As this strange and unsettling year finally draws to a close, all Americans share a deeper appreciation for cherished relationships with friends and family. Some of us will gather together with close family or friends while others will shelter at home, but keeping the ritual of giving thanks at the dinner table this November is as essential as face masks and social distancing.
That’s why our friends at Jordan Winery have put together a list of Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Tips & Recipes to help bring a taste of Sonoma wine country to your table. One of the most challenging parts of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner isn’t making sure that the turkey isn’t dry—it’s finding wine pairings that work with the smorgasbord of flavors on the table. We hope these Thanksgiving dinner menu tips wows the small group of loved ones you’ll be celebrating with because if there is one thing we’ve learned from 2020, it’s to slow down and take time to celebrate the little things in life.
Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Tips
1. Don’t focus too much on the bird. Turkey with a fuller-bodied red wine is a challenging Thanksgiving wine pairing. You can, however, make Thanksgiving turkey more cabernet-friendly by adding a few ingredients. Bring out cabernet sauvignon’s earthy notes by sprinkling the turkey with porcini powder during the last hour of roasting. Turkey stuffed with a cabernet-friendly dressing (see next tip below), also brings savory, complex flavors to the delicate white meat, helping it stand up better to a fuller-bodied red wine.
2. Increase the dried herb, smoky and meaty flavors in the dressing. A handful of ingredients can turn your favorite Thanksgiving dressing recipe into a beautiful cabernet sauvignon pairing. Add fresh chopped rosemary, thyme and basil—all three elevate the classic dried herb notes in an elegant cabernet. Grilled or sautéed onions are also a great bridging element for pairing with cabernet. When you caramelize onions, flavors transition from sweet to umami—that savory taste helps the food stand up to the tannin in the wine. Black olives are my other secret weapon for cabernet sauvignon food pairing. Salt-cured olives seem to have the effect of softening the perceived astringency of red wine’s tannins. Olives are also high in monounsaturated fat; both protein and fat soften tannins. Add some raw, smoky bacon to the dressing before baking too; the bacon complements the toasted oak notes in the red wine.
3. Add bridge ingredients to your favorite mashed potato recipe. Meyer lemon zest brings out the citrus notes in chardonnay and makes the potatoes taste lighter. Toasted hazelnuts elevate the wine’s barrel-aged nuances. Cabernet lovers can add ingredients like mushrooms and grilled shallots to play off the red wine’s earthy and barrel-aged notes. Incorporating creamy butternut squash to mashed potatoes also enhances the mouthfeel of a round, barrel-aged chardonnay. For Thanksgiving gravy, brown gravy recipes made with beef broth are a better match for cabernet sauvignon. Adding sautéed mushrooms to brown gravy further elevates this Thanksgiving wine pairing. View all three of Chef Knoll’s wine-friendly mashed potato recipes.
4. Use Epicurious’ Shallot and Dried Cherry Compote Cranberry Sauce recipe for your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. There’s no need to create a new wine-friendly cranberry sauce recipe when Epicurious has already done the work for us. A traditionally sweet cranberry sauce over-accentuates the alcohol and tannin in the wine, making it taste hot and unbalanced. “I love serving this side dish because it’s the best cranberry sauce recipe I’ve found for Thanksgiving wine pairing,” says Executive Chef Todd Knoll of Jordan Winery. “It’s perfectly balanced and not too sweet. It’s got great acidity, which complements the acid in the wine. The dried cherries elevate the fruit in medium- to fuller-bodied red wines like cabernet sauvignon. Chef Knoll suggests a younger red wine pairing, such as 2015 or 2016 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.
5. Serve blackberry or black cherry desserts for the best cabernet wine pairing. Making cabernet or chardonnay shine with pumpkin pie is no cakewalk. The sweetness and spices are too overwhelming for these oak-aged wines. But, low-sugar blackberry cobbler is another story. In the Jordan kitchen, Chef Knoll tends to use a third less of sugar than a typical recipe calls for. With the winery’s blackberry cobbler, it can stand up to Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon because the dessert isn’t so sweet that the sugar overpowers the berries, and when the fruit is the star, it elevates the fruit in the wine. You want the natural sweetness of the blackberries to shine through and complement cabernet’s dark fruits. View the Wine Country Blackberry Cobbler recipe.