Finding the perfect Thanksgiving wine isn’t an easy undertaking. Personal taste, food pairings, and price are important factors in choosing the appropriate wine for your guests or your hosts and, perhaps most importantly, yourself. To help you prepare, we are writing a series of posts with suggestions for your Thanksgiving festivities (full disclosure: featuring wines we carry at Henry & Son). Instead of taking a one-wine-fits-all approach (e.g. grabbing a few bottles of Zinfandel or Pinot noir to go with everything), we’re pairing wines with each of the dishes you’re likely to serve at your Thanksgiving meal.
This week we focus on wines that go with sweet potatoes. These earthy, sweet, root veggies native to the Americas are often considered a quintessential Thanksgiving dish, one we don’t often think about pairing wine with.
Here are six suggestions to complement your sweet potato dishes.
1. Sherman & Hooker Shebang Red @ $14.99
The Sherman & Hooker Shebang Red is a multi-vintage red blend by Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Vineyards in California. Twain-Peterson is the son of Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery. This cuvée (a fancy word for a wine with multiple grape varieties) contains Carignane, Petite Syrah, Mourvedre, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache, Syrah, and Barbera, many of which were harvested from Bedrock’s 100-year-old vines. It is a rich, mouth-filling wine with notes of blackberry and pepper and a subtly spicy finish. The wine has delicate tannins so it will not compete with the sweet potato while its fruity palate will complement the vegetable’s earthy quality.
2. Peter Lauer Barrel X Riesling @ $26.99
Peter Lauer’s son Falurian Lauer has taken over the family business of producing highly regarded dry and off-dry Rieslings. Fermentation happens spontaneously (versus the more modern practice of inducing fermentation with commercially obtained yeasts) with yeasts that occur naturally on the grapes. Some say this is what gives the wines such refinement and balance. Barrel X is the family’s entry level Riesling and is a fantastic value for the price. In keeping with their house style, this wine is not so much sweet as it is well balanced; it has a mouthwatering acidity with an elegant backdrop of residual sugar, which will enhance the natural sugars in your sweet potatoes. The citrus and mineral aromatics excite the appetite while crisp apple and pear evoke autumn. Try a sweet potato gratin or go rustic with a baked sweet potato. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Broc Cellars Cabernet Franc @ $32.99
Chris Brockway makes “site specific” wines. He gravitates to viticultural areas that many would consider undesirable and only uses organic and biodynamic grapes. He believes when grapes struggle they exhibit character and complexity. An analogy to the Pilgrims? The Broc Cellars Cabernet Franc is a light-bodied, rose petal-y wine with beautiful acidity and a touch of earthiness. It has ripe red fruit flavors - currants and cranberries – and a hint of VA (volatile acidity) giving it lift that will bring balance to your sweet potatoes without overwhelming them. Side note: Brockway also makes a slightly funkier, more VA-laced, sparkling rosé variation.
4. Teutonic Foiled Cucumber @ $16.99
Teutonic’s owner and winemaker Barnaby Tuttle makes wines inspired by Mosel, Germany, which has a climate and terroir similar to that of Oregon. He has described his sites as "high, dry, old and cold" - old vines planted in cold sites at high elevation and dry farmed. He makes food friendly wines with lower alcohol content. Teutonic’s Foiled Cucumber is 100% Gewürztraminer and tastes of stone fruit and honey with light acidity. This wine would stand up to a spicy sweet potato dish and doubles as a great complement to your cheese plate or as an aperitif.
5. Keepsake Woodskeep Cider @ $14.99
Though we’re talking mostly wine here, cider was probably the beverage of choice among early Americans. The Pilgrims are said to have carried cider presses and apple saplings to the New World with them on the Mayflower (it would take a few years before the trees they brought would begin to produce fruit). Keepsake ciders are made by husband and wife Nate Watters and Tracy Jonkman who also own and operate Woodskeep Orchard in Dundas, Minnesota south of the Twin Cities. Their Woodskeep Cider is a medium cider that balances sweet and tart. Honey from Homestead Apiary, who also keep bees in the orchard, lends a hint of sweetness. Pair with the old standby sweet potato casserole drizzled with Maple syrup and smothered with charred marshmallows.
6. Channing Daughters VerVino Vermouth @ $32.99
Vermouth is a fortified wine made with aromatics, sugar, and spirits. Though it is best known for its role in classic cocktails it can actually be a great aperitif or digestif. If you have been considering making a sweet potato pie (or a pumpkin pie) this wine would be a great complement. This vermouth has a wine base of Petit verdot and botanicals that include apples, Asian pears, pumpkin, butternut squash, calendula, sage, and borage. The autumnal bouquet will reignite your food-dulled senses and help digest the lump of bird in your stomach.