Thanksgiving strikes fear in just about every host.
Preparing a giant bird is a herculean task. Cooking gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce is always more complicated than expected. Then there’s the anxiety of any family gathering — will politics or off-color jokes derail the dinner?
Add wine to the list of things to worry about, and it’s no wonder why so many wonderful at-home chefs dread the holiday.
Keep calm. With wine, at least, there’s no need to stress.
First, buy American. While I typically avoid jingoism, purchasing a foreign wine on Thanksgiving just doesn’t seem right. So when you head to the store, embrace your patriotism and pick up something domestic. And don’t hesitate to buy local. The Pilgrims didn’t import their turkey from a faraway land.
Second, follow the strategy of San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné, who advises his readers to select a roster of three wines — one white, one red and one sparkling.
Anything beyond three wines creates needless confusion. Thanksgiving already causes enough headaches — the last thing you need is a guest asking which red matches the stuffing or which white goes better with the sweet potatoes. So keep it simple and let guests drink whichever wine they prefer.
You’ll also want to make sure you select wines with power and finesse. This is easier than it sounds.
A simple Pinot Grigio, for example, isn’t a powerful wine — so won’t stand up to mashed potatoes and gravy. Equally important, an in-your-face Cabernet Sauvignon lacks finesse, so will smother your food. Look for refreshing wines with body.
For the sparkler, this means avoiding bottles that are too sweet — look for “brut” or “extra brut” on the label. Old standbys like Domaine Chandon are better than ever before, and these days, there are some exciting sparklers coming from states outside California. If you can find them, consider Gruet from New Mexico, Thibaut Janisson from Virginia or Argyle from Oregon.
For the white wine, remember to look for body.
Bold Chardonnays work well with turkey and can cut through just about every component of your meal — from sweet flavors like cinnamon to the bitterness of green vegetables.
If you’re looking for something a bit unusual, consider a Riesling, either dry or slightly sweet. New York has been producing high quality Riesling for more than 30 years, ever since German immigrant Hermann Weimer “discovered that the cool climate and gravelly soils of the Finger Lakes were similar to his family’s vineyards in the Mosel Valley.”
Producers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Michigan are also making some stunning Riesling.
White wines inspired by France’s Rhone Valley also make for a good match on Thanksgiving. Look for Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne or a blend with those grapes.
With reds, think refreshment. This means avoiding wines with lots of tannin, so steer clear of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. It also means finding a wine with vibrant acidity, so avoid anything described as heavy or full-bodied.
Pinot Noir is the most popular choice on Thanksgiving, but it’s difficult to find a good one for less than $20. That’s why cool-climate Syrah or Grenache is a better bet. Both are fruity enough to satisfy the guests who like big reds, and elegant enough to handle the cornucopia of Thanksgiving. Just be sure to find one from a cool-climate region like Washington or California’s coastal regions. Anything from a warm climate could overpower your food.
If you’re looking for something a bit unusual, consider a Blaufrankisch, Austria’s signature red wine. It’s similar in profile to Pinot Noir, but generally a darker and spicier. New York’s Red Tail Ridge makes one that’s worth finding. Gamay Noir, the grape of Beaujolais, is also a good match. A few producers in Oregon, California and New York are making delightful wines from this grape.
Finally, and most importantly, have lots of wine on hand!
DAVID WHITE, a wine writer, is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com. His columns are housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet.
Thanksgiving strikes fear in just about every host.
Annual gingerbread house contest
Spread holiday cheer by making a gingerbread house this year. The Edmond Historical Society & Museum invites residents to enter into the fifth annual Gingerbread House Contest at 2 p.m. Dec. 14. Ages 5 and older are welcome to participate.
Gingerbread House Contest Rules:
• Ages 5-11, Ages 12-17, 18 and older
• Must be made out of edible materials
• Placed on 18-inch by 18-inch or smaller board
• No gingerbread kits (but you may use graham crackers)
• Participation is free, pre-registration is required
• Bring gingerbread house to the Edmond Historical Society & Museum between the dates of Dec. 10-13.
Judges will present first, second and third place awards in each age category. Judges will be looking for:
Edmond reminds residents of proper disposal of ‘FOG’
The City of Edmond’s FOG program helps homeowners learn to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease.
“These few simple tips will help you avoid a sewer back-up in your home. Not only is a sewer back-up unpleasant and unsanitary, the clean-up can cost thousands of dollars and your homeowner’s insurance may not cover the cost” said Casey Moore, public information officer.
