Canadians eat more whole turkeys at Christmas than at Thanksgiving. Last year, we consumed, Turkey Farmers of Canada reports, 4.4 million and three million, respectively. On the surface, that might seem surprising given the bird's iconic status on this feast day. But maybe it's because family gatherings tend to be larger in December than October. It would be depressing to roast a turkey for two.
Still, if you're among the faithful, you may be wondering about suitable beverages. In my youth, it was Tony Crosariol's homemade wine. I liked the match. The wine was solid, fruity and cleansing, a good foil for a big spread. I regret to say that Dad hung up his vintner's hat a decade ago. He stopped roasting turkeys, too, for probably the same reason others of his generation did: a smaller family. Nonetheless, he loved the turkey tradition because it grounded him in the culture of his adopted country. It was his pledge of allegiance.
I'm sorry I don't get his turkey any more. Part of the reason has to do with wine. It's a flexible bird, a relatively neutral canvas for pretty much any variety you like. Some people prefer jammy zinfandel or shiraz, which resonate with sweet cranberry sauce. Others – me included – prefer lighter chardonnay and pinot noir, which match the meat's weight and get to show off their subtle complexity. These days, I bring store-bought wine to Dad's house. There may be no turkey, but I take chardonnay or pinot regardless.
I also bring something Canadian for the sake of the domestic holiday as well as for Dad. Some of his favourite wines come from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. "The Okanagan never lets me down," he's fond of saying. I may disagree with Dad on a lot of things, especially on how long to cook a turkey, but we see eye to eye on the Okanagan.
Carrick Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $37.95
Carrick is a top pinot noir estate in the southern region of Central Otago. Here's a fine example from the region, with bright berry fruit, creamy tannins and tight structure. It's a fine choice for Thanksgiving duck. Available in Ontario. $33 in Que.
Alain Geoffroy Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2010 (France)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $26.95
This is textbook Chablis, a lean chardonnay with lemony acidity and a salty tang that's also reminiscent of fino sherry. It's perfect for light shellfish dishes but works with turkey, too. Available in Ontario.
Cambria Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (California)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $29.95
The California sun is evident in this pinot, crafted in a rich, jammy style that contrasts with the tighter pinots of Burgundy. I like the cinnamon-like spice behind the fruit and the hint of dark chocolate. Very nice for turkey, with or without cranberry sauce. Available in Ontario.
San Pio Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2010 (Italy)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $16.95
The fruit is very ripe, carried on a luscious, smooth texture, complemented by herbs, black pepper and incense. Available in Ontario.
Château des Charmes Aligoté 2010 (Ontario)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $13.95
A signature of Burgundy, the aligoté grape is vastly overshadowed, in quality and quantity, by Burgundy's more distinguished white variety, chardonnay. Cold-tolerant, it has found a fine home on the St. David's Bench vineyard of Château des Charmes. Light mediumbodied, dry and crisp, it shows green apple, orange and pear, carried to a lively, almost spritzy finish. Available in Ontario.
Produttori Vini Manduria Riserva Salice Salentino 2008 (Italy)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $18.95
I like the way the big, dark fruit and chocolate flavours in this southern-Italian red, set against juicy acidity and subtle spice. It would flatter turkey or lamb roasts. Available in Ontario.
Sandhill Chardonnay 2010(British Columbia)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.95
Medium-bodied and well-balanced, this white carries flavours of peach, subtle brown butter and lightly toasty oak lifted by fresh, lime-like acidity. Available in Ontario at the above price and in B.C. for $17.99.
Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2009 (Italy)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.95
There's finesse in this reasonably priced Chianti Classico (a step up from basic Chianti). It's medium-bodied, very dry yet supple, with pure cherry fruit, just-right acidity and a firm tannic backbone. $19.99 in B.C. and $17 in Alberta.
JoieFarm PTG 2010 (British Columbia)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $23.90
PTG is an abbreviation of passetoutgrain, the French term for Burgundian reds blended from supple pinot noir and crisp gamay. The wine is medium-bodied, with a chewy berry core and overtones of herbs and spices. It speaks with a lively French accent, a good example of the style. Available in British Columbia.