Restaurateur Michael Kornick of Chicago hospitality group DMK Restaurants might be best known for his work in the kitchen, at places like mk and Rec Room, but the chef is likewise an avid wine collector. Below, he suggests bottles appropriate for Thanksgiving drinking and highlights a good point. Turkey serves as more of a blank canvass with which many bottles can be paired, but it's really the flavors in the sides that one should consider. Also, why not throw some red wine into sauce or two?
Q: What kind of wine pairs with turkey?
"What's the best wine with turkey?" is a question I'm often asked. As a chef, passionate wine enthusiast, and lifelong collector, I've tried quite a few. Roast turkey, like chicken, is completely open minded as it’s very flexible and works terrifically with many types of wine. However, the flavor components of the gravy, stuffing, and side dishes have a greater impact on the wine than the actual bird.
If you’re planning on having sugary sides, I recommend richer higher alcohol red wines...
Since I serve my turkey with a mild giblet gravy and apple, sage, and thyme dressing, the best wine for our table is a rich, aged German Riesling. I would go with a 2005 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese from Willi Schaefer ($65) or a 2007 J.J. Prüm Riesling Kabinett ($34).
I also have lots of family who prefer red, and I always like to reduce some red wine and a splash of port in the gravy for them. In terms of reds, a good choice would be a 2012 Chinon from Charles Joguet ($42) or a fruity central coast Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat ($20). Keep in mind, if your sides are high in sugar like marshmallow topped sweet potatoes or maple glazed carrots, the Pinot loses the battle to the sugar. If you’re planning on having sugary sides, I recommend richer higher alcohol red wines like Geyserville Zinfandel from Ridge ($30) or young Syrah and Grenache from the Rhone or California or Garnacha from northern Spain. Turkey's delicate nature gets a little lift here, so to better serve the red wine folks. I like to suggest roasting the breast and braising the legs (drumsticks and thighs) in red wine and making the sauce from the braising liquid.
If you’re looking for wines that are a bit more versatile, these bottles should go with a wider variety of flavors on your Thanksgiving table: 2012 Qupe Syrah ($19), 2009 J.L. Chave, Saint-Joseph "Offerus" ($30), and 2008 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant ($45).
Most importantly, make the wine part of the celebration of the meal. Overspend, buy a bottle with age or from a great producer in the region. Research the wine a little and tell your guests the story behind it. You may not have a table of connoisseurs, but everyone loves a good story and can certainly taste delicious.
Have a wine-related question you'd like answered? Hit the comments.