One of the most intimidating holidays to select wines for is Thanksgiving.
Think about it: All those family members showing up, all the myriad flavors on the table. This is no simple task.
We have a few guidelines to make Thanksgiving wine pairing a bit easier:
▪ Select many styles of wine, allowing your guests plenty of options. You’re likely to have a Chardonnay lover or two at the table, as well as someone who prefers bigger reds. Give them something to latch onto.
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▪ Avoid bringing out expensive heavy hitters. Leave the cult wines for a different meal. If you serve a Leonetti cab, for example, the moment will most likely be lost amid all the family discussion and all the food on the table. And that’s just a waste of a great bottle of wine. Save it for prime rib at Christmas or a favorite birthday or anniversary instead.
▪ Always try to include a bottle of Gewürztraminer, because one of the few meals it pairs well with is roasted turkey. Plus, if it’s a little bit off-dry, it will appeal to those at your holiday table who aren’t experienced wine drinkers.
▪ Put out a lot of wines. Give everyone something they’d like to drink. An old caterer’s trick is to figure a half-bottle of wine per guest. So if you have 12 people coming to Thanksgiving, make sure you open at least six bottles.
With all of this in mind, here are eight great Northwest wines, all of which won gold medals at last month’s Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. All of these will serve you and your guests well at that Thanksgiving meal. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $16: Voluminous and juicy, reaffirming that Sangiovese’s role in the U.S. may best be realized as a rosé of pinpoint fruit and broad expression. (12.9 percent alcohol)
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Malbec, Rattlesnake Hills, $28: What an enjoyable Malbec, principally for its unusually sunny fruit, herbal layering, sense of place, prickly spice and exceptional length. (15.2 percent alcohol)
Barnard Griffin Winery 2014 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $14: A Chardonnay this easy drinking shouldn’t be so rich and layered, but here you go, another bargain from one of the Northwest’s more consistent producers. (13.2 percent alcohol)
Palencia Wine Co. 2013 Grenache, Yakima Valley, $36: It brings to the table an elegance not at all ostentatious, but admirable for its harmony and spirit. This is an unusually complex Grenache, presenting in equal measures floral, grapey and spiced-meat notes. (13.8 percent alcohol)
Pacific Rim Winemakers 2015 Twin Vineyards Gewürztraminer, Yakima Valley, $16: No shrinking violet here; more like a bouquet of rose petals in the aroma and a bowl of unadulterated lychee nuts on the palate, finishing with the variety’s perky spice and stimulating acidity. (13 percent alcohol)
Van Duzer Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $32: A Pinot Noir that’s unusually transparent for its direct delivery, slim frame, shy tannins and crisp acidity. It’s a “starter” Pinot Noir that won’t let down consumers new to the varietal because of its value and clarity. (13.5 percent alcohol)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: The joy of Eroica harvest after harvest is how faithfully it represents the vintage. In this case, 2014 yielded an interpretation classically lean and centered, seizing Riesling in all its subversive complexity, with dryness and crispness. (12 percent alcohol)
Bainbridge Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Siegerrebe, Puget Sound , $32: The queen bee of late-harvest wines, sure to draw a colony of willing workers for its centered richness, lemony core and bracing acidity, rare for a wine so thick. (11 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com