takes it over ice). Unfortunately, so many Chardonnays today (especially from California) have been over-ripened, which translates to a high alcohol wine with low acid. Many mass-produced Chards have also likely spent time in new oak barrels, thus lacking many of the qualities that make the good ones so perfect to pair with food. Luckily, Steve Matthiasson can convert even the most jaded Chardonnay hater. At Persephone, we sell Matthiasson Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay, which would be a perfect wine to enjoy as an apéritif, to pair with appetizers, and on through the main event. We also carry his other label Tendu at Picnic. Tenduis a light white wine made from Vermentino from Yolo County, CA that has the added benefit of coming in 1 Liter bottles. This wine is versatile with a variety of food and has notes of lemon, crisp pears and a clean mineral laden finish that would be refreshing with even the driest of turkeys. At Picnic, also check out Dirty and Rowdy “Familiar Blanc” — a mélange of Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Melon, Roussanne and Viognier (a kitchen sink of California wine in a bottle) — and two other great Thanksgiving wines, a Pinot Blanc from Au Bon Climat and Broc Cellars “Love” which is primarily Marsanne, with Roussanne and Viognier blended in smaller amounts (a classic white Rhône blend).
For red wines, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from bottles with strong shoulders — i.e. skip the Bordeaux style bottles that typically house Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot and similar styles of wine. As you may see in the theme of this post, I tend to favor lower alcohol and less extracted wines, especially during daylight hours and when pairing them with a meal so varied as Thanksgiving. I am a huge fan of Gamay for that reason; it is a grape that falls in the shadow of Pinot Noir, grown just up the road in Burgundy, and offers exceptional value as a result. There is also some fantastic Gamay being grown (in small amounts) in the US. We are lucky enough to carry one of the finest from the States at Picnic, RPM Gamay Noir, which we currently have in both 750ml and 1.5L magnums. At Picnic, we also have a Valdiguié from Broc Cellars in California. Sarah and Chris Pittenger (of Skinner Vineyards, listed above) have their own label called Gros Ventre Cellars that makes several of the best California Pinot Noirs I have tasted, including Gros Ventre Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot which we carry at Persephone (and available at Bin22). Should you prefer something slightly heavier or with a bit more body, I would look to California or the Rhône valley, for Grenache, Syrah, and/or Mourvèdre. At Picnic, we have a beautiful Mourvèdre from California by Dirty and Rowdy, called “Familiar” Mourvèdre. At Persephone, we have a Côtes du Rhône of 100% Grenache from Domaine La Manarine in France which is hearty enough to satisfy a ‘bigger’ wine lover, while not blowing out their palate before they taste everything you worked so hard to prepare.
Hopefully you’ve saved room for the best part of the Thanksgiving meal — PIE of course! I love Madeira or Amontillado Sherry with Pumpkin and Pecan Pie. My favorite Madeiras are from the Rare Wine Company’s Historic Series. I recommend the Boston Bual Special Reserve Madeira which has a deep color and rich mouthfeel, but with a strong acidity which keeps it from being overly sweet on the palate, as some dessert wines can be. You will get a nutty maple syrup note, along with baking spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg) and orange rind, making it a perfect match for the fall flavors in our signature pies.
For our classic Caramel Apple pie, I go to a white dessert wine. For those who like a lighter style wine, Moscato d’Asti would be a nice pairing or you could also go with a demi-sec wine from Chenin Blanc made in the Loire Valley (e.g. Vouvray, my favorites are from Domaine Huet). Alternatively, if you prefer to bring out the toasted flavors of the pie crust and more of the baking spice, look again to a Sherry or a lighter Madeira (the Charleston Special Reserve from RWC would fit the bill). If you’re feeling more adventurous, try to get your hands on Jurançon Moelleux from Domaine Bru-Baché. These wines made from Petit Manseng (and sometimes blended with Gros Manseng) in Southwest France are fantastic and offer a great value.