Wine writers always agonize over Thanksgiving, which I’ve never understood. They get so hung up on food pairings that they miss the point of the holiday, which is that we’re darn lucky to be able to do this. Who cares if cabernet sauvignon doesn’t go with turkey, or that chardonnay and cranberry sauce isn’t proper? Thanksgiving is about sharing and having fun, and the wine that you drink should be part of that. It’s not about scores and oaky and toasty.
In other words, drink what’s fun and what you like. If Aunt Dorothy likes white zinfandel, who are you to tell her she can’t drink it at Thanksgiving? One option, especially if you’re having a lot of people over for dinner, is to go with jug or box wines. There are some quite decent examples of each, like the 1.5-liter bottles of Glen Ellen and Meridian, and the Bot Box cabernet. Another is sparkling wine, given the quality and variety of the various Spanish bubblies that cost $10 or less.
Whatever you do, though, think variety — some white, some red and even some pink. The Wine Police will not arrest you for trying to make your guests happy. These three wines would work nicely:
• Goats do Roam Rosé 2008 ($10). Rosé is actually a terrific Thanksgiving wine, since it’s dry enough for people who don’t like sweet wines and pink enough for people who do. This South African wine surprised me; I didn’t remember it tasting as fresh and lively as it does with this vintage. Serve it chilled, and pass the cornbread dressing.
• Yellow + Blue Malbec 2008 ($13). This red wine comes in a 1-liter juice box and is made with organic grapes, and it’s probably the best cheap malbec on the market. As such, it’s dark and fruity and not very tannic, and this is the turkey wine for everyone who is still worried about pairings.
• Groth Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($18). As much as I appreciate sauvignon blanc, I didn’t expect to like this wine much. It’s as high in alcohol as some red wines, and it has been aged in oak. Usually, these are not good signs for a wine that should be crisp and refreshing. But it works, and those techniques produced a subtle and sophisticated sauvignon blanc. Don’t expect any New Zealand-style grapefruit, though; this is more melons and minerals.
Ask the Wine Guy
Q. What’s the difference between a wine cooler and wine? Aren’t they the same thing?
A. Not really. A wine cooler is wine (and usually poor-quality wine) that has had flavors and sugar added to it to make it taste a certain way. Wine, on the other hand, is mostly natural, and tastes like the grapes it was made from.
WITH YOUR WINE: Turkey Reuben-style sandwiches
Thanksgiving leftovers always seem to drive people crazy. What are we supposed to do with all that turkey? This is a variation on a theme that I have been eating with Thanksgiving leftovers since I was a boy growing up in Chicago. These days, I drink rosé with this on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and it’s always a fine match.
One note: You can use bottled salad dressing, but it tastes better (and isn’t especially difficult) to make your own. Just combine mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, relish, lime juice and ketchup, keeping in mind to use more mayonnaise than ketchup and just enough of the rest of the ingredients to get the taste you want.
Serves four, about 15 minutes
3-4 c leftover turkey, sliced or cut into pieces
¼ to ½ c best-quality Swiss-style cheese, sliced
1 c Russian or Thousand Island dressing
1-2 c sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
Eight slices best-quality bread
1. Butter each slice of bread. Then make a sandwich, with the buttered side of the bread on the outside, with the turkey, sauerkraut, cheese and dressing. Make sure the cheese is on the bottom and top of the sandwich.
2. Grill each sandwich in a skillet over medium heat for 2 ½ to 3 minutes a side, until golden brown.
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