Montesquieu Winery Reflects on Thanksgiving and Looks Toward Christmas —The Joys of Food and Wine Over the Holidays

December 13, 2010, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday—it encompasses tradition, gratitude, family, friends, quality time with people that matter.  But what would Thanksgiving be without that seemingly endless meal, paired with a collection of your favorite wines?

We at Montesquieu Winery are reflecting back on this year’s Thanksgiving feasts, reliving our favorite wines and some of our more successful pairings as we prepare for the next round of holiday parties and dinners.  Although certain wines have developed a reputation for pairing particularly well with a Thanksgiving meal — Riesling, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, just to name a few — the truth is that any wine that was a hit at Thanksgiving will likely play beautifully through the rest of the holiday season and beyond!

Montesquieu Winery Thanksgiving 2010

Helpful Hints

But before remembering some of our Thanksgiving favorites, let’s highlight a few tips we’ve learned over the years that apply to serving wine at any festive occasion.

Feel free  to take some license to experiment and enjoy.  We believe there are no strict hard-and-fast rules.   After all, everyone is different, with different tastes.  Pairing food and wine should not require a PhD or cause anxiety.  Here are some basic guidelines that are helpful, but more importantly, drink what you enjoy, and serve a variety that you think others will enjoy too!

  • If you’re serving a wide variety of foods and flavors, and if you expect a wide variety of guests (especially if you don’t know exactly what everyone likes), be sure to have a wide variety of wine categories represented.  If you can, it’s great to have sparkling, white, rosé, red and dessert wine available — that way you’re covered no matter the pairing or preference!
  • Better to have too much wine on hand than not enough.  Any wine that is not used will be great for another occasion or back in your cellar.
  • Especially if you aren’t familiar with each of your guests’s wine preferences, it’s wise to offer both Old World and New World wines, as many people strongly prefer one style over the other. (Literally the number and type of taste buds shape what we perceive as we taste, and consequently, what we like—more on that later!)
  • Focus on balanced wines that aren’t too extreme in any one direction.  Such wines will pair with more foods and appeal to a greater number of people.
  • Avoid wines with heavy oak, aggressive tannins and high alcohol, as these attributes can obscure the taste of some foods, especially more delicate dishes.

Suggested List of Eclectic, Food-Friendly Winesthis list is in no way complete, and each person’s tastes are different, but these are some wines we’ve found to be especially enjoyable during the holidays

  • sparkling:  Prosecco, vintage Cava, Rosé Champagne, Vouvray pétillant
  • white: German Riesling (Kabinett or Spätlese), Sancerre, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Chassagne-Montrachet, Chablis, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Viognier
  • rosé:   southern Rhone, Languedoc-Rousillon, Provence
  • red:  late-harvest Romanian Spätburgunder, Cru Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Northern Rhone Syrah,  Barolo, Super-Tuscan Cabernet blends, Sangiovese
  • dessert:  German Auslese, German TBA, Late Harvest Zin, tawny or vintage Port, Sauternes

Montesquieu Wine Brokers Share Some of Our Top Thanksgiving Experiences 2010

“We served fresh rosemary & sage turkey with an orange juice glaze and pear-pecan stuffing, fresh garlic mashed potatoes & cinnamon whipped sweet potatoes—served with Chassagne-Montrachet and 2006 Derenoncourt Lake County Cabernet.  Chocolate-raspberry tart served with NV Rochefoucauld Brut Champagne and 1977 Tuke Holdsworth Port.”

“Colle Forte, a 50/50 Sangiovese-Merlot blend, is amazing and can tackle it all…wish I still had some around to enjoy!   Since I couldn’t do that, I looked to a youthful Morgon to keep things moving…”

“We drank a bottle of Brut Prosecco that I successfully sabered, then Philippe Auchere Sancerre, a bottle of Sorada Napa Cabernet, Michel Rolland’s Mariflor Pinot Noir, and finished it off with the NV Henri Mandois Brut.”

“To start with, NV Rochefoucauld Brut Rosé on its own upon entering the door was a huge hit.  The cheerful color, lively fruit and silky texture really set the mood so well.   Followed by late-harvest Marmarot Romainian Spätburgunder, Carbonados Columbia Valley Blend and Alexander Rochette Cote-Rotie.  This was a treat to watch reactions to such diverse styles– late-harvest Pinot, the Washington state blend, and classic Northern Rhone Syrah.  Each wine was so different, but they worked really well.   Dessert with 2005 Jerome Dehours Grand Vintage Extra Brut, super elegant.

“Drank 10 or 12 different bottles with family over the holiday, and the top wine was clear: the 2006 Renaud Chablis Vaillons. That wine is an unstoppable force. Absolutely love it, with turkey or anything or nothing at all!”

“We had Avaya Chardonnay with an awesome home-made pumpkin pie-delicious!”

Et vous?

What were some of your favorite wines or pairings over Thanksgiving or at past holiday parties?  Which wines are you saving for Christmas dinner? Do you have any suggestions for the rest of us in terms of serving tips, top-performing wine regions or grapes, or what not to do and why?  We want to learn from your experiences!

{2 Comments}

2 Responses to Montesquieu Winery Reflects on Thanksgiving and Looks Toward Christmas —The Joys of Food and Wine Over the Holidays

  1. Stephen George on December 14, 2010 6:39 pmFor me, variety is crucial, as you suggest Lisa. When I drive up to be with my family for a holiday, I bring a mixed case of bottles that run the gamut of sparkling, white, and red, and that offer a range of styles. I'm a fan of minerally, acid-driven, crisp, fresh and funky wines; some in my family prefer more of a fruit-driven style, with more plush texture and oak -- so I'd better have both on hand!

    Beyond that, I love pulling out magnums for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Serving from a big bottle adds a sparkle to the experience no matter the wine, and large formats can often keep a wine fresher and more vibrant, and help it age better. For me, it's the perfect opportunity to bust out those mags that I'm saving for a large group special occasion.
  2. Lisa Duff Khajavi on December 14, 2010 7:12 pmLarge format bottles are such a treat, I love the expressions on everyones faces when they see a magnum or the like--its a great time to take some candid photos. Your house sounds like the place to be on Christmas!

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