Looking for the perfect Thanksgiving wine? Not an easy task given the wide range of flavors from salty and savory to sweet and sour – and all on the same plate! If you want a real challenge this year, try pairing your wine not only to the food, but also to this year’s Thanksgiving host.
Below I have analyzed some of the world’s (and Wisconsin’s) most iconic culinary legends, and have selected wines based on their cuisine… and personality!
Rachel Ray – Traditional, Simple, and Fun
This “Bubbly” “All-American” “Chef Next Door” keeps it simple, from food prep and price to presentation. A value-driven crowd-pleasing American sparkling wine would set the mood for a fun and informal holiday. Gruet’s Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico (~$15), made from Pinot Noir, has the weight and berry flavors to complement any Thanksgiving. An upgrade to Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine from California (~$25) may even elicit a “Yum-O!” or “Delish!” from the exuberant host. “How good is that!?!”Try more sparkling wines this December at MWS’s class, Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles.
Julia Child – Traditional, Rich, and Classic
Julia and I would have gotten along fabulously. She once said, “I would happily die with a bottle of white burgundy in my mouth.” Me too! JM Boillot Bourgogne Blanc (~$35)and its crisp autumn apple flavors with a touch of vanilla and butter would have complemented Child’s butter-and-cream-laden Thanksgiving soiree. In spite of her devotion to French culinary technique, tradition, and wine, Child was no wine snob. A red French Chinon made from Cabernet Franc, like J Mellot’s Les Morinieres (~$17), would have shined bright with intense black cherry fruit, herbal notes and crushed granite, offering elegance without pretension. Both wines available at Bavette Le Boucherie, 330 E Menomonee, Milwaukee.
Tory Miller – Traditional with a Local Flair
Tory Miller, chef/owner of L’Etoile and Graze in Madison, Wisconsin, took home James Beard’s award for Best Chef-Midwest in 2012. Our very own food hero is a strong advocate of sourcing local, including wines and beer. Wisconsin’s Wollersheim Prairie Fume (~$10) or King Fisher White Whisper (~$16) both have snappy acid with a touch of residual sugar, making them the perfect foil for everything from cranberries and sweet potatoes to stuffing and turkey.
Juan Mari Arzak – Traditional and yet Modern
As long as I am fantasizing about my attendance at the intimate holiday gatherings of A-list celebrities and deceased culinary icons, I may as well imagine the Thanksgiving feast of aman who probably doesn’t celebrate this holiday. World-renowned Spanish chef, Arzak roots his artistic creations in the traditional and then updates them with a modern twist. Although your friends and family may not be serving mashed potato foam, they may, say, experiment with turkey breast butterflied and then grilled over hot coals, served with pancetta, sourdough and apple stuffing. A modern-style wine from the traditional Spanish region of Rioja, like Baigorri Reserva (~$40) with its dark fruit, sweet baking spices and velvety texture, would pair wonderfully with an Arzak-inspired spread. If you can’t find thiswine locally, come and visit the winery with me in 2014.
Anthony Bourdain – Non-traditional, Irreverent and International
Mr. Bourdain travels the world seeking extraordinary edible stories. I imagine this maverick isn’t likely to be stateside for Thanksgiving, but even if he were, I wonder if he would opt for African, Korean or some other international cuisine in place of the traditional Yankee fare. Not knowing what Mr. Bourdain may elect, I would suggest a Georgian wine due to the diversity of wine styles available within its borders, from sweet fruity reds to dry earthy reds, or light fruity modern whites to tannic orange qvevri wines. Regardless, Bourdain would appreciate the back story – Georgia was the first country to make wine. Read more about my work with the world’s “inventor of wine.”
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Wisconsin has been honored in Wine Spectator’s newly released 2014 Restaurant Awards