Wine pairings for the big meal

Although many believe that Thanksgiving dinner is a very difficult meal to pair wine with, it is actually quite simple once you are able think past the wide array of flavors that are generally contained in our traditional family dishes. The only real decision to make is whether to try and serve one wine that is versatile enough to handle every single item on the table or to serve a couple of different wines that complement the various dishes.

When the topic of wine selections and Thanksgiving are discussed, my first inclination is pinot noir because a pinot that is not overpowering and which contains soft tannins is the perfect complement to a roasted turkey and stuffing. But on the other hand, champagnes and sparkling wines are also made to drink with food. Bubbly, as it is affectionately known by many, complements a wide spectrum of food types and flavors items such as brie and Gouda cheese, spicy foods and just about any type of shellfish. In reality, the acidity that is found in sparkling wines cuts through the butter and provides a crisp, refreshing flavor.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi produces an Extra Dry Sparkling and a Brut Sparkling, both of which are Non-Vintage and can be purchased for under $10 a bottle. The difference between “extra dry” and “brut” is the amount of residual sugar that remains in the wine with Brut having a lower percentage of sugar; hence it is more dry than the extra dry. The Woodbridge Brut is produced using 100 percent chardonnay grapes and contains flavors of green apple and citrus.

If you like a sparkling wine with a little bit of sweetness, try the Woodbridge Extra Dry. This wine contains the aroma of honeysuckle, followed by the flavor of baked pear.

Robert Mondavi founded the Woodbridge Winery in 1979 with the concept that he could produce a very affordable everyday wine for the average consumer. The winery is in Lodi, Cali., where Mondavi grew up. Lodi is one of the oldest wine regions in America and is the top-producing wine district of the five major varietals (chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc and zinfandel) grown in California.

In 1994, Robert Mondavi introduced the Private Selection label in order to highlight wines that were produced from grapes grown in the North and Central Coast regions of California. The 2010 Private Selection Pinot Noir starts with a slightly earthy nose, followed by red cherry flavors with a hint of vanilla.

Regardless of which wine you choose to drink, remember that Thanksgiving traditionally celebrated the fruits of labor of the harvest, and certainly the harvest has a tremendous impact on the wines that we drink. Today we celebrate it more as a holiday feast with family and friends so when raise your glass of wine and give thanks, think about all the efforts of those who placed the food on the table and the wine in the glass.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, Fla., is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at