There is a lot of advice out there about what wines to drink with your Thanksgiving meal. Most of it is overly prescriptive, but some of it is quite helpful. Eric Asimov at the New York Times always seems to have a grounded perspective, this year making the case for versatile and energetic wines. And this week Alder Yarrow's advice over at Vinography echoes what I've said for years: it doesn't really matter what wine you serve.
But, man, do people love to agonize over what bottles to pair with the meal. I am no exception.
Like many, I've begun to think about what bottles to put on the table. Will I go young and vibrant or dust off some older Cabernets? If history is any indication, both - and then some.
You see, the pattern this week follows is always the same, no matter the intent. It begins with the aforementioned ponderings, which begin to give way to some kind of a loose plan based more on the guest list than the predictable, neutral menu. Several trips to local retailers and long, silent spells in the basement cellar later, the loose plan becomes a group of thoughtfully assembled bottles. Then, finally, on the day of, it all goes out the window.
Tradition dictates that my brothers and I go to pick up the meal in the midday hour (lovingly outsourced to a local smokehouse/brewery), where we get the day started with a pint. That is usually followed by another when we get home, catch up, tell stories, and play rules-flexible board games. Unsolicited parental advice/criticism/Catholic guilt springboards either another pint or forces a shift towards something more fortifiying. With this as the warm-up, you can see how the wine plan is left behind like yesterday's takeout cartons. It's not forgotten, but evolves. Sort of.
The excitement of a full house, working buzz, and reuniting with family and friends make it easy to be distracted by euphoria. So, when it comes time to retrieve those carefully-selected bottles, a simple, brilliant thought comes to mind: I've got an even better idea!!! And so, with spastic (and misguided) enthusiasm, thematic consistency to what ends up on the table becomes the first victim. (Second, if you count good judgement.) Chardonnay next to French Colombard? Sure! Sangiovese and Petite Sirah to get things rolling? Hell yeah. Lambrusco after 15 year old Cabernet? Why not? And somewhere later in this lineup, brown liquor will materialize to help fuel the fireworks.
Such different tastes in rapid fire mount an incredible assault on palates. So, it's completely forgivable, if not expected, that half way through the meal, no one can tell the Cotes du Rhone from the Brunello (in what was supposed to have been an all American lineup anyhow). Later, someone will be caught pouring a Vintage Port over ice or chasing a shot of bourbon with a flute of Champagne while manhandling a turkey, stuffing, and hot sauce burrito. And in the aftermath of the night, recycle bins will be overflowing, special bottles will remain unopened and have to wait until next Thanksgiving, and no one will be able to recall what wine they enjoyed the most. None of it will matter. Because we will have succeeded in enjoying one anothers' company, given thanks for lives full of love in abundance, and kicked some serious ass in heated late night rounds of Monopoly.
This is the Thanksgiving I have come to know and love. Though wine is always served, it also just a foot note in the final analysis. Knowing all of this doesn't change a thing, so I'm off to peruse the shelves in search of the perfect bottle.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Please make it a safe and peaceful one.