I said I'd report back on Thanksgiving and the wines I picked. I am happy to report that this year, there wasn't a stinker in the bunch. Everything was under $20, proving you can get great stuff and don't have to pay an arm and a leg (or breast or thigh bone, if we're talking turkey) to get it! Here's a recap and why they worked...
Wine #1: Aperitif (Starter) Wine: 2010 Les Lauzeraies, Tavel (Rosé), Rhône Valley, France
The recap: Tavel is a dry, dry, French Rosé. Made of mostly Grenache and a blending grape called Cinsault, it's refreshing and delicious but a little more serious than other Rosés, with more flavor and acid than a garden variety Rosé.
The result: OMG, this was so thirst quenching and festive. A tasty, palate cleansing start to the meal. Everyone was excited for the wine selections after tasting this dry, slightly acidic wine that had a little bit of strawberry and raspberry flavor. A gorgeous color too -- totally perfect for a starter!
Wine #2: Appetizer/Cheese Wine: Non Vintage, Willm Blanc de Blancs, Cremant d'Alsace, France
The recap: Made from 100% Pinot Blanc, this wine should be refreshing, with apple and citrus flavors, but because it's from Alsace it will be more oily and thick than bubbly from other regions. Made in the same way Champagne is made, this wine should be dry, but still a little fruity and bread-like (I've said it before -- Champagne and sparkling wine can taste like toast or a croissant because of the breakdown of yeast, which releases these flavors).
The result: This was unbelievable with cashew nuts, and Manchego and cheddar cheeses. The wine was citrus-y but a little bread-like too and it made the nuts taste creamy and the cheeses seem like they were infused with citrus fruit. The strong acidity lightened up the Brie too (whose seeming lightness made me and MC Ice over-consume). We tried it with the turkey and it was great, although better with the starters, truth be told. I wouldn't classify this one as oily or thick, as I posited in my original post, but I think it's a good Champagne alternative (and for less than $20, who can ask for more?).
The recap: Riesling from Alsace is fuller, kind of oily in texture but still extremely acidic. The peachy, appley fruitiness and the mouth-filling soft texture of the wine should work with creamy mashed potatoes, baked brussel sprouts, green beans with almonds and butter, and savory turkey.
The result: This was awesome with anything green -- brussel sprouts, green beans, and salad. The mouth-filling, oily texture of the wine took any bitter bite out of the greens and the peachy, apple fruit flavors went well with the buttery goodness of the green beans. The big bonus: the fruitiness combined with the candied yams (they were flavored with oranges) to make it all taste smooth, slightly less sweet, yet creamy. I would say this is a MUST for Thanksgiving side dishes.
Wine #4: 2008 d'Arenberg "Footbolt" Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
The recap: This Shiraz is more on the herbal/spicy side, perfect for the thyme and rosemary in the stuffing and the herbal rub on the turkey.
The result: The herbs in the stuffing were perfectly complemented by the lavender, thyme, and black pepper spice in the wine. We had broccoli and fennel soup with a touch of black pepper. The wine's licorice, pepper, and dark fruit flavors (to my surprise) went perfectly with the fennel and pepper in the soup and didn't clash with the broccoli flavor (usually the case with red wines, in my experience). I think our turkey was a little bland this year, but this wine spruced it up. It's asking a lot of a wine to give flavor to the food, but this one did it. A+ pairing!
The recap: The honeyed, apricot, peach flavors of this sweety should be divine.
The result: AMAZING with the pecan pie. As I said on the podcast, I'm more a baker than cook and I actually made the pie from a new recipe (I don't usually do this, but it's so awesome I have to include the link here. No corn syrup. Pure deliciousness). The nuts, sugar and butter in the pie felt light and pillow-like because of the reaction with the acid in the wine. The rich, sweet, nutty flavors were complemented by the honeyed, nutty flavors in the wine. The pie was sweet, but the wine was sweeter (the most important rule in dessert pairing). This was an inexpensive, but good Sauternes (here's a link if you want to know more about this bit of deliciousness from Bordeaux) so I can't imagine how good the pie would be with something that's higher quality.