Value Vino for Turkey (and Sides) Day

Editor's note: This marks the debut column on Serious Eats from Beard Award–winning wine blogger Tyler Colman (aka Dr. Vino). The good doctor will appear every other Friday with his always entertaining and enlightening take on wine. Today, his picks for Thanksgiving. —Adam

part of a Serious ThanksgivingCleaning the Augean stables in a day. Capturing a Cretan bull. Slaying a hydra.

I'm thinking of a few Herculean tasks easier than making wine suggestions for Thanksgiving. Consider the challenges:

1. Side dishes: Turkey is innocuous enough to pair with wine. It's the side dishes that throw a wrench in the gravy. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows? Sounds like an impossible food-wine pairing to me!

2. People, lots of them: The celebration almost always sees a large crowd, which, for many a host, might be cause enough for hitting the bottle. But the wide array of guests bring different expectations for and diverse appreciation of wine.

3. Budget: With all the expenditure on food and so many guests, there can be little juice left for wine.

Of course there are many ways to spin the wine bottle for Thanksgiving. The winning combination for you might be just to have a wine you like with food you like. My own preferences favor avoiding tannins and high alcohol wines with the meal. What I suggest here is an array of wines, easy on the palate and easy on the wallet. Mix and match. Have fun. With good food and friends around, it's hard to go wrong. And if your relatives start to really annoy you, just keep tasting. My picks, after the jump.

Bisol, "Crede" Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, 2005 (Veneto, Italy). $15. Find this wine »
This bubbly comes from Italy, not Champagne. This dry Prosecco has surprising depth and will make the dinner feel festive without breaking the bank. Be sure to bring it to the table and try with the food.

Knebel Riesling Kabinett Feinherb Winninger Hamm, 2005 (Mittelmosel, Germany), $22. Find this wine »
The German on the label may sound harsh, but this wine is smooth as peach fuzz. Truly an impressive Riesling with lots of verve, the aromas of white peach (indeed!) and tropical fruits leap from the glass. The arching mid-palate gives way to a hugely pleasurable lingering finish. Sweet, yes, but not super-sweet. Try to pair it with the sweeter dishes on the Thanksgiving table since I find that sweet confronted with sweet, counterintuitively, becomes less sweet and more enjoyable.

Cooper Mountain, reserve Pinot Gris, 2006 (Willamette Valley, Oregon), $13. Find this wine »
Bob Gross (who drives a Mini Cooper, appropriately) and his wife Corrine founded this winery in 1978. Although an MD, Bob became interested in homeopathy and converted his vineyards to organic in 1990 and in 1999 to biodynamics, a sort of organic with a dose of spirituality. This pinot gris has somewhat muted aromas that give way to tastes of honeydew melon and tropical fruits and some stony minerality. It's unoaked, and unlike the Riesling, totally dry.

Domaine du Hureau, 2005 (Saumur Champigny, France), $14. Find this wine »
Loire reds are not well-known—use that and the corresponding discount to your advantage for the excellent '05 vintage. This wine, which I poured last weekend to guests who quickly drained the bottle, has wonderful bing cherry fruit, a certain ethereal smokiness, a faint and an interesting green pepper note, good acidity with gentle tannins. This will go great with the gravy.

Peique, Mencia, (Bierzo, Spain) 2005, $11. Find this wine »
Wrap your mind around this Mencia. The grape will get you out of your Merlot morass. I poured this unoaked wine at a tasting this week and it blew people away--they guessed it was $30. A vibrant dark purple hue, the wine has great aromas of blackcurrants and a good balance. It's like a lean, sexy, interesting Merlot. But one that Miles from Sideways would definitely give this a thumbs up. Try decanting one hour prior to serving.

Which wines will be on your table this Thanksgiving?

About the author: Tyler Colman, Ph.D., writes bout wine at He teaches wine classes at NYU.


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