Holiday Food and Drink

Houston Thanksgiving: Drink Selections to Go With All That Delicious Turkey

Roses are always a Thanksgiving crowd-pleaser.
Roses are always a Thanksgiving crowd-pleaser. Photo by Jean-Philippe Guy

Thanksgiving is almost here and most of us have already made our plans for dining out, taking in or madly preparing a feast in our own kitchens. We're defrosting the turkey, whipping the potatoes and baking the pies. We know which aunt is gluten-free, which girlfriend du jour is vegan and we've doubled up on Grandma's ambrosia for the gluttons we call cousins. But what drinks are we to serve with the massive meal that will please everyone?
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Grocery stores are good options for inexpensive and quick grabs.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Wine is usually the standard alcoholic beverage for an important dinner. If you're serving box wine, we won't judge, but there are some better options out there that won't break the bank. And beer has come a long way with the advent of microbreweries. In fact, craft beer and food pairing dinners are becoming more and more common. Most of us don't consume cocktails with the dinner itself, but a nice aperitif beforehand, a dram of whiskey after dinner or a snifter of cognac and a cup of coffee with dessert adds some finesse to the gathering. And for those who do not drink alcohol, there are some amazing options for festive drinks.

We reached out to some local wine, beer and hospitality professionals to get some tips on what to serve guests so that we all may have a little side of merriment with the nap-inducing feast.

Wine:
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Jeremy Parzen leads a wine tasting at Vinology.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
One of the professionals we spoke to was Jeremy Parzen, a local wine writer and expert (and sometime contributor to the Houston Press). He got us started with some advice about what types of wine go well with the main dish and the sides. His choices lean Italian since Parzen's area of expertise is mainly Italian wines and the Italian language itself, though he offers some reasonable French choices as well.

Parzen says the best advice is not to overthink it. "There are so many different dishes served in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. It would be impossible to find one or even two wines that would pair "perfectly" with each dish."

Instead, Parzen says to base the wine selection on who will be attending rather than on what is being served. "Make sure you have a sparkler: Prosecco or Cremant from Burgundy or Loire are affordable options. Make sure you have some good but inexpensive Italian Pinot Grigio and California Chardonnay."

As for red wines, he stresses that buyers shouldn't go crazy but look for wines under $30 in categories that they like. "Burgundy village red and Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon are my personal go-tos. Beaujolais and Langhe Nebbiolo (the younger sibling of Barolo and Barbaresco) are also excellent in terms of cost and food-friendliness," he added.

He recommends stores like Kroger, H-E-B and Spec's for their low prices and multiple bottle programs. Locally, his top picks for "full-service shops" are Houston Wine Merchant, Vinology, How to Survive on Land and Sea and Light Years. The latter two sell natural wines. Parzen says that these shops offer staff that will help with what customers are looking for and how much they want to spend. " They should be able to help you hone in on exactly what you need. And dulcis in fundo, make sure you have some sweet wine on hand as well. Otherwise, what would Aunt Gladys drink?"

For Aunt Gladys, and other sweet wine drinkers, Parzen recommends a passito ( a sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes) from Sicily or a Sauternes from France.


French Country Wines
2433 Bartlett
713-993-9500
frenchcountrywines.com

This boutique wine shop's name says it all. The wines here are French and if anyone knows about food-friendly wines, it's les francais. Most French wines tend to have less alcohol than New World wines, making them pair well with food. We reached out to proprietor Jean-Philippe Guy for some advice on choosing the proper varietals for Thanksgiving.

Because of the diversity of dishes usually served, Guy says, " Trying to pair wine with turkey and all the trimmings with all the spices can be challenging. There are a few wines that will accommodate a wide range of dishes and are always a hit on the Thanksgiving table. Rose wines in general are always great pairing-they accommodate spices, sweeter dishes and are amazing with turkey."
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There's a great selection of wines at French Country Wines.
Photo by Jean-Philippe Guy
Guy's wine shop offers a number of roses that will pair well with most meals but his personal favorite is Les Vignobles Gueissard Bandol Rose 2022 ($28). It's a blend of Mourvedre and Grenache. He also likes Beaujolais Cru because the Gamay grape is not as tannic as Cabernet or Merlot. Guy says, " They're light, fruit-forward, spicy and always an amazing pairing to spicier and fattier foods. They also go great with sweet dessert."

The shop carries two very different vineyards from Beaujolais including Domaine de la Ronze "La Glaciere" Cotes de Brouilly 2018 which Guy says is a very traditional Beaujolais. For $22, it's a more reasonably-priced option and its lightness and fruitiness should appeal to a number of guests.

