Washing down Thanksgiving


Maker's Mark BourbonThanksgiving dinner is one of those American traditions, like all extended family gatherings, that are 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. Obviously, alcohol is key to various parts of the night’s proceedings, from cooking to cleanup. Drink responsibly, or your Thanksgiving feast is likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Here are a few suggestions to play with:

When it comes to pairing wines with your Thanksgiving meal, domestic American wines are fairly traditional. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with an imported wine, but this is an American holiday, and some of your guests might be rather particular. On the other hand, America’s melting pot civic culture wouldn’t be what it is without contributions from other lands, so there is solid ground to stand on here too. Some prefer white wine with turkey, like a buttery chardonnay or perhaps a zingy Riesling, while others go for a hearty and rich red like zinfandel or syrah, or the more “feminine” pinot noir. All might be excellent with your meal; just give it a few moments’ thought.

There is no “perfect” wine for this, as all such selections are necessarily subjective and personal. Here are a two white and two red options to consider:


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): Sourced from the Scopus Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, this brilliant, 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!

Pacifica, Evan’s Collection, Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2010 ($27; mevushal): Opens with ripe cherry and oak scents which lead into flavors of black and red cherries, raspberry and plum with some mild smokiness along with mineral and herbal notes. Nicely balanced with good acidity and firm tannins, it gets better as it breathes, so consider decanting to smooth out the edges.
Agua Dulce Zinfandel 2010 ($34): A powerful, explosive nose of fruit and spice, this medium to full bodied zin is complex, richly layered and well structured, with lovely dark fruit and spice notes, and a pleasing, lengthy finish.

Finally, it should be noted that one of the available kosher box wines lends itself rather well to Thanksgiving too. Everything from food prep, to kibbitzing with cousins, to washing down turkey with all the trimmings may all be greatly enhanced on the cheap and from a seemingly bottomless reservoir via the To Life Wine Boxes by L’Chaim or the (in) brand from Baron Herzog.

Of course, wine isn’t, and shouldn’t be, your only alcoholic beverage. So, spirits-wise, think in terms of American whiskies like bourbon or rye, either straight, on the rocks or in a cocktail. Consider, for example, an autumnal pre-dinner cocktail like the orange whiskey sour:

In a mixing glass filled at least 2/3 full of cold, hard cracked ice, shake together 2 ounces of bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark here, even though Wild Turkey sounds more appropriate), 2 ounces of fresh orange juice, 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of sugar; shake the hell of out of it, 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, according to your tastes), then garnish with an orange slice. This will whet your appetite and mellow your mood at the same time.


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