Keeping your balance at the Thanksgiving table


Thanksgiving dinner is one of those American traditions that’s regularly greeted with joy or dread, depending entirely on one’s attitude and forbearance.

The proceedings generally progress with greater joviality, or at least cordiality, when well lubricated. Just drink responsibly or your Thanksgiving feast is likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

The goal of pairing wine with food is balance; neither the food nor the wine should overpower each other. Rules of thumb — like lighter foods with lighter wines, richer foods with richer, full-bodied wines — should not be thought of as absolute. The interplay of wine and food is necessarily subjective, but the differences among wine varietals and styles can seem dramatic.

With turkey, some prefer white wine, like an oaky chardonnay or a lighter, dry Riesling. Others go for a flavorful red, like syrah or zinfandel or the softer pinot noir. Some might prefer a zippy rosé. Experiment liberally in advance. When in doubt, provide guests with options.

Here are a few suggestions:

Hagafen Cellars, Dry White Riesling, Coombsville Napa Valley, Rancho Weiruszowsky Vineyard, 2014 ($24; mevushal): This light, bright, bracing, dry Riesling is superb with a nose of lychee, peach, lemon zest and  touch of ginger heavy allspice, following through on the palate to flavors of under-ripe white peach, grapefruit and Meyer lemon. Clean, vibrant and refreshing throughout.

Covenant, Lavan, Chardonnay, Sonoma Mountain, California 2013 ($38): This young yet refined, big, tight, rich and creamy wine begins floral and rather fruity on the nose, leading into a more Burgundian frame with flavor notes of citrus, apple and pear, brioche toast, a touch of fig and toasted almond, and loaded with minerals. Fabulous!

Hagafen Cellars’s 2012 Cabernet Franc ($39): This is a lovely, refined and impressive medium-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of black cherry, ripe plum, dried currant, and savory chocolate, with spice and cedar wood, and a complex finish. This is one to hold for a few more years at least, but enjoyable now with a hearty, meaty meal.

Pacifica, Evan’s Collection, Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2012 ($25; mevushal): It opens with ripe red and black cherry, wild strawberry, raspberry, along with mineral and herbal notes, and some lovely mushroomy earthiness. It is yummy now, and gets better as it breathes in your glass.

Finally, it should be noted that kosher box wines lend themselves to Thanksgiving, too.

The “(in)” wines remain vibrant:

Chen(in), Baron Herzog Wine Cellars, California, 2014 (1.5 liters; $15.99; also available in 750ml bottle format at $9.99; OU certified, mevushal): Made in a different, drier style from the more familiar Baron Herzog brand, this is bright, crisp, frisky and fruity yet dry with simple, pleasing aromas and flavors of green apple, honeysuckle, and sweet grapefruit.

Z(in), Baron Herzog Wine Cellars, California, 2014 (1.5 liters; $15.99; also available in 750ml bottle format at $9.99; OU certified, mevushal): Distinctly different from the more familiar Baron Herzog Old Vine Zin, this is light, dry and plush with jammy berry fruits, ripe plums, and a very slight sweetness that rounds off the edges and perks up the flavors.

Spirits-wise, think in terms of American whiskies like bourbon or rye, either straight, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. Consider this cocktail:

Orange Whiskey Sour: In a mixing glass at least 2/3 full of cold, cracked ice, shake together 2 ounces of bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark, though Wild Turkey sounds more appropriate), 2 ounces of fresh orange juice, 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of sugar; shake, then strain into a tall glass with fresh ice, rub the rim of the glass with the lemon wedge (you can also rim the glass with sugar margarita-style), then garnish with an orange slice. L’chaim!

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