Between you, me, and my colleagues here at Baltimore's Hungriest Alternative Weekly's Eats & Drinks section, we could probably write the November food content for Major Media in our tryptophan-induced sleep.
What'll it be: brined, deep-fried, or oven-roasted turkey? Green bean casserole topped with crunchy fried onions, or syrupy sweet potatoes studded with mini-marshmallows? Cranberry jelly with can-ribs showing, or with whole berries instead? Want sauerkraut with that? Will we get sick from stuffing cooked inside the turkey cavity? What are the vegetarians making? Maybe we should ditch it all and pick from the inevitable lists of restaurants open for the holiday.
Wine has its own float in the annual cliche parade. In national mags and daily rags, on websites and in wine shops, desperate diners want to know what wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. I'll admit the meal poses pairing challenges, beginning with the traditional bird's white- and dark-meat duality. There follows the cavalcade of "fixins," which makes me wonder what was broken in the first place. Textures and flavors, sugars and spices, fats and acids run riot. It's enough to make a wine guy cry for his umami.
None of which deters the perennial search for one wine that ties it all together. The gewürztraminer camp claims the wine's plump palate of lychee and nutmeg sings kumbaya with the conflicted menu (even pumpkin pie!). That doesn't trump the fact that gewürz can be expensive, hard to find, and not especially likable on its own. Riesling resonates with roasted poultry and spice, but I find it turns tinny with creamy or fruity sides. Red partisans pour pinot noir, assuming its light-footedness, earthiness, and red-berry flavors will complement some dishes without trampling the rest. With the proliferation of pinot styles, especially from the New World, the variety no longer reliably delivers that profile.
Lots of wines play nicely with an element or two of the meal, but an awkward relative shows up at every party. So skip the pairing paranoia and pull out all the corks. Pop some bubbly for a festive start. Your favorite whites and reds (note the plural) should all have their places at the table. If ever a day begged for port or dessert wine, this is it-on Thanksgiving, nothing succeeds like excess. And for both food and wine, we've got a whole weekend to enjoy the best part of the holiday: leftovers!