When choosing wine for a group, it’s hard to know how to please every individual palate. Many wine drinkers simply want an easy-drinking wine, not a specific flavor component to match each dish served. Only a few wine varietals appeal to the broadest spectrums – Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Vouvray, Prosecco, and for reds, Zinfandel, and Grenache blends.
Nerds like me choose the wine first, then make a dish to enhance the bottle. But don’t expect your typical holiday guest to feel the same way. So don’t pressure yourself to pick a different wine for every dish you’re serving this Thanksgiving. I love a dinner served in coursed with wines matched appropriately and if you plan this sort of menu, be sure to invite me!
Here are some basic pairing rules you may find helpful:
- Acidic wines can balance salty dishes and bitter vegetables
- Wine with a slight sweetness can balance both fruity and savory foods
- Creamy sauces need a wine with weight and body
- Sweet desserts need a wine just as sweet or sweeter
- And finally, even though you are a wine lover, making a cocktail for your group dinner is ok! Try a splash of Chambord topped off with a Texas Sparkling wine with just a hint of fruitiness.
Serving a solid Texas red and white can be tricky, but here are my two picks of bottles that should be pretty easy to find and truly are crowd-pleasers:
- McPherson Cellars 2019 Chenin Blanc (Retail $28).
- Becker Vineyards 2018 GSM (Retail $28).
Add the sparkling cocktail I mentioned, and the trio ensures happy dinner guests.
This year I’m planning a coursed Thanksgiving meal. Each dish will be a small plate served with its accompanying wine. The traditional holiday flavors will be present and served as individual bites of deliciousness instead of a heaping plate. This menu also works well for a party as passed hors-d’oeuvres. You may enjoy trying this with your family and friends (and let me know how it goes)!
Deviled Eggs with Messina Hof Brut Sparkling Wine (Retail $30) The fizz and fruitiness counter the creamy tartness of a traditional deviled egg. Most southerners have a family recipe for this holiday treat – I use Dijonnaise, capers, diced shallots, paprika, and fresh cracked black pepper topped with crumbled crispy bacon.
Cheese & Charcuterie with Serrano Wine Texas Roussanne (Retail $44) – This Texas High Plains Roussanne has enough richness to accentuate the richness of fatty cheeses and sausages while also displaying a crisp acidity to create contrast. Everyone appreciates good charcuterie to kick off a dinner or party. Pour your chilled Roussanne alongside a slice of Brie with prosciutto and dried apricots.
Salad of fresh spinach, dried cranberries, walnuts, and a drizzle of spicy honey served with Whisper Path Cellars 2018 San Antonio Rosé (Retail $32) Berries enhance the fruity notes of the wine (strawberries or cherries work well too). This smooth rosé will soften the bitterness of the spinach and the tannins of the walnuts.
Turkey with Cranberry & Dressing and Yoder Cellars 2019 Pinot Pinot (Retail $40) A plate piled with traditional roasted turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce is always delicious. You can easily create a finger-food version by stacking a water cracker with cranberry sauce, herb-roasted turkey deli meat, and chopped pecans. This blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunière from Dallum County is light-bodied with complexity to make it appealing to many red wine enthusiasts. It’s a fantastic pairing wine but is so easy to enjoy on its own.
Roast Beef Green Beans served alongside Hilmy Cellars 2021 Carignan (Retail $38) Prime Rib with all the sides is often considered the epitome of celebration. Create a bite-size version with a pickled green bean wrapped in a thin slice of roast beef deli meat. These rich flavors deserve a complex wine with a balance of fruit and vegetal notes. Use this quick alternative with any red wine intended to pair with a high-quality cut of beef. I was lucky enough to work in the cellar at Hilmy during the harvest of 2021, and this is a wine I had my hands in – literally. I love the deep wine with flavors of berries, tobacco leaf, and baking spices with a hint of meatiness.
Pumpkin Pie with Rustic Spur El Gato Importanté Dessert Wine (Retail $30) I love a giant slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, but I have an easy alternative to share. Try a pre-made Philo dough cup from the freezer section of your grocer. Then mix pumpkin pie filling and cool whip at about a 50/50 ratio and spoon it into the cups. Sprinkle a little more pumpkin pie spice on top. A rich fortified dessert wine fits nicely with the baking spice notes. And the easy one-bite dessert is a winner for the entire fall and winter seasons.
Whether you celebrate this Thanksgiving with an intimate family meal or a large group affair, I hope you’ll take a moment to be thankful for the grape farmers and winemakers in our great state!
And There’s More!
If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving-themed event at a Texas winery, here are a couple I’ve ferreted out…
Messina Hof Winery in Grapevine is hosting ‘Gathering with Gewurztraminer,’ a Thanksgiving pairing class on November 18th at 6:30 p.m. The evening includes seven traditional holiday dishes paired with wines for $45 per person with reservations.
Pebble Rock Cellars in Johnson City is celebrating the new release of their popular dessert wine o inicio. On Friday, November 25th, travel from the beginning of Pebble Rock with each vintage of this rich and delicious wine. Seatings are at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. priced at $40 per person with reservations. While this isn’t a focus on the Thanksgiving holiday, it is a fun addition to the holiday weekend. Owners Robert and Lydia Nida want to give thanks for the journey of their label share these years with their guests.
Great article. Helpful, informative and succinct.
Happy Thanksgiving 🦃
Jeff Cope says