Food News

Drink Local This Thanksgiving with Arizona Wine Pairings

A lineup of wines from Callaghan Vineyards.
A lineup of wines from Callaghan Vineyards. Cal Faber
You’ve checked everything off the extensive grocery list, prepared make-ahead dishes and placed them with Tetris-like precision in the fridge, and made sure there is enough clean silverware to get everyone from starters to desserts.

After all of that, who has time to think about the wine, let alone what wines will pair with the food you’ve worked so hard to be Thanksgiving-worthy? But wine pairing doesn’t have to add to what can be a stressful day, or several. Especially when experts are here to help. Also, if you want to show your out-of-town visitors a taste of Arizona, there's no better way to do so than through sharing a bottle of Arizona wine.

Here are some of metro Phoenix's top wine experts' recommendations for what to pair with appetizers, entrees, and desserts for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Appetizers

Forget the basic chips and dip or pre-packaged cheese and cracker duos. Thanksgiving is all about a whirlwind of flavors and that starts with the opening act. Crafting thoughtful first bites is right in pastry chef Tracy Dempsey’s wheelhouse. Many of the treats below can be bought at her shop or easily made at home. As proprietors of Tracy Dempsey Originals and ODV Wines, Tracy and her husband Chuck Dempsey recommend palate-pleasing pairings that will kick things off with a delicious bang.

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These Parmesan gougeres from Tracy Dempsey Originals pair perfectly with a dry, crisp, acid-driven sparkling wine, such as the Dos Cabezas WineWorks, 1º Principrana.
Courtesy of Tracy Dempsey Originals
Food: Parmesan Gougeres
Wine: Dos Dos Cabezas WineWorks' 1º Principrana

A bottle of bubbles is always the best way to kick off a celebration so it’s no surprise this sparkler from Dos Cabezas WineWorks makes an early appearance. Although it's made in the traditional method, the 1º Principrana makes use of nontraditional varietals of garnacha, riesling, and tempranillo, giving it a bit of a rebellious streak.

Gougeres, little two-bite-sized cheesy puffs of heaven, are a perfect union of pastry dough and parmesan baked until delicately crisp and golden on the outside and soft and hollow on the inside. The result is a savory morsel made to pair with any dry, crisp, acid-driven sparkling wine.

“The crisp refreshing acid, green, and citrus fruit notes make it a perfect pairing for these crispy cheese puffs, cleansing the palate with lingering notes of citrus, preparing you for the next bite,” Chuck says.

This wine would make an excellent pairing for many varieties of savory and salty cheese starters as well as appetizers with a bit of crispness or crunch.

Food: Pork and chicken pate
Wine: Twisted Union Wine Co.'s Alternate Route Rosé

Tracy's riff on the classic French chicken or pork liver pate has a lot going on. This Twisted Union rosé blend is adventurous enough to go along for the ride.

The pate is "spiked with pink and black pepper, allspice, apricots, pistachios, juniper berries, and fatty bits of lardon, which dance with the lively savoriness of this rosé of mourvèdre and malbec,” Tracy says.

Her pate is exceptional, but widely-available versions will also pair deliciously with this blend.

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When Vino Stache Winery winemaker and owner Brooke Lowry Ide started out, she cold-called Valley restaurants and wine shops asking if she could do a tasting. Among them was ODV Wines in Tempe, which carries several of Ide's wines today.
Georgann Yara
Food: Bacon-wrapped dates with chèvre and ancho chile honey
Wine: VinoStache Winery's The Proper Orange Malvasia Bianca

Bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed dates provide a lot of flavor mileage in a tiny package, with a savory-sweet-tangy trifecta, making them popular starter bites. The profile of VinoStache’s orange wine, which is made with malvasia bianca, offers a honey finish that makes it the perfect pairing for this appetizer, along with any dish boasting the crave-worthy sweet and spicy combination. 

“Fermented like a red wine, this seemingly delicate but dry beauty can stand up to meaty, sweet, savory, and tangy fare,” Tracy says.

Food: Martini buttons
Wine: Callaghan Vineyards' Chiricahua Ranch

The simplistic combination of puff pastry wrapped around a pimento-stuffed green olive belie the complex deliciousness of this treat after it’s baked to savory golden deliciousness. The white Chiricahua Ranch petit manseng and marsanne blend is refreshing yet flaunts a layered complexity with notes of orchard and citrus fruits and spice, Chuck explains.

