Holiday Wine Challenge Part 1: Turkey? Ham? Red? White? Rose?

What’s your traditional holiday meal? Is it turkey? Ham? Prime Rib? Or something a lot less carnivorous?

Once you figure out the main course as well as the sides, what wine do you choose to pair with the cornucopia that will overflow on your table and in your belly. (What wine do you think they’re drinking in this classic photo from the collection of Charles Phoenix?)

And how do you decide which wine to choose?

Pinot noir or Beaujolais, both light red wines, seem to be all the rage and the recommendations from wine influencers. In fact, when Rick Bakas posted the question on his facebook profile (“Pinot noir of Beaujolais?) most people answered one or the other, with just a few people offering other suggestions including Barbera and Petite Sirah. Read here about how the pinot noir trend started on Oprah!

However, when I have tasted pinot noir and Beaujolais with holiday feasts of turkey and ham, these wines were good but not that exciting.

So what’s a Wine Blogger to do?

In the call of duty, I convinced my husband to cook a turkey BEFORE Thanksgiving. AND I convinced him to cook a ham too! (It wasn’t that hard actually; we enjoy turkey and ham as often as possible!) Then I lined up a bunch of wines, many of them samples sent in the hopes of a recommendation for YOUR holiday table, and I tried them with the turkey and the trimmings.


Turkey: Kosher, brined, Trader Joe’s ($2.49 a pound for a 13# bird), rubbed with fresh rosemary, lemon and other secrets of my husband (which took about an hour),  cooked on the BBQ for three hours, resting for 15 minutes before carving. (Always use a thermometer!)

Dressing: Trader Joe’s cornbread dressing as directed for stovetop substituting chicken broth and a splash of white wine for the water.

Side: Steamed brussel spouts, bacon, chestnuts.

Because I didn’t have time to make a gravy and there were only three of us, I poured the drippings onto the dressing and the brussel sprouts (oh lordy that’s good!)

Salad: Baby mixed greens with fresh raspberries and blackberries dressed with huckleberry vinagrette and Spanish olive oil.


I tasted the wines “straight”, then with various items from the menu. All wines were in the same stemware. At first I went from whites to reds, light to heavier, then mixed it up using the food to change my palate. I didn’t really know what the bottles retailed for until I researched and wrote the blog posts.

A few WHITE and ROSE Wines:

2010 Oak Mountain Winery Muscat from Temecula Valley CA $18 (winery price) WORKS with TURKEY

OK so I had this wine in the fridge for over a week. It was still holding on and since I’d forgotten to chill a riesling, I thought I’d give it a swirl. It was still good (enough) and it was good with the turkey. Disclosure: this Muscat was leftover from the International Food Bloggers Conference dinner so I took an opened but full bottle home.

I should have included a riesling or gewurtraminer in this tasting as the ones with low residual sugars are often quite lovely paired with turkey and appeal to a wide range of palates. But I didn’t get a chance to get one in the fridge. And there were enough bottles open on the table for me to taste already! But if anyone wants to send me some, I bet I can get my husband to do another turkey and ham!

2010 M. Chapoutier Bellaruche Cotes-du-Rhone WORKS OK with Turkey

Some folks swear by rose with turkey. Last spring I discovered what a good dry French rose from Bordeaux can do to a ham (yes it was a sample). Heaven!! So I had this open to taste with the ham. It was nice enough with the turkey etc. But nothing special. I’d save it for a ham or brunch or appetizers. To my palate, I say save the rose for the ham! Last spring I discovered what a good dry French rose from Bordeaux can do to a ham. Heaven!! So I had this open to taste with the ham. It was nice enough with the turkey etc. But nothing special. I’d save it for a ham or brunch or appetizers.(Post on wines with ham coming up soon; here’s a post about wines to pair with Easter ham, lamb, salmon!) However, if you have rose lovers in the house, I’ve tasted the rose of pinot noir from The Crusher and it was fine, nothing spectacular. This was a sample as well!)

2008 Foley Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills, Rancho Santa Rosa $30 REALLY WORKS with turkey!!

OMG, I really liked this wine. I liked it so much I was almost ready to throw in the towel and not taste anything else. It really wowed me. And then it was really nice with the turkey and the sides–plenty of body, flavor and shazaam. I think it was the shazaam that got to me. Honeysuckle, pear…and some herb there in the back, possibly thyme. The wine was especially good with the drier white meat and it seemed to nicely compliment the lemon and rosemary. It cut to the chase in the rich dressing and again complimented the herbs (celery) nicely. I even liked it with the brussels sprouts! It refreshes the palate and encourages you to go on. Disclosure: This was a sample from KoBrand.

If you’re on a budget or don’t have time to  find the Foley, try The Crusher 2010 Chardonnay which uses natural yeast fermentation and which you can get for around $15. It’s not comparable to the Foley (which is breathtaking) but it’s a fine and sturdy chardonnay that will satisfy the white wine lovers and went well with the turkey dinner on my plate! (Disclosure: This was also a leftover bottle from the International Food Bloggers Conference that had been open a week in the refrigerator…it’s freshness had diminished considerably but it was still tasty…and I had tasted it last week as well as a previous vintage as a sample).

So what about RED WINES like pinot noir and zinfandel with turkey? YES!! Read all about various red wines with a holiday turkey–post up soon!

3 thoughts on “Holiday Wine Challenge Part 1: Turkey? Ham? Red? White? Rose?

  1. Pingback: Holiday Wine Challenge Part 2: Turkey & Red Wine? Yes! Try These! « Wine Predator

  2. Pingback: Happy Thanksgiving, Subscribers! « art predator

  3. Pingback: What wine pairs with Thanksgiving? | wine predator

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