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Thanksgiving Wine Parings

A Thanksgiving Menu with the Perfect Wine Pairings

(Editors’ Note: Planning a full Thanksgiving menu can be a formidable challenge. Picking just the right wines to serve with that feast can be equally challenging – especially if you don’t want to break the bank. So, to help make your Thanksgiving dinner a success, we’ve joined forces with our friend and wine-pairing guru, Colleen Brosnan, to take some of the pressure off of you.

Colleen – who has developed wine lists for several NYC restaurants – has taken her knack for finding wines which taste far better than their price tags and combined it with recipes culled from Teeny Tiny Kitchen to make a menu of traditional dishes, classics with a twist, her own criminally good pumpkin pie recipe, and a well-priced wine list to tie it all together. Whether you’re cooking an entire four-course dinner or just bringing a few dishes home for the holidays, these dishes and Colleen’s wine pairings will help you bring your best to the table.

Also, keep an eye out for another upcoming collaboration with Colleen – our wine and food gift-giving guide to help you cook and pour your way through the holidays. Thanks for playing, Colleen.)

Launie, Jedd and I have been chatting about working on something together for a few months. Then life became crazy and busy for all of us and it just never got done. This is our first attempt to meld our passions into a fabulous Thanksgiving meal, fit for a king. Although “fit for a president” is probably more appropriate, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I combed through the best of Teen Tiny Kitchen’s recipes and came up with this wonderful Thanksgiving feast and then paired them up with some wines for each course. I love small production vineyards, but those wines often aren’t sold nationwide. So for this post, I went out of my way to be sure that the wines I chose would be readily available in many regions of the US.

Appetizers

Cheddar Olive Crackers
Cheddar-Olive-Crackers

Cilantro Chia Hummus (served with crudite)
Cilantro-Chia-Hummus

Artichoke, Bacon, Parmesan Dip
Artichoke-Bacon-Parmesan-Dip

It is easy to fill up on appetizers while waiting for the grand meal, so the key here is to whet the appetite, not sate it. Same goes for the wines you would pair with these bites. You want to choose wines with a light touch and with a bit of acidity. Wines with buttery oak or too much fullness will literally fill you up before you have even had one bite of the bird.

I am a bubbles gal during the holidays. For appetizers, I like a Prosecco or a Cava because of the bright acidity and lightness of those two varietals. Those two varietals are also very reasonably priced, for now. Here are my choices for our first round of Thanksgiving food.

Prosecco Rustico Nino Franco NV, about $12. Clean and fresh, crisp granny smith apple, tight bubbles and a nice flower perfume make this sparkler a perfect starter for foods with a bit of saltiness.

Kila Cava Brut (Vins el Cep) 2008, about $10. Light and citrusy, notes of juicy pears, and a touch of anise will pair well with the Thanksgiving appetizers.

Salad
Candied Almonds with Sea Salt on an Apple, Bacon, Blue Cheese Salad

Rarely do I recommend an oaky Chardonnay, but this salad with the bacon and blue cheese is crying out for just a touch of oak and the richness that comes with it. Trying to find an oaky Chard that doesn’t taste like a stick of Parkay is being swirled in it is tricky, especially at a good price point. Generally, I would head to the Chablis varietal, which is French Chardonnay from the Burgundy region. The French really know how to oak Chardonnay. Sadly, Chablis prices have skyrocketed in the past few years. There are some good buys from other areas of France however.

Novellum Chardonnay Domaine Lafage 2011, a very tasty wine at $11. Sure you taste some oak in this wine, as it spends several months in barrels, but it is finished in stainless tanks so it retains some brightness and acidity. Brisk and zesty, perfumed with honeysuckle and it has a touch of salinity which will be dynamite with both the bacon and blue cheese, without over powering the salad greens.

Finnegan`s Lake Chardonnay 2010, about $11. I detest many California Chardonnays because the winemakers are heavy-handed with both the oak and the malolactic acid. Malolactic acid is what gives a wine that buttery taste. This bargain California Chard does not make these errors. Medium-bodied, apple, kiwi and lychee notes, along with a touch of oak make this a great go-to wine for not only the salad, but the turkey as well.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2010, about $9. My introduction to Riesling was not a dry one, but a sweet one. Shudder. Consequently, I didn’t try another one for 15 years. Now, I definitely enjoy the occasional Riesling. This one is quite the bargain and it is darn good, too. Tart and spicy, this wine has great notes of juicy pear and apple. This wine will do very well with the main meal as well.

