There are many things uncertain these days but one thing I am sure of is that Thanksgiving will be wonderful!
First, in the most historic aspect, it is a great time to reflect and give thanks for a successful harvest. We had a fantastic growing season due to the abundant sunshine that has produced amazing wines. The madness of harvest has finished much earlier than other years and so for a change I will be enjoying the holiday weekend rather than pressing grapes.
Second, winemakers like food, wine, and good company. If you’re not totally fond of each of those three things don’t go into the wine business!
Thanksgiving is certainly a big feast and seems created for Bacchanalian Wine and Food lovers.
Third, my wife and I who are not native to the USA, are particularly sensitive to the feelings that the early settlers must have had: giving up family and homeland to be in the New World; relying on the land, weather and hard work to provide food; the importance of making new friends; and last but not least, forging friendships and peace between those different from ourselves – all cultures, religions and races.
America is called a great melting pot and my family has been very fortunate over the last 18 years to be invited by wonderful people into their families and homes. It is a very meaningful holiday and one which certainly needs to be cherished by all of us.
One big question I’ve been asking people this year is: have you ever eaten a wild turkey for Thanksgiving? The answer in all cases - with the exception of one chef - a resounding chorus of no. Unfortunately, with urbanization we have lost our taste for the wild. You hardly find game on any menu and certainly no wild turkey. So I’ve set a Thanksgiving mission for myself to find a wild turkey (not the whiskey!) and discover its taste difference from the ones found in the grocery stores. Wish me luck!
Regarding the wine selection, it is also fun to go a little wild. There are so many flavors at a Thanksgiving feast that one can certainly choose from a vast array of wines.
Here are some of my favorite wines that will make the day a success. While I can think of many wines from other wine regions in the world, I will stay true to drinking local and will recommend our beautiful Long Island Wines.
The great advantage is that our wines are lighter in alcohol and you can enjoy them from the early afternoon till late into the night. Another advantage is that these wines have acidity and freshness that can enhance the turkey flavor. With all the rich and sometimes sweet flavors our wines cleanse your pallet and invite the next bite (just what we need!).
I do recommend beginning with an easy and elegant wine and continuing to build in intensity. You don’t want to start with a rich heavy wine only to afterwards fizzle out and finish without a bang.
So start with our wonderful Long Island sparkling wines. I recommend any that are done in the traditional methode champenoise way such as the Wölffer blanc de blanc or Sparkling Point’s.
Follow up with some of the crisp and elegant whites or the vibrant dry Rosés. There are many to select from but I particularly like the Paumanok Chenin Blanc or the Bedell Taste White. These wines are extremely versatile and will go with fowl, meat and fish.
Next in line are the more aromatic whites like Viognier, Riesling or Gewürztraminer. The Lenz Gewürztraminer or The Grapes of Roth Riesling are perfect for this day.
With the turkey I recommend the barrel fermented Chardonnays (the Wölffer Perle White Horse Chardonnay) or start with the lighter Reds like the Pinot Noir from Borghese or the entry level Cabernet Francs from Macari. Following this, escalate to the higher end wines produced by different Long Island wineries. Certainly the better Merlots will do the trick or the Cabernet Sauvignons such as the Roanoke CS, the Shinn 9 Barrel Merlot, or the Osprey’s Dominion Flight Meritage.
Now move to the very special reds made in the great harvest years on Long Island. Every winery has at least one of these unique, rich, and powerful wines which are still not overbearing thanks to a great balance of fruit, alcohol, and acidity. A few of the best include - The Wölffer Estate Christian Cuvee, the Raphael Malbec or The Grapes of Roth Merlot.
After dinner I recommend a little surprise in the form of a Verjus cocktail (non-alcoholic first press of green grapes which can be used as a substitute for vinegar and has a sweeter delicious flavor) or an apple wine to set the stage for the desserts. For dessert you have a great selection of late-harvest dessert wines and ice wines that will certainly make a lasting impression. The Waters Crest Night Watch or the Pellegrini Finale are both wonderful.
All these wines can outshine the best in the world and will give a local flavor to Thanksgiving from start to finish.
So go a little wild with your food, your wines and maybe even invite a stranger or new neighbor to your home. Celebrate in the traditional Thanksgiving spirit but with a few new twists. Also, a good roasted turkey is always basted and below is a recipe using the Wölffer Verjus. Enjoy, Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Recipe For Verjus Turkey Baste Sauce
(Enough for a ten pound turkey)
14 oz. of Chicken broth
½ cup of Wölffer Verjus
2 Tbsp of melted Butter
2 tsp of Fresh Parsley
2 tsp of Fresh Basil
2 tsp of Fresh Thyme
¼ tsp ground White Pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk again and baste the turkey inside and out prior to putting in the oven. Then as it cooks, baste every 30 minutes.