“The lovely medium body stands up to the quick salty crunch of the button,” Chuck says.


The Main Course

Katie and Scott Stephens, husband and wife sommeliers who are part of the ownership group of comfort food establishments Beckett’s Table and Southern Rail, offer their Arizona wine suggestions for the dishes that will most likely be at the center of the table this Thanksgiving.

Chateau Tumbleweed is known for its exceptional wines and unique labels.
Kris Pothier
Food: Turkey and Mashed Potatoes
Wine: Chateau Tumbleweed's Miss Sandy Jones
One of the Stephenses’ favorite Arizona white blends is primarily composed of chardonnay, which is responsible for the backbone of light buttercream and apple flavors, Scott says. The addition of sauvignon blanc and ugni blanc also gives the wine a racy edge of citrus that rounds out with melon components.

“Roasted turkey and mashed potatoes were meant for this wine,” Scott says.

Food: Baked Ham
Wine: Lightning Ridge Cellars' Montepulciano
When sourced from its roots in Italy, this style of wine is bigger and broader than its Arizona counterparts. But Lightning Ridge's vineyards in Elgin yield an ideally restrained interpretation of the Montepulciano variety, Scott explains. It’s finessed and layered with stewed cranberries, dark plum, and haunting amounts of baking spices.

“This is a matchmaker’s dream with an oven-baked, spiral-cut ham,” Scott says.

Food: Prime Rib or Roast Beef
Wine: Four Tails Vineyard's Double Trouble Cabernet Sauvignon
Katie calls this an extraordinary food wine that pairs well with anything beef — whether grilled, roasted, or seared — thanks to a full mouthfeel that shows precise acidity.

“This is such a great representation of what Arizona can do with cabernet. Balanced and medium-plus bodied, it truly shows the layers of cocoa, desert sage, currants, and hints of tobacco box,” Katie says.

Dessert

A cookie or two-layer cake may attempt to break into the club, but Thanksgiving dessert is always about the pie, pumpkin or not. GenuWine Arizona owners Emily Rieve and Lindsey Schoenemann recently hosted a wine and pie pairing event at their downtown Phoenix wine shop, so this is a subject the former junior high school teachers know well. Here, they share recommendations for what will make a sweet coupling for the final course.

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Page Springs Cellars makes a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Courtesy of Page Springs Cellars
Food: Apple Pie
Wine: Page Springs Cellars' Vino del Barrio Blanca

This white blend is composed of a melange of varieties and features a crisp finish that is a perfect match for the caramelized apple notes of a freshly baked pie, Rieve explains.

Food: Cherry Pie
Wine: Callaghan Vineyards' Buena Suerte

The composition may change slightly with each vintage, but this Bordeaux-style red blend is typically anchored by a stately cabernet sauvignon which is a match for the juicy boldness of a tart or sweet cherry filling and buttery crust.

“Its well-rounded tannins and bold red fruit flavors will hold up to the naturally rich essence of this pie,” Schoenemann says.

Food: Pecan Pie
Wine: Chateau Tumbleweed's Mourvedre

This Rhone variety has an edge specific to Arizona terroir that leans a bit wild and maybe funky at times. However, when paired with sweet pie, it’s an ideal foil.

“It’s a light, acidic red with spicy red fruit and earthy notes, which goes well with the nutty intensity of the pecan pie without overpowering the flavor,” Rieve says.

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Merkin Vineyards' Chupacabra Blanca is an Arizona white blend that is primed for a pumpkin pie pairing.
Courtesy of GenuWine Arizona
Food: Pumpkin Pie
Wine: Merkin Vineyards' Chupacabra Blanca

Last but not least, the perennial must-have is of course, pumpkin pie. This white blend from Merkin Vineyards gets a boost from riesling, which is one of the mainstream go-to wines with turkey. But in this presentation, it brings its dessert game.

“It has notes of citrus and slight minerality that compliment that savory spice of a pumpkin pie,” Schoenemann says.
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Georgann Yara is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who's also a proud equal opportunity eater. She loves all things Arizona, including the professional sports teams that continue to break her heart. Food, cocktails and cats dominate her IG.
Contact: Georgann Yara

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