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Turkey Is No-Brainer

by Jerry D. Mead

It is not impossible, but nearly so, to serve a wrong wine type with turkey dinner, especially a typical American holiday turkey dinner. That's because turkey is a very versatile meat, for one thing, but also because of all the many different types of flavors that usually grace a holiday table.

Trust me. There is no one perfect wine that will go perfectly with both white and dark meat, oyster dressing, cranberry relish and candied yams. It's worse than trying to find a wine that will work with every course of family- style Chinese.

But the good news is that just about any wine you like (except perhaps the gag-me sweet stuff) will work well with one course or another.

White wine? Sure. It can work well with the white meat, the oyster or sage dressing and of course white wine or a champagne can serve well as aperitif.

Pink wine? Sure, especially the drier ones. It will work fine with white or dark meats, will be fine with the dressing (especially if there's giblets), and even the slightly sweet "blush" wines like White Zinfandel will get by with the bird and hold up to some of the sweeter tastes and veggie things too (I'm thinking of grandma's gelatin salad with celery and green olives).

My plate usually has at least three glasses sitting in front of it, offering an equal number of wine styles. A bite of turkey? White meat or dark? I always reach for red wine, very often a Pinot Noir, Merlot or one of those French or California "Nouveau" reds released about this time every year. A bite of sage dressing? I'll follow with a sip of Sauvignon Blanc. I also like fruity Riesling or Gewurztraminers to go with some flavors.

So you can do what I do, which is serve not just one wine, but several, and give each guest at least two glasses. If Aunt Martha only drinks white and Uncle Fred only drinks red then both are happy, but both can do a little experimenting too. And this is a great idea if you're serving guests whose tastes you don't know.

Do let me encourage you try red wine with turkey if you like red wine at all. So many people still adhere to that old rule of "red wine with red meat and white wine with fish and fowl," that it's hard to convince them otherwise.

But just as salmon and tuna truly hold up to red wine, and there's nothing better than a quaffable Zinfandel with a barbecue-sauced chicken, so does red wine match well to turkey. Be brave. Give it a try.


Several complaints have been received the last couple of weeks because our "Best Buy" wines sold out shortly after publication. One reader wanted to know why I couldn't recommend wines that are easy to find.

I do write about large volume popular wines, probably more than any other wine critic. But like most special things in the world, the most exciting wines (as to quality or value) usually come in smaller quantities.

I always do my best to help you with the hard to find, by providing the name of winery or importer, or even my own number, and I always warn when quantities are especially small or distribution is limited.


Located in a historic building in gold country's Nevada City, this small producer's distribution is pretty much limited to Northern Nevada and Northern California, though it is beginning to expand into new markets and they do ship direct to consumers where legal. For information on the retail location nearest you call the winery at: (530) 265-9463

Forget the white wines here. They're ordinary. The reds, though, are the best they've ever been. Once the producer of wines so big they were brutal, NC has learned to make them big with a bit of finesse.

Nevada City 1996 Cabernet Franc ($13) Very youthful, purple color. Youthful, slightly grapey, but thoroughly delicious flavors. Ripe plum and boysenberry fruit. Mouthfilling and lush. There's a tannic background, but they are round, inoffensive tannins. Rating: 89/90

Nevada City NV "Rough & Ready Red" ($7.50) Named for a nearby mining town, we're talking mostly berry flavors in a wine that is 70 percent Zinfandel, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent the "kitchen sink." Lighter than the other reds in the line, but a real mouthful for simple red table wine. Soft, supple and appealing...a pizza, pasta or burger wine...not bad with turkey! Rating: 85/94

Nevada City 1996 "Reserve" Merlot ($14) Big, really intense red wine with concentrated black cherry fruit. Nicely oaked, bigger than Merlot usually is and a pretty spectacular red wine, all in all. Rating: 94/90

Nevada City 1996 "Sierra Foothills" Zinfandel ($12) Big and bold. Ripe, but not overripe, plum and berry fruit. Match it with venison, rabbit, game birds and other full-flavored dishes. Rating: 86/86


Rutz 1996 "Russian River" Chardonnay ($25) Round, ripe and voluptuous, and yes, we're still talking about wine. Barrel-fermented style, with soft, luscious tropical fruit enrobed in oak vanillin. Delicious. Rating: 89/84


Bayliss & Fortune 1997 "Monterey" Merlot ($13) Widely available, this new California wine brand is owned by a major Australian winery and it's sourcing fruit from various important California growing regions. This is the best of its three current releases and a wine that will go nicely with that dark meat turkey. Big, bold, typical-for-the-variety, black cherry fruit makes for a very substantial wine at a "Best Buy" price. Rating: 90/90


Nevada City 1994 "Director's Reserve" Claret ($16) Another smashingly wonderful that could easily sell for $50 or more under some other label. Only 140 cases total production so move fast. It's mostly available at the winery. It's 45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. Really, really intense, black raspberry, black cherry and cassis flavors. Highly extracted and concentrated. Flavor builds from entry all the way to the very long finish. Developing cedary complexity. Will age and improve, but it's delicious right now. Rating: 95/98

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