why whine about thanksgiving when you can wine about it? thanksgiving sometimes requires a little more lube than what’s provided by the gravy to smooth out uncomfortable family drama or keep your friends giving and getting a little tipsy and to maintain a festive spirit to the party. i stopped by dandelion wine in greenpoint, a place that tops my list of things i’m thankful for, and consulted gabe rattiner to help me help you get through this week of food and festivities. you gotta give a little to get a little, and start here, with my guide to choosing the perfect wine this thanksgiving, no matter how you’ll be spending it.
Friendsgiving in Brooklyn
you’ll want to stand out sitting around the table with what can predictably be a collection of creators, makers, movers and shakers. all who probably brought a dish that is so farm-to-table the farmer came along too (or is that just her date??), each of whom is speaking so excitedly about their new hustle that you struggle to find the right words to say confidently and poignantly “i’m kind of in between projects.”
you want a wine that stands out. you want it to say something about you and your above average knowledge about wine. you want it to somehow stop the overflow of words pouring out from everyone’s mouths and onto the table. you want it to complement a range of free range dishes. and you want it to say, more thank anything, how thankful you are to live in a place among so many genuinely inspiring people. choose something funky and fresh, something that speaks for itself but sounds damn impressive when you speak about it.
according to Gabe there are two ways to go here. he recommends an orange wine, which are simply skin contact white wines (#sluts). your best choice is the Fricando Albana from italy. at $28 it’s unfiltered, funky, natural and will stand out in a crowd.
the other option is to concentrate on a food-focused red wine, in which case he undoubtedly reached for the Wah Wah, a 1500mL bottle of natural, weird wine made by an american living in france. it embodies the ex-pat spirit of rebellion and curiousity with a hell of a lot of spunk. “it’s a wine that people will ask about,” gabe promised. which will be the perfect distraction from yielding questions about that novel you’ve been working on… you know the one. that novel?
Thanksgiving Back Home with the Family.
in the past few years, my sister and i have had a secret sign in reserve that we would give each other across the table that said “prepare the getaway car. we’re out of here.” yes, this need has been ignited by the growing disparity between our political affiliations and those of our family, but also, family thanksgiving is almost always served with a side of a whole year’s worth of drama. you’ll want a wine that smooths things over. you’ll need a wine that you can sip and swallow with ease. you’ll want a wine that makes you want to stay.
the best choice here? go for a middle-of-the-road Cotes du Rhone. it’s fruit-forward and not super aggressive as far as opinions or alcohol content goes, meaning uncle larry won’t be asked to leave the table until after the turkey has been carved this year. gabe’s best pick is this bright Cotes du Rhone from La Ligiere. it’s a crowd pleaser and has a slightly-spritzy quality to it, and at $15 it’s unpretentious and will help silence all of those presumptuous “so how is life in new york city?” inquiries.
Thanksgiving with your Lover’s Family
this, of course, is always a bit sensitive. for a holiday that is laden with tradition, it’s hard to be at a new house and not gawk at the sweet potato casserole (wait, you guys make it how?) it’s difficult to choke down a dry turkey so as not to offend everyone around. it’s tough to swallow the lack of mashed potatoes on the table. it’s nearly impossible to hold back tears when “mom’s pumpkin pie” is not your mom’s pumpkin pie and, you kind of miss your mom. and who are these people? (listen, brenda, i’m not calling you “mom”.) stick with something light and slightly effervescent, to open up your heart and your palate. something of a conversation piece that will help you avoid the “oh yeah, well in my family…” conversation starters. Gabe recommends the Morgon Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Subtle and nice, it stands out enough to be appreciated without offending. “People who know wine know Morgon,” Gabe added. so you will either charm the fucking pants off of them, or you’ll simply have a goddamn great wine to drink.
thinking of bringing them a gift? sparkling is the go-to, but champagne can feel like you’re trying too hard. stick with a bone-dry zero dosage (meaning no sugar added) sparkling instead, like the “Zero” cremant from Burgundy for $27. it’s light and fresh and teeters away from the “god what a kiss-ass” side of the spectrum and more towards, “impressive, surprisingly refined, and damn that’s a really great beard.” which of course just what you’re going for.
Playing Thanksgiving Host(ess) for the First Time
there are so many things beyond your control when hosting a thanksgiving dinner; the edibleness of the turkey, the timing of every little dish, the thickness of the gravy, the chance that one of your friends has brought a side piece or side dish that is deliberately unappetizing and offensive… what you can control is the wine you provide and the confidence with which you bestow upon your motley crew of guests. a good host isn’t one who necessarily cooks everything to perfection, and on time, and has an impressive tablescape (thanks for consistently making me feel uncrafty and insufficient, sandra lee …who by the way is married to andrew cuomo. i don’t know why everyone isn’t freaking out about this they way i am, every day.) a good host is one who chooses a great wine. who presents it in a casual yet confident manner. who makes everyone feel like this wine speaks to them and thus they belong here at the table. and a good host makes sure that the glasses are always always half full and waxing. choose something affordable and dynamic. it should feel natural, organic, sustainable, tolerant. forgiving. here a montepulciano is the best choice. full-bodied and high in alcohol content, it will add some character to the meal and to the stories told at the table. the Ciu Ciu (aptly pronounced “chew! chew!”) is a sangiovese-montepulciano blend is bright and spicy and at $15 a bottle, you can buy enough to make sure everyone forgets how foul the bird was this year.
Not doing Thanksgiving this year…
Happy Thanksgiving Y’all.