Let's talk turkey 

Finding wine for Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a battle

Juicy, tender, white-meat turkey. Tangy, acidic cranberry fruit explosion. Warm cornbread stuffing bathed in salty giblet gravy. Mmm. All these flavors equal sheer home-cooked Thanksgiving bliss. But these same comforting flavors wage war with wine. What to drink when so many flavors are mingling on your tongue? Well, anything you want if you plan it right.

During the holidays, we all seek respite from hectic business life. And part of relaxing should be drinking whatever you like. You can fit wine into pretty much any Thanksgiving dinner, whether it's full Southern fare with black-eyed peas and okra, or a Northern feast with Hubbard squash and bread stuffing. But there are subtle ways to maximize your wine enjoyment.

White wines
If you're a white wine drinker, stay away from drinking a sip after certain acidic dishes like cranberries since the two acid bases will cause major pucker action. Your best bet with white wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (Gris) is to savor them before dinner. Whites you might want to explore with your Thanksgiving menu are Viognier, Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) or a dry Riesling. These wines tend to be on the softer, fruitier side and will mesh better with the variety of holiday food. They will even do justice to a salty, smoky ham.

Red wines
Reds create a motley mix when paired with the lighter, more delicate flavors of Thanksgiving. Big tannic reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel can egoistically demand all the attention at the meal. But there are some nice, calm, fruit-driven reds that will dance the tango with your bird. Think of Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Chianti (Sangiovese) as reds in touch with their "feminine" side, willing to share the plate with the food. These guys won't overwhelm the tastes of green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and yams.

Sparkling wines
One other wine you might want to consider is sparkling wine, the quintessential food-friendly wine that also makes the meal more festive. For collectors out there, Thanksgiving is a fantastic opportunity to open up "the cellar," so to speak; those dusty bottles you brought back from Napa or France are crying out to be consumed. Share them with friends and family -- that's what the holidays are for, right?

So pop a top, chill or air your favorite wine, and enjoy the company of friends, family and the comfort foods we all love and crave this time of year. Your turkey awaits. Happy Thanksgiving.

Recommended wines
Prestige 2000 Moulin a Vent ($17) 1/2: A nice balanced "cru" Beaujolais, meaning it came from a particularly good area of Beaujolais called Moulin a Vent. This wine packs enough of a wallop to please the big, tannic red wine drinkers and yet can satisfy the fruity, light-hearted wine lovers out there.

Napa Ridge Coastal Vines 2001 Pinot Noir ($9) : A stupendous value in a grapey, intense, fruity Pinot. Not for the Burgundy at heart, but a great intro to this type of wine.

Barton & Guestier 2000 Vouvray ($8) : This slightly sweet wine soothes your tongue with honey and lemon, like a cup of chamomile tea. Nice, ripe flavors from this French wine made of Chenin Blanc grapes.

EXP 2001 Viognier Estate Bottled Dunnigan Hills ($15) 1/2: Intense orange blossom aroma with slight sweetness resembling a ripe Riesling. Remarkably smooth with aromatic, nutty flavors that last forever on the tongue.

Trefethen 2001 Riesling ($15) : A fun, very dry, crisp, true-to-form Riesling. This is what Riesling is supposed to taste like -- and it holds nothing back with apples, pears and a slight hint of lemon on the tongue.



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