The best wine for Thanksgiving? Just drink what you like


Thanksgiving dinner means different things depending on what room you’re in.

Chances are good that there’s a “kids table,” no matter the location.

Sure, there are some American traditional plates and preparations involving turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, pumpkin pie ... you get the idea. But you do you, boo.

Searching for the proper Thanksgiving wine seems pointless. We all know you’ll be forcing 3-4 pounds of food into your body, rendering your motor skills minimal and sense of alertness completely ineffective. Embrace the mess.

Drink what you like to drink. It’s as simple as that. But if you want to find some hints of flavor balance, refreshment, and just really good wine at a decent price — I have some ideas.

The 2016 Ancient Peaks cabernet sauvignon ($20) is a brilliant selection for all chaotic family meals. Depth of red fruits seems obvious here, but this wine is not some jammy mess. It’s a great pick for anyone’s everyday red wine, if you prefer California wine. This comes from Paso Robles, California — a region roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Ancient Peaks should work extremely well with any large meal heavy in meat or other hearty, rich foods.

People love to constantly pair pinot noir or gamay with turkey, which makes complete sense. These are lighter red wines and turkey is a lean bird. But don’t sleep on Cotes-du-Rhone rouge.

If Cotes-du-Rhone is on the label of a bottle (Cotes-du-Rhone is made as either red wine, white or rosé) that means it comes from the Rhone river valley, mostly near the city of Avignon. These wines are usually blends.

The 2017 J.L. Chave “Mon Coeur” Cotes-du-Rhone is arguably the best “CDR” blend I’ve had this year. It’s about half-and-half grenache and syrah. Don’t expect to spend more than $20 on this. It’s surprising graceful for wines at this price point. Rhone wines are often noted for their higher alcohol levels, red pepper/anise spiciness, and funky and earthy aromas.

While “Mon Coeur” alludes to all of these obvious reference points, it’s a well-made wine first and foremost — full-bodied, slightly earthy and spicy, savory, but no messy flaws that can plague these kinds of wines.

It’s not as tannic and fruit-driven as that Ancient Peaks cabernet sauvignon (nor most California cabernets), so if you’re trying to find a crowd pleaser for both the worldly curious and the full-on big red wine lovers, this is an affordable path.

Going north from Rhone, there are some fantastic turkey-pairing options in the form of white wine. Alsace is generally not the most obvious wine region of France .

Alsace is a region of both French and German influence, located in the northeast of France, with many key vineyards a few minutes drive from the German border.

From time to time, in random talk in a wine shop, you may hear the term “noble grape.” For clarification, a noble grape variety is one that reflects the best and location-specific styles of wine from that region. This is not an official term for all governing wine regulatory bodies, but rather a cultural touchstone and shortcut for explaining a — often French — wine region’s specialties.

There are four “noble” grapes of Alsace: riesling, pinot gris, muscat and gewurztraminer. Alsace is unique as a French region, in that intends to put the grape variety most obviously on the bottle, instead of it’s place of origin. Which means that most wines are single varietal bottlings.

There are some exceptions, and many of them are Gentil bottlings. If a wine bottle says Gentil on it that means that at least half of the wine is from those four noble grape varieties, with the difference coming from sylvaner, chasselas and pinot blanc.

The skinny on this white blend: it is dry, crisp, but with a lot of green apples, nectarines, lemon pith. It’s begging for light meats and seafood. And it’s so damn cheap. If you put this in front of any (non-oaky chardonnay) white wine drinker, this should make them happy — even if the Lions aren’t helping you on turkey day.

Justin King is an Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and owner of Bridge Street Social, a wine and cocktails-focused restaurant in DeWitt, and Bar Mitena, a Spanish wine bar opening soon on Lansing’s Eastside.


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