Thanksgiving is a notoriously difficult holiday for the oenophile. Turkey is one thing, but throw in tart cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes (sometimes cooked with marshmallows, if you must), and who knows what other sacrosanct family traditions must be upheld?
Sweet! Tart! Delicate poultry! What is a serious wine drinker to do?
Let’s start with the turkey. Turkey is an interesting bird. Due to modern breeding practices, it is nearly impossible to cook a conventional turkey so that the white and dark meat are simultaneously perfect. Brining helps. Brining and deep frying helps even more (but, please, please, please, follow good fire safety practices before attempting this. A quick YouTube search of deep fried turkey disasters serves as an excellent caution). Starting with a wild turkey or a heritage breed is also helpful. Generally, though, an unbrined supermarket turkey will yield overcooked breasts or undercooked thigh/legs. If you can get a portion of properly cooked dark meat, you are in luck. Your wine of choice is the Hill Family Estate Saltonstall Vineyard Pinot Noir. The subdued fruit with the forest floor notes will pair perfectly with the tender dark meat.
While the Saltonstall will work with white meat, the Hill Family Estate Stewart Ranch Pinot Noir will sing with a nice slice or three of breast meat. The bright acidity and fruit-forward nature of this wine will create a beautiful harmony with the white meat.
Many families serve all of the courses of Thanksgiving at once. This can be problematic from a wine pairing point of view, but is not an insurmountable problem. Of course, if there is a progression of dishes, a Hill Family Estate Tiara Sauvignon Blanc makes a fantastic opener to the wine part of the meal.
But if you are serving all courses at once, either pinot noir should have enough brightness to stand up to a dollop of cranberry sauce or relish.
However, oenophiles are not the only ones to show up at Thanksgiving. For this reason a wine as layered and complex as these pinots noir, particularly the Saltonstall, might be lost on the audience. Also, if the number of sweet side dishes starts to increase, a lighter, more fruit-forward wine might be in order.
Enter the Hill Family Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir. Bright, light, crisp, and fruit forward, this wine is ideal for the cornucopia of flavors at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It has enough acidity to stand up to cranberries, enough fruit to accent the turkey. Its weakness might be the stuffing, but it should still be acceptable.
Another alternative that is sure to be a crowd pleaser is the Hill Family Estate Brut Sparkling Wine. People often overlook the food-pairing potential of bubbles, and that is a shame. Sparkling wine works in many places where a red OR a white work. Our Brut Sparkling wine was in the bottle for a twelve month tirage, which makes its fruit character sing, with just enough complexity from the yeast to provide balance and depth. White meat, dark meat, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, all should pair beautifully with this wine.
After the dishes are cleared, and the pumpkin pie comes out, there is only one wine choice that will work, and that is the Hill Family Estate Nectar of the Gods. This late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc, with its honeyed sweetness and bright fruity aromas will provide the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness that comes with the traditional Thanksgiving desserts.
Whichever wines you select for your holiday feast, the team at Hill Family Estate wishes you and yours a delightful Thanksgiving, and we hope to see you at our Yountville tasting room soon!