November 17, 2009
Thinking Thanksgiving with Mario Ortiz


Thanksgiving's coming up soon, so let's get some quick tips about the right wines to serve with that bird and side dishes. We're checking in with Mario Ortiz, general manager and sommelier at the Firehouse, and here's his guidance about the kinds of wines that'll elevate your Thanksgiving dinner into an exceptionally tasty feast.

What wines come to mind when thinking about a traditional Thanksgiving dinner?
I like to suggest Champagne and riesling for whites, and pinot noir for red. Riesling goes beautifully with turkey. It's fresh and floral, and the stone fruit goes well with cranberry sauce or gravy. The same goes for pinot noir. And if you prefer roast beef for Thanksgiving, look for an earthy pinot noir with (flavors of) spices and rich black cherry.

How about some pairings for folks who prefer ham on the Thanksgiving table?
Something from the Loire would go beautifully. I would love to have something like a chenin blanc, but anything from the Loire is great. I'd definitely consider gewürztraminer as well because it has a little sweetness. For Champagnes and sparkling wines, go for a blanc de noirs or crémant. If you're having an early-afternoon dinner, the crémant would go incredibly with ham, yams and sweet potatoes.

How about some local wines to consider for Thanksgiving dinner?

Bogle has a nice chenin blanc. It's fruit-forward with nice apples and melon in there. Bogle's riesling is also one I like to have at home with my family.

How about a little fun and pairing a wine with pumpkin pie?
It's not easy to find, but a sparkling shiraz would be fun. Mollydooker makes one that's amazing and would be a good way to finish dinner with pumpkin pie. Late-harvest wines might be too sweet, but asti spumanti might work.

Which wine varietals or styles do you not find so Thanksgiving-friendly?

Stay away from cabernet sauvignon or Bordeaux wines. They're not going to enhance or bring out any flavors. If you're just drinking the wine first and enjoying the food as an afterthought, then sure. But if you're trying to find good harmony with the food, stay away from them.
When I see people trying a variety of foods, you should try different (wines). But if you want to enjoy one particular style, you can't go wrong with Champagne.

I'll drink to that.

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