Finding the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Ann and her dad at Thanksgiving.
Ann and her dad at Thanksgiving.

Today we’re planning Thanksgiving. Now, a lot of time energy goes into what we eat for Thanksgiving, but what about what we drink?

For that, I found a local wine enthusiast Ann Byker. Byker’s day job is architect, but she also works weekends at UnWINED, a wine boutique in midtown Anchorage. She knows a lot about wine these days, but that wasn’t always the case.

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“Probably like any other young girl I started with the Boones Farm and the awful things of that nature, but I quickly worked myself up to have I don’t if it’s a refined palette, but certainly a more expensive one,” Byker said.

And that was a big factor in Byker learning more about wine. She says if she’s going to spend more than 15 bucks on a bottle of wine, she wants to like it. So she started asking questions.

“’What is it I’m tasting? Why do I love this?’ That made me think about it,” she said. “The way it smelled, the way it looked, the way it tasted, the way it hit my mouth when I drank it.”
Byker says she loves Thanksgiving, and not just the eating part. "I just have a lot of fun trying to pair the appropriate wines with the food that we have," she said. And that can be tricky with so many rich and heavy foods. That’s why Byker starts her Thanksgiving with a bang, or in this case, a pop. "I’ll typically start off with champagne. If I were to recommend something though I would say sparkling rose," Byker said. "It’s different, it’s got that little bit of red juice to it. But what it really does is set that celebratory mood. And when you’re drinking something sparkling between multiple appetizers it sort of acts like a palette cleanser. " Next up, and probably the most important, is what to drink with your Turkey, Ham or Roast. "I’m definitely going to lean toward a red on this one. You always hear about Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and those are great choices, but this particular Thanksgiving I’m going to throw a curveball and do a Grenache," she said. "A typical Grenache is going to be medium bodied, really low on tannins, kind of spicy. You’re going to get huckleberry and wild strawberry. It’s such an easy drinking red, but it’s not one that you typically see on the Thanksgiving table." And lastly, we need something to drink with our pumpkin pie.

Byker: "This is a hard category for me, because I’m not a big sweets person. I tend to lean toward Tawny Ports. It’s a fortified wine, fortified with great brandy. On the scale of sweetness it kind of falls in the middle. The older they are the more fig and nutty flavors like walnut you’ll get. It’s an absolutely beautiful wine." Waldron: "Ok, as much fun as this is I think most families, mine included, will not be pairing wine with individual foods. We’re going to get as many different foods on the plate as we can, so what’s the one wine you would pick to go with a traditional Thanksgiving plate." Byker: "The one wine….well in my personal opinion, and what I plan on bringing to the table is Grenache. I think it’s so dynamic and so interesting. I think there are so many characteristics from Grenache that most people would find incredibly pleasing and complimentary to the things that make up the bulk of a Thanksgiving dinner.”
For the non-drinkers at your Thanksgiving, Byker says you can’t go wrong with sparkling cider. She says there’s also non-alcholic wine out there that is pretty good. “They actually mimic the taste of wine quite well, it’s pretty amazing," she said, laughing. "That being said, it’s not something I would drink unless I had to.” And we can’t forget about the leftovers. Byker says she likes her turkey and gravy sandwich the next day with a nice glass of Pinot Noir.