Perfect Pairings With Thanksgiving Dinner

This is Thanksgiving week! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Christmas is more important, but Thanksgiving does-n’t come with the same stress that Christmas can bring.

This is the day that I cook, eat, drink, relax and spend with my most loved ones and friends.


Image 1 of 2

Start your Thanksgiving dinner with this Champagne, which is drinking so deliciously right now

But by now you have already read at least 100 times how wonderful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are for your Thanksgiving meal, or how the release of Beaujolais Nouveau happens to coincide with Thanksgiving as well. That is all well and good, but you know that already. What I would like to share is what I think makes up a perfect Thanksgiving.

One must first start with family and friends. There is no Thanksgiving without them. The ability to share time, a meal and being thankful for them and around them is ultimately what Thanksgiving is all about. It really is not about the meal or the drink, is it? Even I have to remind myself of that sometimes. Yes, you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends wisely.

Then you must have a meal. Some meals are more elaborate than others. It all depends on how “big” you want to go. I have some friends who do multiple turkeys, use truffle butter, lobster tails and king crab legs. Some go out to eat, while others stay home for the festivities. I personally love to cook the meal myself.

But does it really need to be fancy? Not really. As long as the meal is something that you truly enjoy and that you can share. For me, I definitely do the traditional turkey stuffed with garlic and rosemary done on a charcoal grill, low and slow. I brine it for 24 hours to make sure it’s moist, juicy and well-seasoned. I add a touch of kiawe wood to the fire just at the end of cooking to give an accent of smokiness, too. My wife loves my mashed potatoes and gravy, while my family brings ambrosia salad, cranberry dressing, and even pinakbet and pancit! Again, it’s all what you make of it.

Now we come to the wine. I must insist on starting with Champagne. California Sparkling and Prosecco are nice alternatives, but Thanksgiving comes only once a year and we have so much to be thankful for. This year my selection for Champagne is the Non-Vintage Vilmart Grand Cellier Brut ($79). This particular batch that we have in the market is drinking so deliciously right now. It has loads of complexity and a luxurious flavor that is undeniable. From there we move on to a Chardonnay, and I recommend something with minerality, balance and pedigree with oak but not too much. If California is your thing, there are plenty to be had: Patz and Hall, Scherrer, Au Bon Climat, Peay and plenty more. My favorites come from Burgundy with names such as Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. I’m eyeing a bottle of 2005 Jobard Meursault Genevrieres ($119) in my cellar that I have been saving for a special occasion. The last time I had it, it was fully floral with nuances of nuts and juicy orchard fruit.

We then progress to the Pinot Noir. I truly enjoy great Cabernet, but my true love is Pinot Noir. Oregon and California have their greats. Kosta-Browne, Anthill Farms, Thomas George, Knez, Brewer Clifton, the list goes on. Again my palate leans toward the Old World. The 2009 Bouchard Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvee Carnot ($69) is still young but precocious. It has perfectly ripe black and red fruits along with a deep bass note of oak and earth. I will probably open it early to give it enough time to breathe.

Lastly we always finish with a dessert wine. I typically end with an ancient Madeira or well-aged Port. But this year, with Kaneohe Bakery’s custard pie, I’m going to use Sauternes. The 2010 Domaine de l’Alliance Sauternes ($49/500ml bottle) is an extravagant example of what happens when a producer uses Draconian yields (3hl/ha which is equivalent to 0.17 ton/acre) with 100 percent new French oak. A sexy, sweet, sticky Sauterne is the result. If you have the opportunity to find and drink this, you will not soon forget it.

You may add your own twists on the menu and the wines, but the meaning of Thanksgiving should always remain. Make sure you take time out to be thankful this week and enjoy the time off and be safe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.