Pick wine wisely for Thanksgiving

There is nothing subtle about the bounty of the Thanksgiving dinner table.

The perfectly cooked turkey contrasts the mild flavor of white meat with the gamey quality of dark meat. Rich side dishes are savory or sweet. Dessert is supposed to be over the top. It's the ultimate, endless meal, a dizzying combination of flavors and textures.

What types of wine complement a dinner like this?

The first rule in choosing a Thanksgiving wine is don't try to compete with the food. This is not a meal that demands subtly complex or nuanced wines. Whether selecting different wines for different courses or just providing a white and a red on the table throughout the meal, the key is to go for wines that are versatile. There is no "perfect pairing" for a Thanksgiving menu.

And watch the alcohol content. Thanksgiving dinner is designed to be a long, leisurely meal. Serve a high-alcohol wine along with turkey — which contains the sleep-inducing amino acid L-tryptophan — and your guests might be snoring in front of the television before the pumpkin pie hits the table.

Look for wines that are fruity with enough acidity to balance the rich food. Here are some local selections — not a complete list by any means!

Probably the best choice in a white wine is a dry gewurztraminer or a dry riesling. Wooldridge Creek has a 2012 Gewurztraminer ($24) as does Foris ($13.50). Foris also has an excellent 2011 Riesling ($13.50).

Don't overlook the possibilities in a sauvignon blanc, viognier or marsanne-roussanne blend. Rogue Valley wineries excel in these varietals. Kriselle Cellars 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($21) and Dana Campbell Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) are good choices. Wonderful viogniers are available from Valley View/Anna Maria ($22), RoxyAnn ($20) or South Stage Cellars ($21).

Marsanne and roussanne are grape varietals from France's Rhone Valley that grow very well in the Rogue Valley. Blended, they produce dry, fruity wines that are a bit drier than viognier. South Stage Cellars' blend is called "Romeo and Juliet" ($24). Grizzly Peak's is "Rumor" ($18).

Prefer a red wine? Think about pinot noir, grenache or syrah.

Grenache and syrah, again, are Rhone Valley varietals and do very well in the Rogue Valley. Although Southern Oregon doesn't yet have the reputation of the Willamette Valley for pinot noir, there are some fine local choices from DanCin, which specializes in showcasing pinots from distinct local and Willamette Valley vineyards, and from Valley View/Anna Maria ($26) or Wooldridge Creek ($36).

Good syrahs are available from Weisingers ($29), RoxyAnn ($26) and Grizzly Peak ($25), as well as from many other local wineries. And while grenache is not as common locally, excellent examples are made by South Stage Cellars ($28) and Agate Ridge ($23).

Finally, you can't go wrong with a versatile red blend. Usually, these are designed to stand up to strongly flavored food and are attractively priced, as well. Try Weisingers Mescolare Lot 20 ($22), Valley View's Rogue Red ($12), Foris' Fly Over Red ($13.50) or RoxyAnn's Honor Barn Red ($18).

A sweet wine to go with dessert? Sample Belle Fiore's 2012 Muscat Canelli ($21), RoxyAnn's "Night Harvest Riesling" ($20) or South Stage Cellars' "Bliss" ($20) or early muscat ($21).

And if you're looking for a Port-style wine to finish off the meal, try Quady's Batch 88 Starboard ($24), Foris ($16) or Valley View/Anna Maria ($30).

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.


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