I am a fan of Thanksgiving. It's a holiday that's mostly about eating, drinking, and family. It's still relatively uncommercialized. And it's about giving thanks, which I feel like puts a celebration into the right perspective.
Thanksgiving meals can be motley, usually involving a range of flavors and sweetnesses, and a group of participants whose interest in wine is likely to not all be acute. So I think it's good that most of the criticism I read about Thanksgiving wine pairing suggests first that you not stress too much about it, and second that you offer guests a range of choices. I was reminded recently of the 2016 piece on W. Blake Gray's blog where he set up a simple 5-question quiz to answer the question "is this wine good for Thanksgiving". I'm sure I haven't gone through every possible combination, but I've never gotten any answer other than "yes". And that's an approach it's hard to argue with.
There are wines that I tend to steer clear of, like wines that are powerfully tannic (which tend to come off even more so when they're paired with some of the sweeter Thanksgiving dishes), and wines that are high in alcohol (which tend to be fatiguing by the end of what is often a marathon of eating and drinking). But that still leaves you plenty of options. With a traditional turkey dinner, I tend to steer people toward richer whites and rosés, and fruitier reds relatively light in oak and tannin. There are a lot of Tablas Creek wines that fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Marsanne (one of my absolute favorites right now) and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise or Cotes de Tablas. Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds young or old, from Esprit de Tablas to Panoplie to En Gobelet, which just (say it out loud) sounds like something you should be drinking at this time of year.
To give you a sense of this diversity, I thought it would be fun to ask a broad cross-section of our team what they were planning on drinking this year. Their responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.
Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
This Thanksgiving will be spent with just my little family of five in our quaint town of Templeton. I truly enjoy cooking so I plan to spend my day in the kitchen creating memories with my kids while they help me make the feast. There will be Charlie Brown and the Macy’s parade on the TV for the kids - music playing while we enjoy bubbles and appetizers. For dinner this year, it was a toss-up between Domaine Weinbach Riesling and Tablas Creek Counoise. Given the possibility of rain (yay!!) on Thursday, I opted for a red wine. The Counoise fruit and spice notes pair perfectly with all things Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a wonderful day filled with love, laughter, and lots of good food. Cheers!
Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Well the Thanksgiving table, what to drink? There will of course be some Bristols Cider. This year we will have some Ojai Vineyards Roussanne which I just picked at the tasting room and is delicious. Also we will be opening a nice Beaujolais Nouveau from Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils. I think it will be a nice occasion for a Story Of Soil Grenache. Perhaps a nice Calvados to round it all off.
Ian Consoli, Marketing Coordinator
I like to balance guarantees with experiments in my Thanksgiving wine selections. This year the guarantee is The Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé. The tart red fruit of Grenache focused roses tend to pair well with the meal every year. My Tablas bottle is a bit of an experiment recommended by a local Somm. During a recent tasting he noted the Viognier focus and balancing Grenache Blanc of our 2017 Cotes de Tablas Blanc would pair nicely with the flavorful feast that fills aThanksgiving table. I’m looking forward to finding out. In a red I shoot for a fruit forward wine. This year I am looking at a Pinot from Alain Gras in Burgundy and an Old Vine Cinsaut from South Africa. There’s only 4-6 people at our table so I’ve been told I can only choose one of the reds. Wish me luck. Happy feasting!
Evelyne Fodor, Tasting Room Lead
My friends Andrea and Michael Dewit are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at their new home this year. The wines I chose are as much about pairing with the traditional meal as to a nod to them.
The first is a 2017 Sattlerhof Gamlitz Sauvignon Blanc from Sudsteiermark, Austria, the town where Andrea grew up. I found it at K&L where an eager staff told me it is light and has good acidity. He assured me it will pair beautifully with the fresh, crunchy endives salad I am bringing. Andrea will appreciate it immensely.
The second is a 2003 Côte-Rôtie from Domaine Patrick Jasmin. My brother gave me the bottle several years ago when I was visiting him in my hometown Lyon. Interestingly, the patriarch, Robert Jasmin was a friend of my dad. Our host Michael previously owned a vineyard (Domaine Maillet) in Vaison-La-Romaine, knows very well the region and is a true connoisseur of Côte-Rôtie. My brother described it as a wine in full maturity, with gentle tannin and moderate acidity. Not the least, a moderate alcohol level. No doubt it will be a great match with the spiciest part of the turkey. I can’t wait to see Michael taking the first sip of it.
Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
My husband’s family is from Orange County, which is around four hours away, and my mom lives in the Sierra Foothills, which is approximately five hours away. This means for the holidays, we normally spend a decent amount of time in the car. This year, however, my family is coming to us! I am feeling incredibly grateful and as such, have taken the time to plan for wines that they will love as a small thank you for the long haul they’re making to spend time with us. We’ll be making our traditional prime rib for Thursday night, so our final wine will need a little more heft and structure than we would be for the more traditional turkey feast. We’ll go through a progressive wine list, starting with light and fruity and making our way up the structure scale. To kick things off while cooking in the kitchen, I typically like to have something with bubbles. It looks like it may be a chilly, rainy afternoon, so instead of the usual bottle of white or rosé sparklers, we’ll have a bottle of Barbolini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro. It’s bubbly, fruity, and incredibly fun to drink. For dinner, we’ll have dueling glasses of red – one glass that’s a little dancier on the palate and one with a little more heft and weight. Jolie Laide’s 2016 North Coast Syrah will be our wine on the leaner end of the spectrum to pair with the non-meat dishes. For the prime rib, we’ll have a bottle of The Royal Nonesuch Farm 2017 Red. I’m unbelievably excited about opening and enjoying each of these wines, but even more excited to share them with some of the people I love most in the world.
