If you’re a wine lover, what’s in your glass is probably equally as important — or perhaps more so — as what’s on your plate this Thanksgiving.
And there are arguably no bigger fans of wine than the people who make it, which is why Michigan By The Bottle asked several winemakers and winery owners for recommendations from their repertoires for the perfect Thanksgiving vino, and inquired about which bottles will be showing up on their holiday tables.
Satchwell said he’ll be kicking his celebration off with Shady Lane Cellars 2003 Brut: “You have to start every meal, especially holiday family celebrations with a glass of bubbles... it's the law!”
Next up: Shady Lane Cellars 2009 Gewurztraminer. “I throw this in for the turkey and the cornbread/pecan/dried cherry/sage stuffing,” he said. “Also, a great match for the sweet potatoes.”
For other turkey-friendly wines, Satchwell tapped Shady Lane Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir, which also goes well with “the inevitable mushroom ragu I insist on every year, as well as my mother's recipe for creamed onions,” and Shady Lane Cellars 2008 Blue Franc.
“Between these wines, we are covered for whatever hits the table,” he said.
But Satchwell concedes that the meal won’t be completely Shady-centric.
“This year I am also going to open a bottle of French wine for dessert because I have been saving a Domaine de la Soucherie 1990 Coteaux du Layon Vielles Vignes for an occasion such as this,” he said. “This is my favorite holiday because you can, and are expected to, put any and every traditional and favorite food on the table all at the same time. How can you not love this holiday?”
Dennise Barber didn’t hesitate when it came to naming her top Thanksgiving pick from Lone Oak Vineyard Estate, the Pioneer Wine Trail winery she owns with her husband, Kip.
“Definitely Lone Oak Vineyard Estate 2009 Gamay Noir,” she said. “This estate-grown, light-bodied red wine has essence light-bodied red wine has essence of cranberries, just a scoatch of sweetness and a hint of black pepper on the finish. This is a perfect wine for your Thanksgiving turkey.”
She also suggests rewarding yourself with wine once the grueling cleanup is through. “After you've feasted and all the dishes are done, at the end of the night, put your feet up and treat yourself to a little of our Red Raspberry dessert wine, with some dark chocolate on the side,” she said. "It's not too filling and is the perfect ending for the night."
Mike Laing, assistant winemaker for all-sparkling Leelanau Peninsula winery L. Mawby Vineyards, said he could sum up his sentiments in a single mouthful.
“I’m thinking about the perfect Thanksgiving bite,” he mused. “Equal parts mashed potato, turkey and stuffing with a smidge of cranberry sauce. With this combo, I would enjoy Wet. I think the well-balanced sugar and acid would pair nicely. And the delicate fruit would lift this pairing to the next level of enjoyment.
“Wow, kind of cheesy,” he added, “but I am drooling a bit.”
Margaret Bell had anticipated being responsible for the Thanksgiving Day cooking, but a change of plans left her with only one task: picking the day’s wines to accompany food for a celebration at her brother’s home in downtown Chicago. It was an easy assignment for Bell, winemaker at Circa Estate Winery on the Leelanau Peninsula.
To accompany the triple cream brie with cranberry chutney, Circa’s 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay. Her 2008 Pinot Grigio will accompany a salad combining arugula and Bosc pear, roasted chestnuts, Land of Goshen goat cheese and vidalia onion dressing. For the obligatory turkey and all the trimmings, Circa’s 2008 Requisite, a red blend.
The dessert accompaniment is still up in the air; Bell said she plans to bring Circa’s Lot 809 Improvisation, a popular white blend, or her soon-to-be-bottled ice wine for alongside the pumpkin mousse tart.
Eileen Brys, co-owner of Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery on Old Mission Peninsula, passed along expert recommendations from Brys’ winemaker, Coenraad Stassen.
“Brys 2008 Dry Gewurztraminer or 2009 Gewurztraminer, a semi-sweet, paired with the Thanksgiving stuffing: The various spices in the stuffing pair very nicely with the spiciness of the Gewurztraminer,” she said. “Brys 2008 Pinot Noir pairs wonderfully with the turkey, since it is a lighter-style red wine that can also pair with chicken, veal or pork.”
Serving wine with the holiday meal is a tradition for Eileen Brys, but it isn’t always in a traditional manner. She recalled one year purchasing a replica of a rifle, made of glass and filled with red wine, apparently produced in a nod to how the first Thanksgiving celebrants had to shoot the turkeys they served for the meal.
“This was way before we got into the wine business,” she laughed. “It was fun to see everyone’s face when they saw a wine-filled full-sized rifle!”
Doug Welsch, owner and winemaker at Fenn Valley Vineyards in Fennville, touted the 2009 Edelzwicker as the most Thanksgiving-esque wine in his collection.
“Fenn Valley Edelzwicker is a blend of Traminette and Riesling,” he explained. “For those that are not familiar with Traminette, the wine is like Gewurztraminer on steroids. We blend the Traminette with Riesling because floral aromatics of the Riesling component compliments and dilutes the spicy character from the Traminette wine. The result is a nearly dry wine with a floral-spicy character and a crisp finish.”
It’s the perfect combination for typical Thanksgiving Day dishes, he said.
“The spicy character of this wine blend pairs well with the somewhat gamey character of the traditional turkey that graces most Thanksgiving tables,” he said. “You will find numerous bottles of this wine on our family's table this holiday season.
"Between the alcohol and the tryptophan from the turkey," he joked, "I should now be able to cope with the unending football that seems to invade our household every Turkey Day.”
No matter which wine, or wines, you choose for Thanksgiving, Satchwell said you can never go wrong — as long as you keep at least one bottle close at hand.
“Enjoy your holiday and remember to be good, be better, be best ... and never neglect your glass!” he said.
You heard from the winemakers; now we want to hear from you! Between 10 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25), post a picture of a Michigan wine on your Thanksgiving table on our Facebook page and tell us about what you're drinking for the holiday! We'll draw a random contestant on Nov. 26 to win a signed copy of "The History of Michigan Wines: 150 Years of Winemaking Along the Great Lakes" by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis.