Thanksgiving a celebration of food and wine

If you’re like me, about this time ahead of Thanksgiving, I start planning a menu and the wines that will crown the celebration. It’s the ultimate family/friends gathering with the focus on the dining table.
This year, more than any other, wine should play a more dominant role in your menu choices. After all, wine consumption in the U.S. has risen every year in the past 15 years. Interest and demand has been strong, especially with the “20- and 30-somethings” who have embraced upscale wines and wine events.
Now that the dollar is getting stronger, you may want to check out some great French and Italian wines that should have come down in price, probably something like 15 percent to 20 percent since last Thanksgiving.
Some broad traditional wine matchups will help you decide which wines may resonate better with your turkey or other choices. This is only meant as a broad-brush guide to help you decide what may be good with your menu choices.
Most cooks will highlight an oven-baked or grilled turkey with all the trimmings like potatoes, greens, sauces, breads and more. I would pair a lovely Chardonnay or for the more adventurous palate, a Viognier. For the red wine lover, a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais, which is a seasonal “drink-now” favorite from the southern part of Burgundy, France. If your menu has fish as the main course, I would choose a Sauvignon Blanc.
If beef is your main course, two great mates, Cabernet Sauvignon or a beautiful California Zinfandel would go well. For a lamb pairing, an earthy wine with herb hints works best with the gaminess, so I always think of my Italian Tuscan favorites like a Chianti Classico or a Brunello.
What’s a Beaujolais?
From the vine came the grape and from the grape came the wine, all within one year … that’s what Beaujolais is all about. The ‘08s are released on the market, again in time for Thanksgiving. The grape is the Gamay red from the south of Burgundy in France, a fruity easy-to-drink-now wine with nonexistent tannins that will wash down that turkey without a pucker. I would refrigerate it about a half hour before serving for max flavor.
Beaujolais is a budget value wine, rarely more than $20 a bottle. Taste will offer flavors of cherry, strawberry and raspberry. Look for Beaujolais Nouveau, which should be just appearing at your favorite wine shop or market.
Sneak Preview Wine Spectator Top 10 Wines
Wine Spectator, the most influential wine magazine in the world, has just released the number 10 through 7 wines in its top 100 list for 2008 and they are:
10. Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma Ca. 2007, 93 points, $24
9. Mollydooker Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2007, 95 points, $90
8. Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape France, 2005, 96 points, $95
7. Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac France, 2005, 96 points, $100
The complete list of the top 100 wines will be published in Wine Spectator November 17.
Wine Bytes
— Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido presents a Cakebread Napa Valley tasting on from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 20. Their famous Chardonnay and others will be served. The cost is $30 per person. Then on Nov. 22 its annual Grand Holiday Tasting happens from 3 to 6 p.m. for $25 each. Call (760) 745-1200 for details.
— The fifth annual A Taste of Oregon with wines from Duckpond will be at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina Harbor Island San Diego from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 23. Food included at $85 a head. Auction items included. Details are available by calling (800) 245-ALUM.
— California whites rule at Mellow, a Wine Bar in San Diego from 6 to 11 p.m. Nov. 25. Served with appetizers. Call (619) 223-3348 for details.
— Wine Street in Carlsbad has its Zin and Syrah night from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28. Wines from Turley, Cujo, Opolo and more will be featured. The cost is $15. Call (760) 431-8455 for details.

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