Like an excellent field-blend wine, Americans are an amalgamation of people and immigrants from different cultural traditions. However, this beautifully produces our families full of layered complexity and exciting flavors. It only makes sense that meals with an international savior-faire are a traditional part of our holiday celebrations. We are a nation of immigrants bringing the best of our cuisines to our adopted American homes. Since the first Thanksgiving meal was served in 1621, multicultural dishes have made their way onto our Thanksgiving tables – starting with the corn the Wampanoag Indians provided for that first harvest feast shared with the English colonists of Plymouth. From one side of the country to the other, Thanksgiving dinners may look completely different depending on the region’s cultural and natural influences. From New England’s stuffing full of oysters to the pumpkin-stuffed tamales of New Mexico, one thing is sure. . . the iconic wines of America are a must. While the pilgrims of Massachusetts did not serve wine, today, we are blessed with many outstanding American-produced wines to accompany our regional Thanksgiving meals.
In honor of our country’s diverse Thanksgiving epicurean history, try creating a holiday meal with the perfect pairings of the best of America’s wines for each course. Both white and red wine pairings are in order during the meal, but to end the meal, break with tradition and pair a classic Kentucky Bourbon with dessert. By selecting from America’s most cherished wine and spirits producers, we thank the generations of families from far and wide who have passed down our most beloved libations and generations of Thanksgiving recipes.
- The Deep South: Southern Fried Creole Turkey and Sauvignon Blanc
Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving is expected in Texas and the South, but the addition of Creole spices gives an otherwise bland meat an explosion of flavors. The frying technique creates a crisp outer skin while preserving the tenderness of the meat. This is also a relatively quick way to cook a turkey. The Creole influence ties in the cuisines of the many European nationalities that settled in New Orleans in the 18th century, including Native American cooking methods.
To counter the zing of spice and fiery flavors found in Creole spices, a crisp, dry, and fruit-forward white wine creates a perfect balance – not to mention a delightful way to turn down the heat on your palate. The Morlet Family La Proportion Doree 2018 is the ultimate pairing for a dish full of spice and heat. It is one of California’s most outstanding Sauvignon Blanc wines, which received recognition with an excellent 100-point rating from Wine Advocate. Like the French settlers of New Orleans, the Morlet Family is bringing their French influence to produce some of America’s finest wines. Their wines are an outstanding example of old-world principles combined with West-Coast American independence.
- The Northern-Midwest: Wild-Rice Casserole and Pinot Noir
Wild rice plants are widely grown in Canada’s streams, rivers, lakes, and parts of the Great Lakes region – especially in Minnesota. This makes it a favorite dish for many people in the Northern reaches of the Midwest. Recipes for a family’s favorite version of wild-rice casseroles are passed from generation to generation. Cooked wild rice has deliciously nutty and earthy flavors, and the best part of making these casseroles is their versatility. Many classic holiday ingredients, such as toasted pecans, dried cranberries, woodsy herbs, and nutmeg, meld perfectly with the rice’s hearty flavor and creamy texture. The vibrant red and black-fruit spiciness combined with forest-floor flavors and aromas of Pinot Noir make a beautiful accompaniment to wild rice. Hyland Estates Pinot Noir Coury 2017 is recommended as the ultimate pairing to this recipe. This Oregon Pinot Noir hails from the cool-climate Coastal Range on the Western side of the Willamette Valley. It pairs with the wild rice casserole in a lovely mix of toasted spices, cedar, pepper, and flavors full of dark plums.
- California: Sourdough Stuffing and Chardonnay
The foggy, coastal climate initially provided the perfect environment for the wild yeasts, giving California sourdough its characteristic flavor. During the Gold Rush of the 1840s, San Francisco’s bakers began to craft this unique bread full of robust flavor, weight, and density, all surrounded by a browned rough crust. Californians love their sourdough, and it would be almost sacrilege to prepare Thanksgiving stuffing in California without incorporating some of their famous sourdough bread. They also love their artichokes, and most of America’s artichokes are grown in the Monterey and Salinas Valleys in California’s Central Coastal regions. And yes, Californians still love their big-buttery Chardonnay wines. With these sentiments, this artichoke-parmesan-sourdough stuffing recipe must, at all costs, be paired with an iconic Chardonnay produced by one of California’s signature wineries. Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2019 is the quintessential California Chardonnay pairing with this take on the classic stuffing recipe. This California classic wine is intensely aromatic and gold in color with weight and buttered-toast flavors to match the sourdough. A contrast of complex layers of Meyer lemon and tropical fruits on the palate, combined with a balance of acidity, creates a divine partnership with the artichoke and parmesan in the stuffing. This is a pairing not to be missed!
- The Southwest: Pumpkin Tamales and Zinfandel
It is a tradition in Hispanic American families that the household kitchen magically transforms into a tamale factory as a holiday approaches. Making tamales during the holidays is considered a family and friend gathering ritual, where gossip and laughter flow. Generations of family recipes are passed down to form and craft these delicious cornmeal-masa pillows stuffed with various ingredients and spices. Pumpkin Tamales can either be sweet and full of holiday sugar and spice or savory and accompanied by meat or beans. With this recipe, Benchmark Wine offers this recipe with a bit of both. Consider swapping out a sweet potato pie or yams for these tamales, which combine holiday flavors of cinnamon and brown sugar with black beans, garlic, and pasilla chiles. They are a little sweet and a little savory – just like a great Zinfandel! The ideal pairing for these pumpkin tamales is Ghost Block Pelissa Vineyard Zinfandel 2019. The Pelissa family has farmed vineyards in the Napa Valley for five generations. Their Ghost Block single vineyard wines are created from the finest, organically grown fruit derived from their family’s best vineyards – in this case, the Pelissa Vineyard. This Zinfandel has flavors that are at once full of holiday spices like clove, vanilla bean, and allspice, combined with a palate full of black fruits and smoky tobacco. There could not be a better match to the tamales. This pairing is a revelatory Thanksgiving taste sensation and puts average baked sweet potatoes to shame. Gracias to the generations of families that have crossed our southern borders and brought these culinary delights!
- Kentucky: Derby Pie and Kentucky Bourbon
Kentucky derby pie, a chocolate pie with pecans or walnuts, is the Bluegrass State’s most famous dessert, and with good reason. Named after the most famous of all American thoroughbred horse races, this pie is a delectable, melt-in-your-mouth experience. It resembles a thicker, richer, and more sinful chocolate chip cookie. For a little extra oomph, a splash of Kentucky Bourbon in the batter makes it extra delicious. Why serve this pie over the Thanksgiving staples of pumpkin pie or pecan pie? Because it is far more delicious! A rare Kentucky Bourbon to slice through the pie’s creamy-rich texture is a pairing of perfect juxtaposition. The finest Kentucky bourbon whiskeys are mellow on the palate and showcase flavors full of vanilla, caramel, oak wood, and pecan, with hints of fruit and spices. The plentiful and plush textures of the bourbon only heighten the experience of this wickedly rich pie. Thanksgiving dessert will never be the same!
Gathering with loved ones around a table, giving thanks, and sharing a meal are relatable no matter where we come from. Thanksgiving is culturally translatable as it is a day dedicated to togetherness and gratitude for our shared harvests. We at Benchmark Wine raise a toast to our dear clients and friends throughout the many diverse regions of our beloved country. Cheers to you!