Thanksgiving Vino 

Grapes to glut by.

Thanksgiving at my house is a futile exercise in restraint. Which calorie-laden delight should we gorge on first? We load up on the traditional bread stuffing spiked with country sausage, roast turkey, and tart, homemade cranberry sauce, but we also have the less traditional spicy pork barbecue, which is made by Dad. Yes, we're a gluttonous bunch, and then we add wine on top of all that. I imagine the excess and I feel fat just thinking about it. But excited too -- I love Thanksgiving.

The holiday is the pinnacle of gluttony, a food bacchanal, an excuse to eat 20 pounds of bird. And a fabulous excuse to open bottle after bottle of wine.

First, there's the walking-around wine while cooking. You don't want to saddle one person with all the stove and oven work, and since most people in my family know how to cook, we share the duties. This calls for something light and not high in alcohol, like a Sauvignon Blanc, which unfortunately won't go with the meal itself since the turkey's flavor gets overwhelmed by the wine. Or you could opt for a festive sparkling wine from California. Hell, wine spurs creativity, so your buzzed brother might feel emboldened and sneak some fresh herbs into the gravy.

Another benefit of the walking-around wine: It promotes hunger and adds a party aspect to dinner, especially if you eat the big meal at noon. It's a holiday, you know -- 10 a.m. drinking is allowed, even encouraged, in some countries.

With the main meal, to match up with the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the rest, my best recommendations are: 1) Drink what you like, no matter what food is in front of you. 2) If you don't like red wine, drink white with everything. The holiday is about feeling good, right? Besides, a buttery but not too oaky Chardonnay from California is wonderful with Thanksgiving. 3) If you hate white wine, stick with lighter red wines, like French or domestic Pinot Noir, California Syrah, or Australian Shiraz. The heavier wines like Cabernet Sauvignon tend to overwhelm the food, but that could be an advantage in some households. Your call.

So basically, Thanksgiving is an excuse to break open three or four different bottles of the juice, adding pleasure to an already decadent holiday. And after the decadence, you'll find my fat ass on the couch, numbly watching football.

Recommended Wines

St. Francis Red 2002 (Sonoma County) -- A huge, fruity hit with everyone who tried this red blend of five grapes. Lots of flavor personality, but not too much that it wears out its welcome. The delicious, spicy black cherry will complement the meal and even make friends with it. $11

Byron 2003 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley) -- A classic California Pinot Noir with crisp acidity that matches well with food; has an earthy cherry flavor, like a fruit party on your tongue, and a velvety texture that makes you crave more. $25

Arrowood 2002 Grand Archer Chardonnay (Sonoma County) -- Smooth, silky, and sophisticated with buttery vanilla, ripe pear, tangerine, and lemon. Creamy, rich, and thoroughly enjoyable. $16

Hardy's 2005 Shiraz Grenache Rosé (Southeastern Australia) -- This slightly sweet rosé smacks of juicy strawberry and the fruit goes perfectly with the Thanksgiving meal. Drink alone or with someone. $9

Palandri 2004 Boundary Road Sauvignon Blanc (Southeastern Australia) -- A little sweeter than most Sauvignon Blancs I've had recently, but it floats on the tongue with a lemon-lime tartness as well. Crisp and clean, perfect as a walking-around wine. $8


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