As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to plan your holiday feasts — including the drink menus. Enhance your meal with Michigan wines paired perfectly with the dishes you’re serving. To help you choose the best wines for your special dinner, we asked Kasey Wierzba, executive winemaker and general manager at Shady Lane Cellars in Suttons Bay, for some of her favorite holiday food and wine pairings.
To pair with turkey: Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir’s lighter body makes it an excellent match for turkey, Wierzba says.
“You don’t want to have a big, heavy Cab with your turkey; you want to have something light,” she says. “Cool-climate Pinot Noirs, like we grow in Michigan, they always have this nice backbone of acidity, so there’s a palate cleanser in there.”
In addition, the pops of dark cherry, orange peel, vanilla, and baking spice that are often present in the wine enhance the flavors of the turkey.
To pair with stuffing: Gewürztraminer
“There’s a wide range of styles with Gewürztraminer and a wide range of sweetness, but they always have so much complexity to them,” Wierzba says. “You can look at it as like your spice drawer or your spice cabinet, which is so prevalent in everything we eat, especially for Thanksgiving.”
In fact, gewürz itself means “spice” in German. That spiciness works well with the herbs and spices in stuffing, such as sage, thyme, and rosemary.
“When you think about your stuffing with all of those spices, and then a lot of people put dried cranberries in their stuffing, … Gewurztraminer is just a great pairing,” Wierzba says.
To pair with corn or green bean salad: Grüner Veltliner
Grüner Veltliner has a balanced acidity and a rounder mouthfeel — and is often savory — which makes it ideal to pair with a variety of vegetables, including corn, green beans, artichokes, and avocados.
“Grüner Veltliner just has this great ability to pair with strange vegetables, or vegetables that are hard to pair with wine,” Wierzba says.
To pair with cranberry sauce: Blaufränkisch or lighter-bodied Cabernet Franc
Wines with notes of berries, like Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Franc, complement cranberry sauce well, according to Wierzba.
“Especially for our Cabernet Franc here at Shady Lane, there is a component of cranberry and pomegranate,” she says. “I think that ‘like with like’ would be a good [fit].”
Blaufränkisch, on the other hand, has hints of blackberry and mulberry.
“Not only do you get the fruit of blackberry and mulberry,” Wierzba adds, “but you also get that kind of rustic seediness that you get from berries of brambles.”
To pair with pumpkin pie: Riesling, especially sparkling
Wierzba recommends a sparkling Riesling in particular for pumpkin pie.
“At the end of your meal, you’re full but you just want to experience more of those amazing flavors,” she says. “Sparkling Riesling tends to be really refreshing and palate cleansing, but yet it’s full of all these really great fruit-forward aromatics and flavors.”
Those qualities will help you avoid flavor fatigue when you’re eating a richer dessert like pumpkin pie, she says.
To pair with meat other than turkey: Blaufränkisch
“In my family, for Christmas, we always do something a little different with the protein,” Wierzba says. “At times, we’ve done different venison cuts or different lamb [cuts], also duck, and I always pair Blaufränkisch with it.
“Blaufränkisch goes so well with those more wild-game meats, and because it’s after hunting season, it’s always fun to bring those into the fold for Christmas holiday cuisine.”
To pair with the whole meal: Gewürztraminer
If you’re limited to only one wine, Wierzba suggests picking Gewürztraminer to pair with your entire Thanksgiving meal.
“If we’re talking about mostly Thanksgiving cuisine, I really enjoy Gewürztraminer,” Wierzba says. “Just in general, it’s a wonderful pairing.”