The problem with Thanksgiving wine pairing is the side dishes. You can pair turkey with almost anything because it's very bland. But the drippings and sides make Thanksgiving a challenge - so many flavors, so many colors, so many textures, so many choices! Oh, what's a "wine pairer" to do?
One non-traditional pairing that has become quite popular with many people I know is to match the turkey with Chardonnay. I've have yet to read a wine expert pair Chardonnays with Thanksgiving, but I'm just going to throw this out there. After all - it is what you enjoy that really matters. I will admit that this will be the second year that "Johnny Depp" and I are going to go after the Chardonnay pairing during the Thanksgiving meal. Last year, we had great success with a "naked" Chardonnay (aka a Chardonnay that was stainless steel fermented without any oak influence) which we also used for our Chardonnay Gravy. It was divine.
This year, as we'll be in the Eastern U.S., we're going to buy a Columbia Crest Chardonnay. Columbia Crest is based in Washington, and they make fairly good, thrifty wines. We very much enjoy this value brand. Additionally, they distribute throughout the U.S. fairly well, which should make for an easy find for most of my readers. Here's a list of their Chardonnay choices:
Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay ($8)
This Chardonnay has crisp acidity, which is important for the Thanksgiving meal, with fruit forward flavors of fresh apples. Hints of spice and honey complement the oak flavors reminiscent of toasted oak (which the winemaker described as "toasted marshmallow"). Perfect wine for those that enjoy a hint of oak in their Chardonnays.
Columbia Crest 2009 Grand Estates Chardonnay ($13)
This is the more common label found throughout the national distribution. The wine is crisp, acidic, with fruit forward flavors of fresh citrus, apples, and pears. Slighly floral and spicy, this Chardonnay is a crowd pleaser - light, slight oak influence, creamy finish, and very "pairable" with the Thanksgiving meal (especially... the turkey).
Columbia Crest 2008 H3 (Horse Heaven Hills) Chardonnay ($15)
I've never actually tasted this version of their Chardonnay, but I like the packaging. According to the winemaker, this Chardonnay includes the integration of French oak - creamy, vanilla flavors that match with the minerality, spice, pear, and apple flavors known to the Chardonnay grape. Medium-bodied, a bit heavier than probably the other 2 (above) options. Another good choice if you get the chance to pair with turkey or fresh pairs and apples.
What I really enjoy about bringing Chardonnay to the table is that everyone knows Chardonnay. It's one of the more recognizable grape varieties out there. So it's a shoe-in hit at your classy Thanksgiving celebration. I also encourage those that use pears and apples in their cooking to match it with some of these Chardonnays. As Chardonnays often give off those natural apple and pear fruit flavors, it would be a nice complement to apple pie, poached pears, apple and sausage stuffing (although the sausage might off-set the lightness of the Chardonnay, but who cares? - to be blunt), fresh fruit dishes, fruit tarts, apple crisp, caramel apples, etc. The ideas are endless! The point is that you enjoy the wine, the food, and the company. Cheers, everyone!