There are those vegetarians among us who are perfectly happy to give thanks at the minimum rate of once a year, but prefer not to mark the holiday by chomping down on dead bird. What wine, then, pairs best with the most popular turkey alternatives available on the market today?
In the interest of addressing this vexing question, I recently cooked one Tofurky and one Field Roast brand Celebration Roast, accompanied by mashed potatoes (with real butter—hey, I'm no savage), mashed yams, green beans, Brussels sprouts and, to cover all bases, cranberry sauce, and tricked a few friends into offering opinions on the result, matched with a few representative wines. Our findings:
Martin Ray 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris ($16) Perfectly innocuous, with aromas of white flowers and dry perry. Tofurky enhances its apply zest, but it's too bright for the fare.
Francis Coppola 2012 'Director's Cut' Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($21) Sour apple, honeydew melon-rind aromas; zesty, grassy lime flavors. Choice quaff, but it's sour-down with cranberry sauce and only OK paired with the alarmingly high-sodium Tofurky.
Chateau St. Jean 2012 Alexander Valley Riesling ($20) I assumed that this would be sweeter. Aiming for a dry style, ol' Jeanie made an interesting floral and pineapple-scented wine, with vitamin C tablet sourness. Riesling is my recommendation for T-Day generally, but this wine just left me wishing I liked it more—and you're not fooling anyone at the table if you think they won't notice.
Benziger 2011 Sonoma County Chardonnay ($16) Lemon meringue, custard tart and fresh white grape with a caramel gloss make the Tofurky sing! Not rich enough to complement the mashed potatoes; still, the Benziger was acclaimed as a nice, Plain Jane Chardonnay that won't offend anyone, not even the green beans.
La Crema 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25) Dependably flavorful combination of sweet and spicy coriander, rhubarb pie, dried cherry and cranberry—like drinking Christmas. Better with the earthy Celebration Roast than with Tofurky, while the mash accentuates sweet strawberry notes.
Cline 2010 Sonoma County Syrah ($12) Wild, sweaty Syrah aromas give way to sweet plum, licorice, blueberry and vanilla. Douses the Tofurky and Roast with sweet blueberry sauce, leaving a lingering, sinuous center. Surprise hit.
Frank Family 2011 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($36.75) Toasted vanilla bean, raspberry wine, bright berry jam aromas—it's fun, good with yams, cozy with cranberries, but kinda brash with the veggie products.
Rodney Strong 2010 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) With gentle aromas of mixed berries and a soft, fruity palate, this nice-guy Cab gets along with everyone. Except for cranberry sauce: fight! Cab loses.