Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Thanksgiving Wines

I love Thanksgiving dinner! It is my favorite holiday meal of the year because it’s a wine lover’s dream come true. The versatility of preparation methods for turkey, along with the various delectable courses and side dishes in the meal, present a culinary extravaganza where there are almost limitless wine pairing opportunities.

The reason is the “National Bird” is blessed with meat that has different flavors, colors and textures which pair seamlessly with a variety of medium to full-bodied white or red wines. Add to this the way the bird is cooked – from traditional oven baking to deep frying, to grilling, to smoking -and you have even more wine choices from which to select.

For the traditional oven baked turkey with an herb seasoned dressing, I suggest opening a light to medium bodied white wine such as a Spanish verdejo, California sauvignon blanc or a steely chardonnay like Chablis. For reds with this type of turkey preparation and dressing, try pairing the just released Beaujolais Nouveau from France, a Chianti Classico from Italy, or a Rioja from Spain. You might also be surprised to know that older reds, such as aged claret from Bordeaux, Brunello Di Montalcino from Tuscany, or cabernet sauvignon from Napa, go nicely as well. However, if you choose to smoke or charcoal grill the turkey, I suggest pairing this spicy, smoky meal with pinot noir from Oregon, zinfandel from California or an Amarone from Italy. And if you’re a white wine drinker, I’ve also successfully paired a full-flavored Alsatian riesling successfully with grilled turkey.
Here’s what I plan to do this year.



Turkey: I’ll brine a 15 -pound turkey overnight in a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, water, apple cider and beer, I’ll grill it over a covered charcoal grill for two hours. Then I’ll transfer the turkey to the oven and bake it at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for another hour and a half- or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Check out this recipe for the perfect sauce to enhance the grilled turkey.

Cranberry /Chipotle Relish
Ingredients: Finely chop one can of cranberries; from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, mince one of the chipotles; mince one clove of garlic and squeeze the juice of one-half lemon; one-half cup of brown sugar.

Preparation: combine cranberries, chipotle peppers, garlic, lemon juice, and brown sugar in a small pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir continually. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Serve as a sauce for the turkey

Side dishes: Tex-Mex Cornbread Dressing: In a separate pan, I’ll sauté onions, garlic and chorizo, and then add a teaspoon each of ground cumin and chili powder, two small cans of green chilies, a can of corn, a can of chicken broth, a package of cheddar cheese and pan of crumbled cornbread. I’ll accompany the turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes, gravy, candied sweet potatoes, roasted green beans with red bell pepper and sauteed and seasoned cauliflower florets. To top off the meal, we’ll devour pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert.

To accompany this Thanksgiving feast, I plan on pairing several wines with the meal. To get everyone in a proper celebratory mood for this uniquely American holiday, I’ll open a bottle of 2019 Schramsberg Brut Rose Sparkling Wine ($50) from the Napa Valley. For the meal, I’ll open both white and red wines to accompany the grilled turkey and spicy Tex-Mex dressing. From Alsace in eastern France, I will uncork the 2019 Trimbach Riesling ($26). This rich white wine has flavors of apricot and honey with a slightly smoky aroma. I will also open (and decant for an hour) the 2019 Renwood Estate Ranch Zinfandel ($26). From Amador County in the Sierra foothills, this full-bodied and spicy purple monster should work quite well with the grilled turkey. And to put a vinous exclamation point on the meal, I’ll open one of my favorite dessert wines to accompany the pumpkin pie: 2019 Navarro Late Harvest Gewurztraminer (375 ml, $30) from the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County.

Here’s wishing you the Happiest of Thanksgivings!

John Brown is also a novelist. His latest book Augie’s World, is a sequel to his debut novel, Augie’s War. Both novels are available in print and audio at Amazon. You can find out more about his novels and wine columns at

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