Food & Culture

Simply Irresistible Wines

Fresh pairings that make the same yearly meal exciting again

By Aimee Rizzo November 23, 2021


If you’re taking part in the American Thanksgiving tradition, you might already know what you’re cooking. No surprises there. But matching the perfect wines with the meal is a whole separate beast to slay. My theory is simple. Keep it to one bottle per course, keep it local and keep it limited to younger vintages from the past few years.

To kick off the festivities, it’s only right to pop something light, effervescent and highly gulpable —essentially, the boozy grape juice equivalent of La Croix. Savage Grace Wines is a low-intervention operation with tasting rooms in Underwood and Woodinville, and has just the bubbles for the job: the 2020 Côt Pétillant Naturel.

This coral-hued sparkling Malbec has a NERF Super Soaker-sized blast of raw strawberry, stewed sour cherry preserves and underbaked plum crumble, with an iron-like meaty tang that gets a little flirty with things like cured prosciutto and/or pigs in a blanket (aka my personal favorite holiday appetizer). There’s also a subtle toasty nuttiness that works in tandem with aged cheeses covered in drizzled honey, and yet, a tart backbone of acidity that holds up to boldly flavored crackers or kettle chips. Whether you assemble a pinkies-up charcuterie board or merely fling a medley of random puff pastry-enrobed snacks in the air fryer, you’re in swell hands sipping flutes of this pét-nat on loop with copious nibbles and the third National Dog Show rerun of the afternoon.

Then there’s the main event. You know the cast of characters well: turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, some type of green vegetable tossed in condensed cream of mushroom soup, et al. You’ll want a red that’s deep enough to make the evening memorable without weighing down the naturally heavy meal. Something that can act like a drinkable social butterfly, mingling with all of the rich side dishes while simultaneously playing wingman to our protagonist: lean roasted poultry (pun absolutely intended). A real juicy, jammy, secret-weapon kind of wine.

Enter the showstopper: Alton Wines’ 2019 Cabernet Franc. Owners and winemakers Ashley and Joe Woodworth founded this gorgeous Walla Walla winery last year after picking up their lives and retail careers in Seattle to head east. To them, “Our wine isn’t meant to be that bottle you sit and look at waiting for just the perfect moment.” It’s meant to be enjoyed right away, and that’s what’s so special. I’ve literally never met an Alton bottle I didn’t love, but if you’re going to choose only one with the bird, it’s this Cab Franc, no contest. A big slurp has this insatiable cranberry sauce vibe that can go right ahead and replace the jiggling can-shaped blob on the table with a cartoon-style “Pow!” of herby fennel that’s practically betrothed to flecks of dried thyme and black pepper that cling to golden, brittle turkey skin.

The Alton team says, “When our team did tasting notes, two words appeared on everyone’s sheet: hearty and bright. Our goal for this wine when we made it was a bit of a lighter take on a fall red. Nailed it.” Yeah, the team did nail it.

Every Thanksgiving dessert table contractually requires a pumpkin pie. It doesn’t matter if you spent six hours the night before making one yourself along with some hand-whipped maple Chantilly cream, or you just snagged one from Costco (for the record, Costco pies seriously rock). For that, we’re going with a white from Devona, John and Molly Abbot’s exceptional Walla Walla winery specializing in what the region’s known for: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and our pumpkin pie pick, Chardonnay.

I find that the 2018 Washington Chardonnay has this citrusy crystallized ginger bite with just a rinse of popcorn delicately coated in caramel. Think candied preserved lemon meets a box of Cracker Jacks and they instantly hit it off. Crisp, gingery notes complement the warm baking spices and overall squashiness of the filling, whereas its touch of lemon and buttery tones elevate an otherwise-boring crust. This’ll also wash down a thick slab of apple pie very well if you’re anti-gourd.

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