Updated: May 24
Great Virginia wines to pair with holiday dishes
Central Virginia wine region
I appreciate Virginia wine for tackling so many varietals, which makes it hard to pigeon-hole the state as singularly focused on any one varietal (like pinot noir in Oregon). Instead, there is great variety among the 300+ vineyards in the state. Also, I believe that some of the better wines that are produced in Virginia are from lesser known or underappreciated varietals.
For two years, I have written about my love for Virginia wines. I appreciate the proximity of wineries to where I live in Northern Virginia, as well as the professional approach to viticulture in our state. Although it appears Virginia has slipped in its rankings in wine production since I last posted (from 5th to 10th), this may simply highlight the opportunity recognized by other states.
I recently reconnected with Virginia wine during a trip to Charlottesville, which anchors the Monticello AVA, where approximately one-quarter of Virginia wineries are located – with more than 80 vineyards, you can barely make a dent in the tasting opportunities surrounding Charlottesville over a weekend visit. Our quest was to identify varietals that would pair perfectly with the flavors of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is about food for us and there are many dishes which feature that do not get much airplay other times of year (for the most part) – included are turkey, cranberries and root vegetables. You would think that pairing wines to these ingredients would not be a challenge, but think again! Because there are only two of us, we tend not to take the traditional approach to Thanksgiving – but rather mix it up a bit. Our recent Thanksgiving ‘deconstructed and reconstructed’ is a case in point.
Our Thanksgiving menu was set to be a starter centered on smoked turkey, a main centered on root vegetables and a dessert centered on apple and cinnamon – all ingredients and flavors evocative of the holiday. Identifying distinctive wine pairings that seemed to make sense was a fun challenge.
Virginia sparkling: Thibaut Janisson
There had to be a Virginia sparkling in the mix, and Thibaut-Janisson was a no-brainer for that. This is not only our favorite sparkling from Virginia, it is without question our favorite sparkling from the USA. We paired this with our starter, which was a smoked turkey rillettes with pickled cranberries.
Virginia Petit Verdot: Jefferson Vineyards
We have had a Virginia Petit Verdot for a previous Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel in Roanoke, Virginia and it was a perfect match to our meal. So, we went with a Jefferson Vineyards Petit Verdot to pair with our second course, a butternut squash and sage lasagna.
Virginia Viognier: Breaux Vineyards
The grand finale was a dessert of apple poached in red wine paired with a homemade cinnamon ice cream. I love how Virginia does Viognier, and we went with a Breaux Vineyards selection, which is actually a wine from Northern Virginia, as a complement to the dessert.
Our Thanksgiving experiment was fantastic, and I loved the wines that we chose as part of the menu. But if I had it to do over again, I would pair the Petit Verdot with the turkey rillettes starter, the Viognier with the lasagna and the sparkling with the dessert.
But that is the beauty of experimenting with wine and food. You can try it again! Cheers!