This is the time of year when everyone in America eats the same meal and asks the same question — “Which wine to serve?”
For some reason, many people who have success pairing wine and food during the rest of the year are intimidated by the responsibility of selecting holiday wines.
A host can always stock the basic reds and whites, but what about finding a wine that will go with the variety of dishes that will be served?
The Sun turned to two local wine experts for suggestions, and to ask what they will be serving?
Wine expert John Morris of Chan's Wine World said his first recommendation is to just relax and drink whatever you want.
"In terms of food and wine pairing, the problem is not the turkey or the ham, it’s the traditional side dishes like sweet potatoes, cranberry relish and most importantly, variations in stuffing. The basic guideline to follow is to match ‘like for like.’ For example, for spicy dressing, select a fruit-forward spicy wine such as Zinfandel. And, since Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, I lean toward domestic wines," he said.
Santa Rosa Beach Club sommelier Brooke Gontarek also has some thoughts of about holiday pairings.
"While waiting for family and friends to arrive, why not pass around glasses of Moscato with a dash of cranberry juice and a splash of lemon," she said. "This pretty little cocktail will definitely get the juices flowing and the senses ready for a feast, family and of course, football."
A sparkling red wine also has the advantage of being a great conversation starter, said Gontarek.
When sitting down at the Thanksgiving table, if wine is served, Gontarek said that traditionally, Beaujolais with its light, French red grapes graces most tables set with turkey.
"If your feast includes cranberry sauce, then a sparkling red wine is definitely the way to kick off the celebration. A dry Lambrusco from Italy or a sparkling shiraz from Australia work especially well. It’s one of the few wines which can enhance the flavors of Thanksgiving’s tart little berries as well as Grandma’s chocolate pecan pie," she said.
For roast turkey with basic stuffing, Morris recommends a pinot noir. Why?
"Pinot noir is the most versatile wine for pairing with food, bar none," said Morris. "The best value is the 2008 Methven Family Vineyards Citizen's Cuvee from Oregon's Willamette Valley ($19.99). This wine is a prime example of great price-to-quality ratio. It simply overachieves and tastes more like a $30 bottle."
So, what wine goes best with ham?
Morris said his top choice is Zinfandel, with Riesling coming in a close second.
"The choice will be the consumer's preference between red and white. Both pair exceedingly well with ham," he said. "The best values in each are: 2011 Joel Gott California Zinfandel ($17.99); and, 2011 Weinkeller Erbach Riesling from Germany's Rheingau ($13.99 for 1 liter bottle).
With holiday parties aplenty from here on out and a smorgasbord of various hors d'oeuvres, again we asked, "what goes with everything at these mixers?"
"I recommend crowd pleasers," said Morris, "a sparkler, a white and a red. For the sparkler, try NV Francois Montand Brut Rose from France ($12.99). The pink color adds to the festivities as well as providing a bit more body. Chardonnay is always a good bet for parties and the 2011 Creme de Lys California Chardonnay ($11.99) fits the bill nicely. The 2010 Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec from Argentina's Napa Valley equivalent, Mendoza region, ($16.99) is another over-achiever rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine."
If, however, a leap toward nontraditional wines wets your whistle, Gontarek has some recommendations.
"Planning Thanksgiving can be stressful so why not try a wine that has all the advantages of being bubbly, red, and fun. If a golden ham dressed with grilled pineapple is more your style, a French Viognier or Chenin blanc are fabulous options. The creamy mouth feel and floral bouquet of these particular wines will make that grilled fruit and maple baked ham melt in your mouth. All of these wines are available in many price ranges starting at the very affordable," she said.
In closing Gontarek sent a wish to all: "I hope this holiday season is one of sharing, friendship, family, fond memories ... and, of course, wine."