Be Thankful . . . and Drink What You Like!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is a guest post from Todd Broderick, a fellow Boston-area wine enthusiast.

Every year I read a vast array of articles in everything from the Spectator to the Wall St. Journal extolling the virtues of various varietals and telling us what we should pair with Turkey. While I do not dispute the benefit of pairing a great Pinot with a dry bird, I am writing simply with what worked for me. At “Pretend Thanksgiving” I decided to drink what I liked and enjoyed it with people I was thankful for. I have a few tips from this year’s experience that may help guide your selection process based on my turkey day trial run, I hope you find them useful.

So what the heck is Pretend Thanksgiving?

For the last several years my wife and I have hosted “Pretend Thanksgiving” a few weeks before the real deal. We take this as an opportunity to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving day feast with friends who are usually tied up with family, come the last Thursday in November. As we were planning this year’s menu I was reminded of the amazing array of flavors that the Thanksgiving meal brings. From the savory taste of Aunt Kathy’s sweet sweet potatoes, to the tart contrast of the cranberry sauce, there was something that hit every taste bud. There truly is a flavor to be paired with virtually any wine that might be on your list. So I decided to go with wines I liked and I thought would be widely appealing to the guests joining us.

We started the day with an array of fruit, cheese and cured meats. Tip # 1 – start things off with a couple different whites that might appeal to different palates. The whites of the day to accompany the starters were Conundrum (previously mentioned in our Freaking Delicious Wine recommendations from local merchants piece) and McManis Viognier. I figured the Conundrum would be the crowd pleaser and the Viognier would provide an interesting alternative to with some acidity to balance out the some of the harder cheese. The McManis was a great deal for around $8 and the Conundrum wasn’t too bad just shy of $20. The Conundrum was definitely a crowd pleaser but also had just enough acidity to pair nicely with the apps. I decided to experiment a little with the Viognier, which leads me to Tip #2 – try Viognier (or Riesling) to add to the base of your gravy. Combine the wine with chicken stock to give the gravy a much more interesting flavor. The combination of citrus and floral flavors brought a really interesting twist to the gravy without be too overpowering.

As we transitioned to the main course we were ready for some red, ok let’s face it, I was ready for the red 5 hours ago when I jammed the bird in the oven, but I exercised some restraint and sipped the white. But what I did do is something easy that I recommend to all, Tip #3 – open your reds at least 3 to 4 hours ahead of time and decant if you can. Giving the wine some time to evolve does wonders for it and it is amazing how much more your guests will taste and enjoy. It’s not hard to remember either, baste the bird and open the wine! Now back to what we were drinking. Tip # 4 – Try a couple different varietals, one that makes you happy and one that might make others happy! I went with 2 different options; 2004 Jax Cabernet, (in the $30 to $35 neighborhood) and a 2007 Rombauer Zinfandel (about $25 to $30). The few hours of decanting did wonders for both wines. The last time I had opened the Jax, it was pretty tight but it opened up nicely and really balanced out some of the rich dishes we had. The Rombauer is big with some strong upfront fruit that pleased everyone that tried it.

My preference was to start with the Cabernet, which wasn’t as overpowering as I expected. I know it’s not traditional, but it was still quite enjoyable and pretty reasonable compared to some of the other cabs I was contemplating. The Rombauer was how I rounded out the day, it has a delicious factor that might a little overpowering for some. But if you enjoy a high quality big fruit Zin, give it a shot. I was able to find the Conundrum, the McManis and the Rombauer at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. All three were a great deal and made me that much more thankful for having the opportunity to share some great wine with great friends.

Enjoy your celebration and let us know what you’re drinking in the comments!


Todd can be reached via E-mail:
You can also follow him on Twitter: @ToddBrod

Check back tomorrow for our top Thanksgiving Pinot Noir value pick. We're going to Oregon for this one, and we've discovered a real winner for just over $20. Subscribe via E-mail and you won't miss it.


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