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Thanksgiving beverages that elevate and eliminate worry over what goes well with turkey

If there ever was a Thanksgiving in recent memory to be thankful for, this one might be it. The pandemic seems to be over, or at least in full retreat. And that is a good thing.

Every generation thinks their burden is the heaviest, but the truth is we all have our struggles, be it a world war, the civil rights movement or a pandemic. And while we think we know the story of the first Thanksgiving, the reality of that event was more stark and less real than many of us know. It might be one of the epochal stories of survival. However, things didn’t really turn out so well for the Wampanoags (King Philip’s War), the Puritans (the Salem witch trials) or even the turkeys for that matter. But, sometimes it’s the intent of an idea rather than its application that solidifies its place as myth, miracle or both. It is definitely good to have a noble goal to strive toward, and giving thanks for what we already have might be one of the noblest of goals.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without its feast. And feasts need beverages. Sure, we can argue about what the Pilgrims drank or ate, but we aren’t Pilgrims now are we? Fun fact: While the Puritans celebrated Thanksgiving and Election Day, they banned Christmas and ignored Easter.

When it comes to beverages, the gourmands out there always argue that riesling is the best wine for turkey and its fixings. While riesling is one of the so-called six noble grapes — joining cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc — riesling is not a popular wine. And when it comes to wine and pairing it with food, the most important thing is whether or not you like that type of wine. Never let someone tell you what wine you should like: You like what you like and that is no better or worse than what anyone else likes.

So, on that note, here are a few selections I think go well with the Thanksgiving holiday. Feel free to like them or not. As an added bonus, if you get them too late for Thanksgiving, rest assured they will go perfectly well with any of the other upcoming feasts, too, be Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve.

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Sparkling wine

Water might be the universal solvent, but sparkling wine is surely a close second. Sparkling wine goes equally well with almost anything. It’s used as an aperitif, digestif and intermezzo. It goes with fish, red meat and vegetables. And it goes with turkey, too. Marin County producers are certainly up to the task, like the 2015 Tognetti Blanc de Blancs ($70). Five years in tirage and a minimal dosage create the appley mineral acidity that one expects from Carneros chardonnay. The Marin-based Tognetti family has grown chardonnay in Carneros since 1980, but have only recently begun to produce its own sparkling wine. This fine bubbled example will solve any Thanksgiving pairing dilemma. Go to tognettiwines.com/wine.

White wine

Whiskey for Thanksgiving? Yes, if it’s Brendan Moylan’s Stillwater Spirits. 

Chardonnay in its most California incarnation (buttery and oaky) is typically not a great fit for food — and certainly not great with something as delicate as turkey. While there are many unoaked or non-malolactic versions available these days, they are often quite expensive. While riesling is a steep hill to climb, other white wines are definitely a simpler slope. Our favorite is part-time Sausalito resident Marimar Torres and her Marimar Estate Vineyards’ 2020 Albariño ($34). Crisp, bright fruit is combined with a yeasty richness from sitting on the lees right up until bottling. While Albariño might be best known as a Galician wine, we must remember that the word Albariño translates as “small white one from the Rhine,” which is, ironically, the same region that riesling hails from. Go to marimarestate.com.

Red wine

Red wine with poultry (just like fish) can be tricky. The trick is to pick red wines that retain high acidity but are lighter in body and in tannins. Red blends tend to be meatier and Bordeaux varietals (like cabernet sauvignon and merlot) and zinfandels easily overpower delicate dishes. The obvious choice (at least when considering Marin County wines) is pinot noir. Many West Marin pinots are bigger, black-fruited versions, but working north, in the Petaluma Gap, we get more delicate, elegant offerings.

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My favorite is McEvoy Ranch’s 2019 Evening Standard pinot noir ($55), which combines the best of the Petaluma Gap’s Azaya Ranch vineyard with McEvoy Ranch’s own estate pinot noir. The combination yields a balance of black fruit and red fruit that one would expect from just such a marriage. The 2019 ups the Azaya percentage (from 10% to 35%) lowering both the wine’s jamminess as well as reducing the overall tannins, making it perfect for fowl. The name “Evening Standard” is a homage to the family’s legacy as the former publishers of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Nion McEvoy is still the chief executive officer of Chronicle Books.) Go to mcevoyranch.com/collections/wine.

Whiskey

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