Thanksgiving—America's most anticipated food and wine holiday—is nearly upon us. And now is the time to stock the wine rack with goodies that will pull together all the disparate flavors of our time-honored holiday traditions: turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, green veggies, and so on. Sure, you can celebrate with a bottle from a wine country beyond our shores, but you will probably want to honor our local bounty with something made in the U.S.A. Here's an all-American lineup for your meal.
The tricky part about Turkey Day is that there are sweet foods on the dinner plate. Yams, cranberry sauce, and the like require a wine with some sweetness in order to shine. Riesling is a fantastic choice, and Corvidae Riesling "Ravenna" 2009 ($15, Noble Vintners) from the Columbia Valley of Washington is a classic. Ripe pear notes predominate, and the wine's sweetness is balanced by a juicy finish. Plus there's a Raven on the label, so it goes with that other Thanksgiving pastime—especially meaningful this year since the Ravens take on the 49ers that night.
If a sweet white isn't your thing, check out Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay "Saratoga Cuvée" 2008 ($25, Constantine Wines). This winery showcases some of the most balanced wines that the U.S. has to offer, and this Chardonnay carries on that tradition. Absolutely pristine flavors of lemon curd and tropical fruit are supported by the toasty vanilla signature of oak barrels. Refreshing, quenching acidity on the finish of this wine just adds to its finesse, and will support a range of foods.
The chill around the edges of a late November day puts many people in a red-wine mood, and we have a trio of picks. The best match for the holiday's food is La Follette Pinot Noir "Sonoma Coast" 2009 ($37, Elite Wines). Greg La Follette is the quirky genius of Sonoma Pinot Noir, having been head wine maker of the iconic Flowers Vineyards & Winery and now making wine under his own label. This is gorgeous stuff, packing perfumed aromas of raspberry patch and strawberry confiture. It is supple and velvety in the mouth, just caressing your taste buds and coaxing each mouthful of food to your gullet in the seductive way that sirens might attract ships to the rocks.
If Pinot Noir is too soft a wine for you, then Bonny Doon Vineyards "Contra" 2009 ($18, Bacchus Importers Ltd.) is your juice. It is bursting with black cherry, plum, and ripe currant flavors, but there's no oak here to beat up the sweeter foods on your plate. Iconoclastic winemaker Randall Grahm has fashioned a very useful food wine from a grape variety that gets very little attention. This will also warm you up after a midday game of flag football.
No American red-wine lineup would be complete without a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and who cares if it doesn't go with turkey? You're having this one—Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008 ($38, Bacchus Importers Ltd.)—with the cheese course. All the classical flavors and textures of a great Napa red are here, but what sets it apart is just how balanced it is. No wallop of new American oak, no smack of excessive alcohol. Fruit, structure, depth, layers: It's all there, and with a price that is as easy to swallow as the wine.
And then there's pie. Apple pie, specifically. For this iconic tart, a sweet but refreshing sparkling wine is the best choice. Grab a bottle of Gruet Demi Sec NV ($18, The Country Vintner) and dig in. Pleasing pear and juicy apple notes abound, and the bubbles will wake up your palate after a long day at the dinner table. It isn't sickly sweet either, but it is sweet enough to please Aunt Vera, who will have been quietly wishing for white Zin all day.