A Thanksgiving Colorado Wine Pairing Guide

11/19/2010 11:28 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The medley of flavors at the dinner table -- not to mention the myriad palates that will be sitting at it -- can make pairing wines on Thanksgiving Day a brutal task.

Sweet potatoes, fresh cranberry, soups, green beans, gravy, turkey, sausage stuffing, candied yams... The plentiful dishes are an exercise in complexity and gluttony. Finding the perfect wines to compliment the flavor explosion can be as a difficult as fitting into your pants after wolfing down several thousand calories.

It just takes a little bit of planning, however, to make the decadent feast shine with fantastic local wine from start to finish. While personal preferences and the actual dishes on the table will change the types of wines to serve, here's a guide to get you started.

Cheese and Crackers
Thanksgiving is one of the great celebrations of the year, so don't be shy in popping open some bubbles to start. Good Champagne (or sparkling wines made in Champagne style) will match any cheese and cracker spread well and loosen up the relatives before dinner. While Colorado sparkling wine offerings are few and far between, you only need to travel a few hours south to find some of the best sparkling wine in the United States. Gruet Winery, based just outside of Albuquerque, N.M., is a Champagne-style house run by a family who makes the real stuff in Champagne. The non-vintage Brut Blanc de Noir ($14) is doughy, acidic and offers just a touch of raspberry and fruit. It comes in a 1.5 liter magnum ($35), too.

Another option, especially if a bone-chilling cold front rips across the state, is a classic mulled wine. These spicy drinks can be served before or after a meal. Try making one with Colorado Cellars Great Catherine's Spiced honey wine ($15), which has full flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon throughout. The pungent spices already incorporated mean you don't need to add a thing other than heat (warm just shy of a boil and serve in a mug).

With the Bird
The main course deserves a wine that will stand out, but far too many Thanksgiving parties head straight for a big bottle of American Cabernet Sauvignon or something else with huge, red, tannic and fruit-forward flavor profiles. Save those for the holiday roast and serve a white with the turkey. An off-dry Riesling will use subtle sweets and a variety of fruit flavors that sing next to a turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, yams and all those other goodies. Try the 2009 Bookcliff Vineyards Riesling ($15), an excellent version of one of Colorado's standout grapes. Also consider a Colorado Viognier (Creekside Cellars 2009, $16; Garfield Estates 2009 V0, $22).

This is not to say red wine is off limits, just choose wisely. Go too big and the wine will overshadow the turkey, which is only the desired effect if the bird was cooked drier than the Great Sand Dunes. Seek out more delicate reds such as a Pinot Noir. Alfred Eames 2008 Estate Pinot Noir ($25) is perhaps the best on the Colorado shelves right now. Its delicate earthy and slightly fruity flavors will work in concert with the main attraction to the dinner table.

Somehow we always find room for dessert. Like all the courses of Thanksgiving, the flavors will be all over the board with a variety of pies, cheeses, cookies and other goodies spread across the table. The Snowy Peaks 2007 Orange Muscat ($16/.375) is a beautiful mix of orange and peach flavor that finishes with a cheesecake crust note. It's sweet, but not syrupy, and has the flexibility to pair with a number of different dessert flavor profiles. It's also a stand alone, perfect for those who cannot stomach one more calorie after dinner. Unless, of course, it's offered in liquid form.