For those with little culinary skill, the best way to assist those who are feeding you is to reciprocate by feeding them beer, wine and spirits. This will also help everyone prepare for the traditional Thanksgiving slaughter of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Here are some excellent choices to consider as you select your turkey day wine menu.
First Quarter: Detroit will try to have some pep in their step as the Lions come out to face the Philadelphia Eagles. As of today, the Eagles have a 3-5 record — compared to the Lions’ paltry 1-7. The beauty of this sad arrangement is that everyone knows that the main event of the day is eating everything in the house with family and friends. You may start with some finger bites like deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms. While you’re watching Detroit’s punter burn some calories, wash down those bite-size morsels with a everyday-priced white wine, perhaps a dry sparkling.
Poulet & Fils is a bit off-the-grid, but this southern France producer makes a stellar value in its Cremant de Die (around $16). Refreshingly dry with layers of crisp green apple and vibrant nectarine, beautiful texture and slightly toasty notes, this might become your go-to crowd-pleasing favorite. With its bright the fruit tastes, this wine is also perfect for those upcoming holiday parties. Just look for the crazy multi-colored chicken on the label.
Second quarter: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will throw one or two interceptions in this quarter, enough to cast serious doubt on a Lions victory. The good news is that you can comfort yourself in defeat as you sink your teeth into that beautiful, glistening turkey.
Generally, lighter red wines taste lipsmackingly good with turkey. Pinot noir, gamay and barbera are safe bets. If you’re a fan of white wine, West Coast chardonnay works gracefully. But if you’re looking for just a touch of adventure, Sicily has a sneaky gem or two. Pietradolce Etna Rosso might be the steal of the fall. At about $25, it rivals the elegance of $40 to $50 Burgundys.
Made of 100 percent nerello mascalese, a grape not really grown much off the island, Pietradolce is equal parts fresh red raspberries and tart cranberries with floral/dried herb notes in the background. (Fun fact: Mount Etna is the biggest active volcano in Europe, and it’s not often you get to drink volcano wine.) Sicily is a huge producer of wine, no question. But it’s a somewhat new development to see the island as a contributor of quality, thanks to producers like Pietradolce, Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, and COS. (The latter might be one of the most buzzworthy wineries in all of southern Italy right now).
Third quarter: This is where the Eagles start to put the Lions in the rearview mirror. Don’t cry though. You knew this was going to happen. You’ve been watching this team for the last three decades, right? As you go back for seconds to console yourself — attacking the mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and stuffing — reach for some local riesling. Shady Lane is a solid pure Michigan performer. Its semi-dry riesling will run you about $15.
From the Leelanau Peninsula, just northwest of Traverse City, this wine has heaps of apricot and white peach flavors, with only a touch of sugar. It’s a great family party wine, and it won’t ruin your wallet the way the guys in Honolulu blue and silver ruin your dreams.
Fourth quarter: Are you still watching this game?
Don’t do this to yourself. Throw a football around the backyard with your 10-year-old cousin, or maybe play a little Catch Phrase while demolishing some pecan and pumpkin pies. Niepoort Tawny port is ideal for accompanying fall pies — and Lion-based sadness.
Two striking benefits of Niepoort’s Tawny: First, the price is astoundingly low at about $22 a bottle. Second: It’s wonderfully elegant, and emphasizes fresh, cordial-like cherry fruitiness or over caramelization.
If more port was more like this, it wouldn’t have the connotation of British codgers furrowing over their monocles. The beauty of port is that it keeps for much longer than the average wine. If you’re flying solo or hosting a table for two for turkey day, check out this wine. It won’t go bad overnight, I promise.
Check with your local independents for more Thanksgiving wine inspiration. From Horrocks and Old Town General Store to Merindorf Meats and Vine & Brew, there are savvy wine lovers all over Greater Lansing who are happy to make your holiday football viewing a little bit easier to swallow.
Justin King is a certified sommelier and resident of Williamston. He is part-owner of Bridge Street Social, a restaurant opening this winter in DeWitt. Email him fun wine pairing ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.