Forget Christmas, this is the most wonderful time of the year!
I’ve been angling for this since about September, and it’s finally happening!
I’m hosting my first Thanksgiving at Wiz Manor!
As you can see, Johnny can barely contain his excitement.
Whatever, dog! It’s a small group this year, but I ordered a fairly big turkey. Because the only thing better than Thanksgiving dinner is Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. I don’t have to explain this to you, do I?
And of course the other big question of the day: what to drink?
Those of you who’ve been around this here blog a while know that, for this all-American holiday, I like to serve American wines. It doesn’t have to be strictly grapes native to America, or else we might be stuck with just Concord or Niagara.
I don’t innovate much when it comes to this meal. You gotta know your audience, and I know that no one wants experiments on that day. So lots of creamy things like mashed potatoes and gravy. My one big addition to this year’s menu, however, is smoke.
As in smoked turkey legs.
As in I asked the meat counter to leave the legs whole while they’re breaking down my boid, and just gonna have a pair of big ol’ Ren Faire turkey legs. Still debating whether I’m going to start smoking on Wednesday and just warm them up on the day or actually smoke on Thursday, but I’ve always wanted to smoke the dark meat on a turkey, and now I have my chance!
Which means I’ll have a very different flavor note on the table! And that means more fun with choosing wine.
The key word for Thanksgiving wines is acidity. That’s the factor in your wine that makes it taste a bit tart. Acidity will refresh your palate and get you ready to enjoy your next forkful, without clashing or trying to yell over your meal. We want high acidity but low tannins, which will knock your wine and food pairing out of balance.
I also generally recommend nothing highly oaked. That fancy Chardonnay may taste great at happy hour or with some hors d’oeuvres at home, but the oaky flavor won’t really go with your aunt’s sweet potato casserole. Also nothing with an unusual flavor profile like gewurztraminer.
For my white, I’ll probably go with one of the Fox Run Vineyard rieslings I bought last year, from the Finger Lakes in New York.
Riesling is low-hanging fruit, as it were, when it comes to food pairing. It goes with practically everything, and there are styles ranging from sweet to bone dry. I’ll probably have an off-dry bottle handy, and I’ll be sipping the Dry Riesling as I get everything together.
To go with that smoky dark meat, I think I’m going to go a little nuts and choose a blaufränksch. A what now? This Austrian grape enjoys a fair bit of popularity here on the U.S. East Coast. Beneduce Vineyards, in nearby Pittstown, NJ, has had great success with it. In the Finger Lakes, they seem to have gone with the alternate name Lemberger, but they’re the same fruit. It’s dark with a bit of smoke and spice, and should go great with my Ren Faire specials.
I’ll leave you with a few tips for shopping and storage.
If you haven’t already, go shopping this weekend. Do not leave it till the Wednesday before. I’ve been in a wine store on that day. Learn from my mistakes!
Chat up your friendly wine shop staff. Tell them you want something high in acidity. If you have folks who balk at dry wines, ask for something fruit-forward, which will help the wine taste a little sweeter.
Some other great varietals: pinot noir and gamay for reds; unoaked chardonnay, chenin blanc, or pinot gris for whites.
OK, OK, if you don’t want to stick to my ‘Murica rule for the day, try French Beaujolais (made from the cheerful red Gamay grape), Italian soave for a white, red Burgundy (which is French for pinot noir). Save the beefier merlots, malbecs, SuperTuscans, and syrahs for another day.
I find zinfandel a little too overpowering, but you should definitely swap out the water in the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray cranberries bag for a cup of zinfandel.
Hopefully the weather will be cool where you are. If so, your backyard becomes your wine chiller! Put the bottles out on your patio, out of the sun, to save crucial real estate in your fridge. If you have a storm door, I’ve had great luck in the past tucking them between the exterior and storm doors, which keeps the bottles from getting too cold. Just be careful no one decides to sneak out for a smoke that way.
Bonus tip: if someone asks what they can bring? Ice. Even if you have an icemaker, if you have a house full of guests, you’ll quickly run out.
I’ll report back in a couple weeks and let you know how everything goes! I’ll be taking off next week as I recover from this massive cooking undertaking. Have a wonderful holiday, full of good food, good wine, and good company.
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