Bird and Main Fixings
Turkey with Classic Homemade Gravy
Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Cilantro and Jalapenos
Classic Mashed Potatoes
Wild Rice Stuffing with Baked Cranberries
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pine Nuts

Some people will only drink one white wine, even when a meal cries out for a red. This is such a meal, in my opinion. Roasted turkey is a game bird and can handle a big, hearty red. For those who must have a white, the Chardonnays above will work well, but the Riesling will shine with the turkey and these side dishes.

Since this feast demands an equally grand red, we are looking for big and juicy reds. These wines tend to be high alcohol, but no worries since you will be stuffing yourself with lots of food to slow down absorption. My recommendations include a Zinfandel (red NOT white) and a

2009 Michael & David Vineyards “7 Deadly Zins” Lodi Zinfandel, $14. Robert Parker, the guru of wines gave this a 90 rating. He describes it so well, I’m going to let him do the notes for me, “This hugely popular wine spends 12 months in both French and American oak. Sexy and endearing, it offers a deep ruby/purple color, full-bodied, corpulent flavors and abundant berry fruit, pepper and spice notes. Drink this seductive, full throttle, classic Zinfandel over the next several years. Shrewd consumers should be seeking out the offerings from this value-priced winery.” Corpulent is the perfect descriptor for anything Thanksgiving. I would suggest opening this up for a good hour to let it breathe before quaffing.

Bonny Doon Contra Old Vines Field Blend 2009, $15 or so. I just love the Bonny Doon wines. A central coast wine that packs a punch. The winemakers mimic a Rhone blend so well that this gal, a Rhone wine lover, cannot tell the difference. Rhone wines are a complex blend of a large number of varietals, but this baby is mostly Grenache, Mouvedre, Petite Syrah and a touch of Zinfandel. Bam! Notes of currants, a touch of mushroom (that is a good thing), red, ripe berry fruits, and spice make this an epic wine for your main course.

Dessert
Pears Poached in Riesling

It is criminal you do not have a pumpkin pie recipe. CRIMINAL. So here is mine, without pictures sadly, but you all know what pumpkin pie looks like, don’t you?

Colleen’s Pumpkin Pie

Crust:
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Pinch of sugar
• ½ t cinnamon
• 1 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
• 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

Directions
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds

2. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Shape into a flattened circle. Wrap in plastic wrap for at least an hour. When you are ready, roll out and place in your pie pan.

4. Crimp the top edges of the crust and pop into the freezer until you are ready to fill and bake. If you are freezing for more than a couple hours, wrap with plastic.

Filling:
• 15-oz can canned solid-pack pumpkin)
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• 2 large eggs
• 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• Pinch of ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°°F.
Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake shell until pale golden, 6 to 10 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack. Whisk together all the filling ingredients, then pour into cooled shell.
Bake pie in middle of oven 45 to 50 minutes, or until filling is set. Let cool completely and then pop in the fridge. Serve with freshly made whipped cream.

I have to confess, I’m not much of a dessert wine person. Generally they are so cloyingly sweet, my teeth just ache. However, I promised wine with all courses, so I shall do my level best to provide some good recommendations.

Cascinetta Moscato d` Asti Vietti 2011, about $14. Moscato is a slightly bubbly, sweet Italian wine. It goes well with both desserts because of the delicious ginger notes. Very floral, but not cloying, you will notice rose petals, peach and a touch of apricots at the finish.

Merryvale Antigua Muscat de Frontignan NV, $30. Ok, it isn’t cheap, but there is no way you will drink this whole bottle, so it will last for a couple meals. Super rich and luscious, butterscotch, nutty with a touch of orange. Similar to some sherries or tawny ports, this baby is quite the treat.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love, family and friends. I know if you follow this food and wine game plan, your stomach may match your heart in fullness and happiness.

Colleen Brosnan started her love of food and wine at a young age – despite the fact her mother drank swill and used potato buds instead of real potatoes. Starting off as an avid baker in elementary school, she moved on to cooking meals versus baking because she hates to measure ingredients. In college, she developed a love of wine, but it was with her husband that she became a student of wine. Recently, Colleen has developed wine lists for several NYC restaurants. She prefers small-production wineries which utilize sustainable farming and production methods. She has a knack for finding delicious wines that taste more expensive than they are.

(Top photo by Jedd Kettler; all other photos by Launie Kettler)

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