Fats, oils and grease eventually become solid rather than liquid and the grease will stick to the sides of sewer pipes and clog them. This can cause a back-up and an overflow in your home, or into the streets and streams.
Kermit Lynch’s journey of wine discovery
“When I wrote the book,” explained wine merchant Kermit Lynch, “I thought the oenologists were going to take over.”
We were chatting about Adventures on the Wine Route, Lynch’s seminal tour of France that can be found on every wine enthusiast’s bookshelf. When the book was released in 1988, Lynch feared that “old-style wines” — artisanal projects that expressed a sense of place — were on their way out, so he launched a crusade to educate his “clients to the diversity and virtue of those wines.”
Enjoy season-long holiday flavor
After waiting so long to taste the distinctive flavors that make the holiday season so special, McCormick, a global leader in flavor, is here to make sure each moment is filled with them – every day leading up to Thanksgiving and every day after. With simple tips from the McCormick Kitchens on enjoying the season’s top seven flavors — pumpkin spice, ginger, vanilla, peppermint, sage, cinnamon and nutmeg — everything from breakfast to dessert can have the best holiday taste.
Sweeten the season with delicious holiday desserts
Show your friends and family just how much you care with delicious homemade holiday desserts. The combination of seasonal flavors and time-honored traditions are sure to give holiday party guests a sweet memory to savor long after gatherings and get-togethers are over.
Wondering what to drink? Ask a winemaker
Imagine if BMW’s design chief admitted that Ford produces some of his favorite cars. Or if the CEO of Coca-Cola confessed that every now and then, he craves a Pepsi.
A new take on traditional foods for Day of the Dead
Food will no doubt be a focal point for families celebrating the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead this November 1 and 2. What has become one of the most popular holidays in Mexico — and is becoming more common in the U.S.— is the custom of honoring and remembering deceased loved ones. Gathering with friends and family over delicious traditional dishes is sure to be a highlight of celebrations.
Preparing pumpkins for fall cooking
Most of us have a good eye for a pumpkin that might make a good-looking jack-o-lantern. But when it comes to pumpkins for cooking, the same rules simply don’t apply.
“When you’re choosing a pie pumpkin,” advises Amanda Horn, Family and Consumer Science Educator at Oklahoma County OSU Extension Service and registered dietitian, “you need a sweeter pumpkin usually the smaller they are the sweeter and the less watery.”
Also, it is important to look for pie pumpkins with a 1- to 2-inch stem. If the stem is cut down too low, the pumpkin will decay quickly and already may have started to decay when you buy it. Pumpkins that are going to be used for cooking also need to be free of blemishes and soft spots, but shape is unimportant.
Make baby’s first birthday a smash with playful pint-sized cakes
More than 374,000 babies are born in September and 367,000 in October every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and National Center for Health Statistics 2010. That’s a lot of cake. According to a recent Betty Crocker survey of moms conducted by KRC Research, the cake is one of the most important elements of a first birthday. In fact, 58 percent of moms shared that watching their one-year-olds explore, taste, smash, smear and dive in to their first birthday cake is the most memorable moment of the party, far exceeding opening gifts and singing “Happy Birthday” to their little one.
OSU Cooperative Extension offers ‘Soup Up Your Fall’ class
As we enter into the fall season and the weather begins to cool off many of us turn to those hearty comfort foods we grew up loving to keep us warm and full. One staple meal during the cool season is soup.
“Soups are fairly easy to make and if properly prepared they can be healthy and save you money” said Amanda Horn, a registered dietitian and family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension. “In this class we discuss how homemade soups can be healthier than canned, how to prepare them in advance to save you time, and discover some fun and fresh ingredients you can use to add a little pizzazz to your bowl.”
“Soup Up Your Fall” is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Northeast Regional Health & Wellness Campus located at 2600 N.E. 63rd St. Oklahoma City. This will be an interactive cooking class with many demonstrations of soup dishes. The participants will have the opportunity to sample all the foods prepared during the workshop and take home a “Soup Up Your Fall” cookbook with some great soup recipes.
Cost of the workshop is $10 and pre-registration is required before Oct.14. For more information, contact the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service located at 930 N. Portland at 713-1125 or access the Extension website at http://oces.okstate.edu/oklahoma.
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