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By Erica Cusumano | STAFF
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Of wine and turkey
By Geoff Bland

In November, I will be asked several hundred times: "What wine do I serve with turkey?" The answer is considerably more complex than the question, because while turkey is easy to pair with wine, all the other dishes that adorn the Thanksgiving table make wine pairing more challenging.

Sweet potatoes, Jello salads, Brussels sprouts and various types of stuffing bring a variety of complex and strong flavors that need to be considered when picking a wine.

Add to that the various wine preferences of people who attend the annual feast, and you often need more than one wine to keep everyone happy.

It is possible to serve both white and red; following are some great suggestions with approximate prices. I have selected two wines of each grape variety at different price levels.

Riesling is a great wine for turkey. The fruit profile works well, and the inherent sweetness of the grape combined with good natural acidity means it works well with the side dishes. The 2008 Dr L Riesling ($13) is medium-bodied and not too sweet. It is great as an aperitif and also with dinner. The 2007 Hoffman-Simon Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese ($27) is a bigger, richer wine that will complement your meal.

Chardonnay can fill the bill, but it needs to be a big, rich style of Chardonnay to stand up to the flavors on the table. A 2007 Pavilion Napa Valley Chardonnay ($13) is a value-priced wine that works beautifully; the bright fruit and moderate oak pair well with the meal. To splurge a bit, try the 2006 Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay ($38). This is a full-bodied, rich yet impeccably balanced wine that will delight your guests.

Pinot Noir is a versatile red grape with light-to-medium body and is perfectly suited to the Thanksgiving table. The 2007 Angeline Pinot Noir ($16) has smoky, dark fruit on the nose and a robust feel on the palate that cozies up to the turkey. The 2007 Enkidu Pinot Noir ($30) is sourced from the Russian River Valley in California, and it has the explosive red fruit characteristic of the region. Smooth and full-bodied, it is a silky companion to dinner.

Despite being much maligned in recent years -- ever since the hit movie "Sideways" slammed it as dull and uninteresting -- Merlot is also a great choice of wine for turkey day. The 2005 R Collection Merlot ($14) is made by the Raymond Family in Napa, and they know how to make red wine. Lots of dark plum, cherry and spice work seamlessly together in this bottle. The 2006 Ehlers Merlot ($30) is from one of my favorite Napa producers, and it is gorgeous. The fruit is all farmed organically, leading to incredible purity of fruit and depth of flavor. This is a big wine that handles any flavor thrown at it.

Shiraz, which has been popularized by our friends in Australia, also is a good choice as the dark, juicy fruit character and inherent spiciness pair well with all the flavors on the table. The 2006 "The Lackey" Shiraz ($15) is dark and robust with black fruit and hints of eucalyptus. The 2006 Kaesler "Stonehorse" Shiraz ($30) is from the famed Barossa Valley of Australia and is produced from old vines that impart plum, blueberry, spice and hints of chocolate to the wine. This is about the most robust wine you can pair at Thanksgiving, but if you and your friends like big, red wine, this is the one.

Take a look at the selections and see what fits your budget and enjoy the experience.


Story published Friday, November 6, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 6 )

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