Pair It Up! Give Thanks, Drink Wine

Here in Canada, we get the jump on giving thanks on our neighbours to the south. That suits me just fine — it’s easily my favourite holiday meal of the year.

But despite the fact that we celebrate Thanksgiving a month earlier than Americans, our festive meals are pretty similar: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, savoury sides and the tried-and-true pumpkin pie.

First up is the turkey. Don’t re-invent the wheel when cooking up a bird — in fact, simple is usually better. Food Network claims to have the World’s Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey recipe — start there and modify to your liking.

Stuffing might be a Thanksgiving dinner’s make-or-break dish. Bon Appétit’s Rustic Herb Stuffing can be made inside or outside the bird, and is a classic that’s dialed up by some Swiss chard and Parmesan cheese.

If your diners dig cranberry sauce, skip the canned stuff and go for the real thing. Canadian Living’s cranberry sauce recipe can be made in under 10 minutes and brings a nice citrus touch to the seasonal sauce, adding bright orange notes to complement the tart red berries.

Don’t feel like going the mashed potato route? Try Martha Stewart’s Smashed Root Vegetables and Caramelized Leeks for a side with big savoury flavours. It’s an easy-to-make, hearty side that screams Fall.

But what to drink with your Thanksgiving meal? Last week Jake Skakun suggested Gamay with an herbed chicken skillet dish, and that could work here as well — the grape pairs particularly well with cranberry sauce.

But the savoury flavours in both the stuffing and the smashed veggies can handle a bit more earthiness and complexity in a red, but not much more body — meaning Pinot Noir is your perfect pairing. Tantalus’ 2011 Pinot Noir is estate grown in West Kelowna, the cooler northern end of the Okanagan Valley. Fresh berry notes mingle with earthy and spice notes for the perfect Thanksgiving red.

On the white wine side of things, the world is your proverbial oyster. Like Chardonnay? Provided it’s not too oaky/buttery, it can work with turkey. Just down the road from Tantalus is Mt. Boucherie, and their 2012 Un-Oaked Chardonnay is loaded with crisp red apple, lemon and light tropical/pineapple notes without the worry of excessive oak.

CedarCreek, another Kelowna neighbour, makes the killer 2012 Proprietor’s White, a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Ehrenfelser (whew). The Riesling, Gewürz and Viognier bring lifted spice notes to this light-bodied white that will help make your holiday meal sing.

And then there’s the pumpkin pie. The sweetness levels of both the dessert and the dish should be comparable, and pumpkin pie can be all over the map. Luckett Vineyards’ range out of Nova Scotia has plenty of options — from medium-sweet fruit wines to sweeter iced dessert wines.


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson, and is currently looking for his sweatpants in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.

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  • Gamay: Gimmick or Greatness? | My Wine Canada November 10, 2014 at 4:49 am

    […] I’ve come around on the wines a bit as my fondness for the Gamay grape has continued to grow. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are definitely different animals than a fully “mature” Beaujolais or New World Gamay. They lack tannin, or any kind of structure — the general rule is to drink Beaujolais Nouveau by around Easter. Our American neighbours can also use it as an ideal Thanksgiving red wine. […]

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