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Thanksgiving Wines to Be Thankful For

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If you are serving red wine, think of something light-bodied and bright.

Ask five different wine people what they will be pouring for thanksgiving dinner and you’ll likely get five different answers. Why is that? Because the foods on the table are so broad in flavors that they lend themselves to a remarkable number of wines. So, serve Champagne and let the bubbles cut through the heaviness of the gravy and dressing. Or pour an off-dry Riesling and let its touch of sweetness complement the relish, the sweet potatoes and the turkey. Pinot Noir is a favorite with many because of its versatility with food.

Better still, have several choices, from dry to sweet, to appeal to all tastes at the table.

About the only answer you’ll get an agreement on is that a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is not for your heavier wines. So, leave the oaked Chardonnays and California Cabernets in the wine rack. Think brightly acidic wines or low-tannin treats, and you’ll do just fine.

Here are a few choices from five local people involved in the wine business.

Sarah Verheyen of Glazer’s of Texas:

“We are going to the big family set-up where I bring Beringer White Zinfandel because that is what my in-laws like. I don’t even bring any food — that is what they want!

“Beforehand, I am going to make a stuffed chicken with wild mushrooms and sage dressing for the four of us, so I will probably pair that with some Pinot Noir of some sort. Pinot Noir was the turning point, which I am sure it is with a lot of wine folk; (it made) me fall in love with wine, food and wine pairing and literally, (and) that led to meeting my husband, having my awesome step children, and now my son. Can’t be more thankful for anything in a glass than Pinot Noir!”

Kellis Chandler of Republic National Distributing Company:

“My mother and I are adopted by the Walthal family (a retired Trinity prof) for Thanksgiving. I’m the wine guy, so it’s an opportunity to pull that great Pinot Noir I have been wanting to share with special people. I usually bring a well-made, crisp Chablis-like (if not Chablis) to start things off.

Put away the oaky Chardonnays in favor of something crisp and light.

“It’s funny, these folks are not wine geeks, so we very rarely talk about the wine. They just look at me and nod with a smile on their faces, and comment on how nice the wine is.”

Don Pullum, winemaker for Sandstone Cellars and winemaking consultant for Torre di Pietra Winery:

“I’m going Moroccan for Thanksgiving.  Appetizers include Fried Eggplant Jam, Sweet Tomato Jam, Marinated Olives and Spicy Gulf Shrimp. The wine? Torre Di Pietra 2009 Blanc Du Bois Reserve: It’s a full-bodied, complex white with about 0.5 percent residual sugar that is very versatile in pairing with food. It’ll handle the the complex spices, sweetness, and peppers in the various appetizers. This wine is the first time I’ve worked with Blanc Du Bois, and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity. I’ve a new respect for this varietal.

“The entrée: Tagine Turkey Meatballs with Herbs and Lemon. Sides include Baked Root Vegetables with Prunes Spiced Lentils with Pumpkin Couscous. And the wines: Sandstone Cellars 2009 IX, a blend of 75 percent Tempranillo and 25 percent Touriga as well as the 2006 Bodega Muga Reserva Rioja. I’m thankful for having Mason County growers growing interesting Iberian varietals that produce wines which favorably compare to many wines produced in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and southern France.

“Dessert is  Semolina Pancakes with Figs, Almonds, Butter and Warm Honey. The wine is Haak 2007 Blanc Du Bois Madeira. I’m thankful to Raymond Haak for going through all the trouble to make this wine.

“And assorted cheeses with the Sandstone Cellars 2006 IV (a port-style wine). Thanks to Paul and Nancy Buist for growing Touriga at their Robert Clay vineyard.”

Nichole Bendele, public relations and tasting room coordinator for Becker Vineyards:

Rosé complements many of the Thanksgiving dishes.

“Our dry rosé, the Becker Vineyards Provençal (made from Mourvèdre) and a dry Robert Weil Riesling (Erstes Gewachs) are what I’ll be bringing to my brother’s house for a traditional Thanksgiving meal!  Yum!  I haven’t decided on what red I’ll bring – maybe a Seghesio Vineyards Zinfandel.

“The Provençal (and hopefully our Alsatian-style Gewurztraminer will be bottled by then) and some of the lighter-bodied reds like the Prairie Rotie (Rhone-style blend) and Reserve Grenache are some people also enjoy with the Turkey and trimmings.  These reds aren’t too heavy with tannins and won’t overpower the food.”

Philippe Placé, co-owner, Coco Chocolate Lounge & Bistro, 18402 U.S. 281, Suite 114:

“I am actually hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year. My wife Kim’s family will be here, so we will have about 15 people.

“We will start  with a cold fresh salmon and asparagus terrine paired with an Auxey Duresses 2007. It’s one of the underdogs of Burgundy, and I absolutely love it. It is a little leaner and racier than a Meursault with a deep gold color and hints of hazelnut.

“The turkey will be rubbed with sage and spices about three days before being cooked, and the rub will be reapplied every day. I will have some haricot verts sautéed with almond, plus black-eye peas prepared by the 94-year-old grandmother of Kim. Sweet potato fries. Garlic mashed potatoes two colors. Parsnip tournés with a citrus zest. The stuffing will be made of French brioche, apples, chestnuts, onion, leeks, parsley, fresh grapes and chicken stock.

“The wine served with that will be a Morgon ‘Les Charmes’ 2006. I love it that wine that my parents would always serve for special occasions will be served at my home. From the Beaujolais appellation, the Morgon has a beautiful rich purple color with hints of plums and cherries. It’s full bodied wine with a lot of character.

“For dessert, there will be apple tart tatin by me and pumpkin pie made by Kim. I will be serving the dessert with the Becker Vineyards Muscat Canelli Amabile. We finish with a Texas wine that I happen to love! I love the hints of nutmeg and cinnamon and that tender sweetness.

“I have much to be very thankful for this year. I had the chance to visit my family in July. My dad’s health is degrading rapidly, and I was able to talk to him and spend some amazing time with him and my French family. I am very thankful for my wife that keeps me going every day and never doubts my ability to be a good dad, good husband and a good restaurateur. I am thankful for my two outstanding sons that I love immensely. I am very thankful for having a successful business that allows me to take care of my employees, partners and my family.”

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