It seems as though every Thanksgiving people ask the same question: "What wine goes best with turkey?" I gave this some thought last Thanksgiving, while watching our annual 21-pound bird bob around like a giant McNugget in five gallons of boiling peanut oil, and decided that the problem isn’t the turkey at all. Turkey, as we all know, is about the least flavorful item on the Thanksgiving table. Sans gravy and stuffing, you could match anything from Albariño to Zinfandel with it and come out fine.
So the real issue is all those side dishes. What you want is a wine that goes equally well with brussels sprouts, sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, creamed onions, corn bread and 15 or 20 other Thanksgiving must-haves. This means a wine that not only manages to have wonderful flavor but also wonderful balance— neither too tannic nor too acidic, neither too alcoholic nor too light. It needs the zip to cut through cream, the delicacy to enhance subtle seasonings and the flavor to stand up to a host of other, not always complementary flavors—all qualities the following wines have. And, of course, all of them are perfect matches for turkey.
2005 Hogue Pinot Grigio ($10) Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris; they’ re the same grape) has become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most widely planted white varieties. Hogue’s version hews to the lighter, more Italian style, with a light floral aroma and nectarine-citrus flavors.
2004 Paraiso Riesling ($14) Made in an Alsace style—dry, with just a hint of sweetness, and full of tingling acidity, white peach and green apple fruit—this bottling from the Santa Lucia Highlands in California’s Monterey County is Riesling at its tastiest.
2005 Torres Viña Esmeralda ($14) The mountain slopes in the northern parts of Spain’s Penedès region, west of Barcelona, provide the grapes for this fragrant, medium-bodied white, a jasmine-scented blend of Gewürztraminer, Moscatel de Alejandría and Moscatel de Grano Menudo.
2005 Michel Torino Don David Torrontés Reserve ($15) Torrontés, though little known in the U.S., is the premier white grape of Argentina. This bottling from Michel Torino’s 1,500 acres of vineyards in the Salta region’s Cafayate Valley has a flamboyant aroma of peach and apple blossoms.
2005 Groth Sauvignon Blanc ($18) Groth ferments and ages 70 percent of its Sauvignon Blanc in four- to five-year-old oak barrels, which don’t impart any oak flavor yet allow the wine to develop on its lees (the sediment and yeast left in the barrel after fermentation). This process adds richness and texture, as this lush, melony bottling reveals.
2005 Iron Horse Rosato di Sangiovese ($12) The rugged T Bar T Vineyard in the northeast corner of California’s Alexander Valley supplied the grapes for this Italian-style rosé. Full-bodied for a rosé, it’s packed with wild strawberry flavors that are even more pronounced when the wine is lightly chilled.
2005 Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda ($9) Colonia Las Liebres (which loosely translates to "colony of the rabbits") is produced by Tuscan winemakers Alberto Antonini and Attilio Pagli in Argentina’s Mendoza region. That’s appropriate since Bonarda— the grape that creates this lively, juicy wine—also emigrated to Argentina from Italy.
2004 Bogle Petite Sirah ($11) Petite Sirah can often be aggressively tannic, but this bottling from Clarksburg, California, producer Bogle is soft enough to go with a vast range of dishes. Its ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit is luscious and compelling.
2004 Hahn Estates Merlot ($14) Proprietor Nicolaus Hahn created Hahn Estates wines like this peppery, licorice-tinged Merlot to focus on affordable bottlings from his vineyards throughout California’s Monterey County.
2003 Abadía Retuerta Rívola ($15) Earthy, juicy black cherry flavors and a touch of smokiness define this intense but elegant red from Spain’s Sardón de Duero region, just west of the more famous vineyards of Ribera del Duero.
2003 Château Musar Cuvée Rouge ($19) Château Musar, in the Bekáa Valley in Lebanon, has successfully made amazing reds through more wars than any winery deserves. The second wine to its flagship Château Musar red—a blend of Cinsaut, Carignane and Cabernet Sauvignon—has a silky texture and raspberry-compote flavors.
2004 Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir ($23) The arrival of talented winemaker Jeff Stewart at this historic California winery has resulted in a surge of quality. The classic Carneros Pinot Noir, for instance, has soft tannins and succulent cherry flavors.