Look for beverages that complement the main course.

By Toni Lapp

To complement the complexity of savory dishes on the Thanksgiving table, Scott Munson, wine and beverage director at Chimney Park Restaurant in Windsor, looks for wine pairings that won’t compete with the food.

“For an aperitif, I like a Tattinger champagne, which has a lightness to it and nice small bubbles,” he says. “It also has a little acidity that acts as a palate cleanser before the main course.”

For the main course, he recommends a Gewürztraminer, aromatic and lighter in style, or a French Sauvignon Blanc, which balances out the earthiness of many side dishes like green beans or Brussels sprouts.

A few of his white recommendations:

Villa Wolf 2017 Gewürztraminer, Pfalz Germany ($12)

Trimbach 2015 Gewürztraminer, Alsace ($25)

Trimbach 2012 Gewürztraminer, Alsace Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre ($45-50)

Eric Louis 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de France ($12)

Château de Sancerre 2016 Cuvée du Connetable, Sancerre ($38)

Henri Bourgeois 2014 Etienne Henri, Sancerre ($65)

Red and rosé wines can also have a place at the Thanksgiving table, says Munson, adding that reds pair better overall than white. He looks for lighter varieties that won’t overpower the turkey. “Beaujolais Noveaux has a nice, lighter fruit profile and goes well with cranberries,” he says.

A fruity zinfandel has a bit more body, says Munson, and has notes of cloves that play well off of turkey and stuffing. He particularly likes Frogs Leap Zinfandel.

Some of his red and rosé recommendations:

Joseph Drouhin 2018 Nouveau, Beaujolais ($12)

Omero 2015 Gamay Noir, Willamette Valley ($25)

Frog’s Leap 2017 Zinfandel, Napa Valley ($28)

Seghesio 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($38)

Beekeeper Cellars 2016 Montecillo Vineyard Zinfandel, Sonoma County ($65)

For dessert, he favors sweet wines, such as dessert Sauternes or sherry. 

A few dessert possibilities:

Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2015 Symphonie de Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes ($25)

Clos Dady 2014 Sauternes ($54)

Bodegas Dios Baco S.L. NV Oxford 1.970 Pedro Ximénez Pedro Ximénez, Jerez ($18)

But grapes are not the only option, just ask Justin Wright, Certified Cicerone, who owned Craft Beer Cellar in Fort Collins.

Beer’s versatility makes it a great complement to the flavors of Thanksgiving, says Wright. He looks for a flavor profile that will accentuate the meal, taking the same approach as a sommelier.

“If I’m going to pair with a Thanksgiving meal, I would start light,” says Wright. For socializing before the meal, he suggests a gose or Berliner weisse. Both offer notes of tart lemon that would serve to open the palate.

“At the table, three beers come to mind,” says Wright, “and they’re all Belgian: dubbel, tripel and saison. They finish dry; there’s no lingering sweetness that drowns out the meal. The clove-white pepper spice character enhances the flavor of the meal.”

Dubbel brings a touch of dark fruit notes; saison or tripel are lighter in flavor but still have enough body to balance out the meal.

His own preference would be Funkwerks’ Saison for the dinner. Alternatively, a St. Bernardus Prior 8 is a great choice for a dubbel, and Duvel is a great tripel.

After dinner, diners will be enjoying something sweet, and that’s where it gets fun, says Wright. The choices are as varied as the possible desserts. “Pumpkin pie is earthy, creamy and rich, so you want something that balances it out,” says Wright. He suggests a light sour to cut the richness with its acidity or a rich stout to match the intensity, like Old Rasputin by North Coast or Yeti by Great Divide.

“A classic amber ale like Fat Tire   would [also] go well with pumpkin pie because it has a caramel note to it,” he adds. “It has a touch of acidity and bitterness that would minimize the sweetness.”

A kriek, like La Folie by New Belgium, which has slight cherry notes, or a framboise with raspberry undertones could also pair well with chocolate, says Wright. 

Wright would also consider a simple porter such as Black Butte Porter from Deschutes or 1554 from New Belgium. “Their smoky character nuances will enhance the flavor of pumpkin.” But pumpkin beer would be a no: “It’s too complementary and would be pumpkin pie spice overload,” says Wright.

For a fruited dessert, Wright suggests a slightly bitter pale ale, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale. They won’t mute the fruit but will take away the tartness.