Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year for my family and every November I stress myself out trying to tailor the perfect pairings with the most exciting bottles for my aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and parents. I spend hours putting things in and out of my shopping cart, debating the merit of each wine, wondering if what I've chosen is interesting enough for the big day. Every year I put tons of work into perfecting my lineup and every year I end up being the only person who really cares. That's why, starting this year, I've decided to pick a theme and then stick to it. Since I spent this past February touring through Australia's Yarra Valley (my new favorite place on earth), I decided to do a sampling of wines and spirits solely from that region. That way it's a personal curation, yet one entirely limited in its scope. We only have so many options from the Yarra (especially from the places I visited), so that made choosing the final selection much more manageable: Helen's Hill Pinot Noir, Oakridge Chardonnay, a few selections from Payten & Jones, a bottle of our new Faultline Gin from Four Pillars for Martinis, and a special single malt from a Melbourne distillery called Starward that I brought home in my suitcase for after dinner.
Each time I've done this, I've found choosing the best white, the best red, and the best sparkling wine for each course to be damn near impossible, not to mention disjointed. Moving from Champagne, to Napa Sauvignon Blanc, to Burgundy, and then Oregon Pinot Noir is a fine progression, but there's no real connection there for the guests to follow along. In my experience, parties are more fun when there's a theme. I've done all American or all French menus in the past, but even those specifications were far too broad. That's why I'm getting specific this year: Yarra. Period. End of story. If you're looking for thematic ideas of your own, I'd suggest maybe getting micro-specific as a fun idea. Maybe do just wines from the Rhone like red and white Chateauneuf-du-Pape, or maybe a smattering of German wines: dry Riesling and Spatburgunder. You could pick reds and whites from the Santa Cruz Mountains, or a collection of Willamette Valley selections. We're here to help if you need ideas.
Sometimes the incredible breadth of the wide wine world is overwhelming in its vastness. Getting specific is a fun way to eliminate that all-encompassing anxiety, while offering a fun experience for your guests.