Craig Hamm, Assistant Winemaker
We are going to be doing a potluck at my family’s house so my duties are the wines. There will be a sparkling rosé made with some friends, a fully garagiste special: my first vintage of wine, the Paysan Rosé of zinfandel. Then to some white Esprit Blanc, which always goes well at Thanksgiving with the richness it brings. I will also be bringing something I purchased from a great tasting at Kukkula: Vaalea, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier. For the reds we will have a Niner Cabernet Franc, Tablas Creek Counoise, and also the Tannat. I hope everyone has a good time with family and friends. Cheers.
Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist
Thanksgiving is the best day of the year. Friends, family, food, WINE, and whiskey. I am pulling the trigger this year and opening a magnum of 2013 Esprit de Tablas to share with my Mendocino family branch. On our journey north, this being Alma’s (our 5 month old daughter) first visit to the NorCal coast, we figure we’d expose her to some of the gems Route 128 and Anderson Valley has to offer. Our planned stops for Pinot (and hopefully a few Rhônes) will be Navarro, Husch Vineyards, Toulouse, and lastly, for the bubbles, Roederer... The night will end, or begin, with a bottle of Blanton’s Whiskey!!! Big things to come out of Tablas Creek Vineyard this year! We will keep you all posted! I am truly thankful to be a part of this team! ¡Viva Tablas Creek Vineyard!
John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
The thing is, this Thanksgiving I still don’t know what wine we’ll be serving. This is directly and irrefutably related to the fact that we don’t yet know what we’ll be serving for dinner. I know, I know, its Tuesday. We’re going back and forth between a traditional Thanksgiving spread and something more to my liking, like say, lamb chops, or my wife’s amazing Thai cuisine (which is her traditional Thanksgiving dinner). It will be a game time decision, made while grocery shopping Wednesday morning. So I thought I’d pass along some general guidelines that I follow for Thanksgiving. Frankly, you could skip this and check out Eric Asimov’s always excellent Thanksgiving column, which features better writing and the suggestions of a savvy group of wine professionals, as the message is pretty similar.
- Keep it light. Wines with low alcohol, tannin and oak work better with a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
- Keep it simple. It kills me to see Uncle Lush knock back an expensive and complex wine like he’s taking a shot of cheap tequila. Unless you’re hosting an avid wine crowd, save yourself some stress and money and look for modest bottlings that follow rule #1.
- Rose always works.
If you’re looking for suggestions from Tablas Creek, the Esprit de Tablas Blanc is always spot on with the savory flavors of this holiday, and elevates this meal to something more. For a budget white, the Patelin de Tablas Blanc would be terrific. For reds I like the Counoise, Grenache, or Cotes de Tablas. Just don’t forget the Rosé. Happy Thanksgiving!
Gustavo Prieto, Tasting Room, Cellar, and Vineyard
These year we’ll have a mix of guests, meaning there will be wine drinkers and beer drinkers, so it will be more of a challenge to choose the wines but one thing for sure it will be bubbles to start with. I’m thinking an Amirault cremant from the Loire and for the dinner table a bottle that I always choose for Thanksgiving, an older vintage of Tablas Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, probably a 2005 and for reds a 2017 Tablas Counoise and also from the Loire a 2013 Patient Cottat, Le Grand Caillou, Pinot Noir.
Randy Thurman, Facilities & IT
Kirk and Sweeney rum, Port from a winery in Greenfield, and probably English Ales Black Prince Porter and some English Ales Fat Lip. Maybe some English Ales Big Sur Ale as well and might have some fish and chips from their pub on the weekend. My father in law will probably have several bottles of TCV wines open as he has saved a few from his last shipment. My father in law is waiting for the 24 hour apple cider brined rotisserie smothered in herb butter stuffed with veggies and cooked over peach wood turkey on a rotisserie add on for our Weber kettle grills and I use the drippings from the turkey to make the gravy for the mashed potatoes.
Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
This Thanksgiving I will be traveling down home with a couple options in my car. I usually go for something to pair with the main dish, TURKEY!!! However, my mom has gone the way of veganism so I’ll have to get a bit more creative with my selections. I’m thinking a couple whites, like Delaporte Sancerre Monts Damnés and Paix Sur Terre Ugni Blanc. Both bring a lot to the table with lovely acidity and lots of texture, they are both pleasurable to drink on their own but can also accompany a meal. As far as reds for the occasion, I like to keep things light seeing as the meal typically brings everyone to the edge of bursting their buttons. Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 is a great light, pleasantly fruity, and easy on the wallet wine to pair with what will probably be a vegetable-heavy meal.
And as for me...
Typically, my choice is to open the largest bottle I have to hand at Thanksgiving gatherings. There's usually a story behind a big bottle, and the randomness of "just open it" adds a certain amount of pleasurable discovery to the gathering, as well as the festivity that large bottles bring per force.
The largest bottle I have is a 3-liter of 2005 Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet, acquired at some silent auction this year (a consequence of attending fundraisers in wine country!). I'm sure that would be amazing. But I'm not feeling like I want to commit four bottles of the same wine to a meal where there will only be eight adults. This is a smaller gathering than some recent ones in our history. If I don't open the big bottle, I may go with a magnum of 2000 Talley Rincon Pinot Noir that I've been saving for the right occasion. I also ordered a case of one of my favorite Beaujolais producers, the 2018 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie, with Thanksgiving in mind.
Whichever way we go, I'm sure that it will be preceded by some Dianthus, and we'll likely break out some whites for those who'd prefer that with their turkey, maybe the 2018 Picardan for something mineral and refreshing. For me, it's an important consideration that none of these wines will demand to be the center of attention: they will be dining companions with which you can have a conversation, to tell (and help you tell) stories around the table. After all, that's what it's all about.
Wherever you are, we wish you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, and that you be surrounded by good food and great company.