A Wine Lover’s Thanksgiving Menu

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - November 21, 2007
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Yes! It’s finally Thanksgiving time! It’s my favorite holiday of the year. You probably expect me to tell you what I think goes best with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Well, I won’t. Everyone else will. Everywhere you look, someone is telling you about Beaujolais Nouveau and Pinot Noir. I’ve been writing for a while now and, frankly, if you want to know what I think goes well, you can look up previous installments of Vino Sense. I wanted to let you peek into my personal hedonistic habits for Thanksgiving.

For the past five years now I’ve hosted our family dinner. I plan the menu and prepare the meal.

That includes my “patented” turkey. I like to use the grill and indirect method with charcoal, which gives the bird a natural flavor. Just at the end of the cooking time, I add a splash of kiawe wood just to add a light smokiness, but never too much.

I make the mashed potatoes very simply with butter, a couple cloves of garlic and a splash of truffle oil. I admit to using package gravy because I’m too busy watching my bird and enjoying wine with my guests and kitchen helpers. But I “kick it up a notch” by adding fresh mushrooms (whichever ones look really good at the market) to my gravy as well as some drippings from the turkey and some extra herbs.

I usually start off with a bottle of Champagne to welcome guests. Is there anything better to begin a celebration? I make sure to keep it cold to refresh any palates that come after having a heavy lunch somewhere else. This year’s Champagne is NV DieboltVallois Cuvee Prestige Blanc de Blanc ($50). It is superbly elegant and refreshing, regal and refined, all at the same time. Then when that’s gone, which is pretty quickly, especially once the ladies find the bottle, I go to a bottle of Chardonnay - from Burgundy, to be more specific. It is a great wine to drink and still keep your palate ready for food because of the vibrant acidity that is not as prevalent in most New World versions. I have a bottle of 2002 Francois Jobard Meursault En la Barre ($60) that will be perfect. It is minerally, yet laden with pretty, flowery fruit and is very finesseful. It also happens to be a stellar match with my plan for snow crab leg meat dipped in butter. And it is a great foil for turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes - but they all have to be on the same fork.

My mother-in-law makes an excellent cranberry dressing, which is her prerequisite for getting in the door. And when you add this to the mix, most palates start asking for red wine.

I love Chinese roast duck, so I’ve made it a part of my “traditional” menu. I buy this too, because I can’t make it as good as Nam Fong or Duck Lee or for any less money.

And my friend has some venison loin that he marinates in a secret sauce and grills for just a minute or so, until it is just cooked, moist and tender with the flavor of the grill permeating it. And here is where I open the red wine. This year it’s Red Burgundy again. Pinot Noir from the Golden Slope is an absolute must for me. I’m looking at a bottle of 2003 Domaine Gachot-Monot Nuits St. Georges Les Poulettes ($45) that needs checking up on. The last time, it was still quite angular and brash. I hope it has calmed down a bit because it had a gorgeous mid-palate intensity that is the hallmark of age-able wines. And if that’s not enough to satiate our thirst, then I’ll have to reach deep into my cellar to see what I can dig up.

So, see what you can dig up. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all the things we have, and the perfect opportunity to share them with loved ones. It’s also a time to enjoy what you like to eat and drink, no matter what it is - beer, Scotch, Margaritas - as long as you enjoy it. Be safe.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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