Bringing wines to the turkey table

Bringing wines to the turkey table

If you are the lucky recipient of an invitation to someone’s home for Thanksgiving this year, please call your host immediately to tell him that you’ve got the wine covered. If he tries to refuse, tell him that this is your small way of giving thanks. After hosting Thanksgiving 2005 for eight people in my 300 square foot New York apartment with 3.25 inches of counter space (I measured it once in an “am-I-insane-for-having-offered-to-do-this” moment), I vowed that I would support hosts of Thanksgiving meal all over the country by disseminating this piece of advice. I love to cook, but Thanksgiving is a high-pressure meal that takes an inordinate amount of space, time, money and patience. When you’ve got one arm up the turkey and one arm whisking the lumps out of your gravy, you are more likely to want a stiff shot of bourbon in the seven minutes you have to sit down before everyone staggers to the couch. I don’t mean to sound resentful­—I really do love Thanksgiving, but sometimes it would be nice to linger over the meal a bit more with a lineup of well-paired wines brought, opened, and served by one of your guests. Here are some guidelines for this heroic offering.

You are in for a long day with a motley crew of guests and dishes, so consider starting your celebration with something less combustible than cocktails. A bottle of bubbles split over eight glasses is enough to ignite the palate without igniting your Uncle Buck. The acidity and carbonation in sparklers are the perfect foil to the ridiculously decadent starters that precede the most ridiculously decadent meal of the year. Cheese straws, deviled eggs and pigs in a blanket with a sparkling Gamay? I can already see the nightmares of Thanksgivings past fading into history.

Since most Thanksgiving meals are served as a buffet rather than in courses, consider presenting a white and a red at the same time to please those who prefer one or the other—or a little of each. Look to un-oaked aromatic whites from Alsace and Germany, like Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Riesling. Their balance of acidity, residual sugar and zestiness complements the sweet, salty, and pickled pilings on your plate. Same rationale goes for the reds: Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Gamay are your best bets because they are ripe, spicy and mellow enough to go with the cranberry-orange relish and the roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta. This would be the time to loosen your belt a notch or two.


Domaine Rondeau Bugey-Cerdon NV. Basic Necessities. $18.99

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2007. Market Street Wineshop Downtown. $25.99

Leo Hillinger Pinot Noir “Eveline” 2005. Greenwood Country Store. $19.99

Foggy Ridge Cider Pippin Gold 2008. Feast! $25.95

For dessert, even if you all take a siesta (or a walk) before bellying up to the table again, think about a warmed hard cider, a Sherry, or a Vin Santo. All have the right sweet-to-acid ratio so that they can cozy up to apple crumble, pecan pie, or pumpkin pie without sending you into a hyperglycemic meltdown—even with a scoop of ice cream on top. 

Bring these wines to show gratitude to your host and to life, as there are few things more blessed than good food and good wine shared with people that you love. It may well be more food and drink than one person should consume in a day, but at least you can blame the turkey after you pass out next to Uncle Buck.