There's also the Clos de Mez " Chateau Gaillard" Morgan 2015. It's a Gamay made in Burgundian style which Guy describes as "fuller, rounder and more extracted and much closer to a Pinot Noir". For $32, it's a little pricier and perfect for a smaller gathering, especially one of knowledgeable wine lovers.

This Thanksgiving week, French Country Wines will be open November 22 and November 23 from noon to 6 p.m. and there will always be someone with wine expertise to aid customers in finding a wine that suits their holiday budget.
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Dodie Wilson has some last minute finds for the Thanksgiving feast.
Photo by Bianka Curvey
Dodie's Beer and Wine Shoppe
1701 W. 15th
drinkwithdodie.com

Dodie Wilson's boutique beer and wine store is located next door to Fluff Bake Bar, the renowned bakery and sweets shop owned by her daughter and pastry chef, Rebecca Masson. Wilson stocks her shelves with her personal favorites with a heavy focus on female-owned wineries, breweries and cideries.

Wilson is a talented cook as well as wine expert so many of her recommendations are ones that pair well with holiday dishes. "Holiday meals can often have a broad combination of flavors on the plate, so I try to find something dry with light fruity notes that can be versatile, complementary and celebratory!"

For a bubbly beginning, she offers up Dom Maria Brazilian Brut Bubbles 2020 ($32). She says, "This Brazilian Brut, it's like over the moon good. I traded it for my old favorite champagne. This is now my go-to bottle of bubbles for any occasion." Wilson says that this bubbly can stand up to the flavor, fat and texture of red meat as well.

In keeping with her showcase of female owners, Wilson recommends Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling ($29) from Stephane Briday. "This woman-owned wine offers iconic refreshment straight from the OG wine country, Sonoma, California." She says that this wine can be served from hors d-oeuvres through the end of dinner.

For something with a little more heft, Wilson suggests another women-owned winery, Hirsch Vineyards. Its Bohan-Dillon Pinot Noir 2019 is light-bodied with fresh aromas of dried cranberries, red cherries and orange peel. Its intense citrus flavors are balanced with seamless acidity and powdery tannins.

The shop is closed on Monday and Tuesday, so for Thanksgiving purchases, customers can visit November 23 from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Beer:

Eureka Heights Brew Co.
941 W. 18th
832-953-4677
eurekaheights.com

Evan Camp, Marketing Manager at Eureka Heights (though his staff photo says "Party Boy"), recommends a couple of beers from this Heights-area brewery. The Something Light should please the lightweights with only 100 calories and three carbs. For something a little more seasonal, the Tinsel Trousers, a Snickerdoodle cookie ale, should get your peeps in a merry mood.
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Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale is here in time for Thanksgiving.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Saint Arnold Brewing
2000 Lyons
713-686-9494
saintarnold.com

Brock Wagner and his team operate the oldest craft brewery in Texas and its beer is served all over the country. However, its heart is in Houston and it routinely turns out some of the city's best brews. Loyal fans eagerly await its special limited brews and seasonal offerings.

Its website offers several recommendations for Thanksgiving dinner like its Pumpkinator, an Imperial Pumpkin Stout that stands up to its name. Released in mid-October, it comes in 22-ounce bottles and is meant to be drunk at the end of the meal due to its high alcohol content (ABV 11.2 percent). And you might want to split it with a relative you really like.

For those who can still get their hands on a six-pack of Saint Arnold Oktoberfest, it goes well with roast turkey and almost anything else. Its Christmas Ale has already hit the stores and we think it pairs nicely with the heartiness of the Thanksgiving feast. It's a copper ale, heavier on the malt, giving a slightly sweet flavor and a robust alcohol content at ABV 7.5 percent. You might have to make a couple of pallets on the floor for a friend or two to stay the night.

Southern Star Brewing Co.

3525 N. Frazier
936-441-2739
southernstarbrewing.com


Dave Fougeron, President at Southern Star, offers a couple of suggestions for beers brewed at this facility in Conroe. " Our Cygourd Pumpkin would pair great with turkey (and makes for a great pumpkin pie substitute in a pinch). Our Buried Hatchet goes well with darker meats, roasted fall vegetables and almost every dessert."

Non-alcoholic beverages:
Sipple Co. has a good choice of non-alcoholic wines for the holiday table.
Photo by Therron Francis
Sipple Co.
2410 Quenby
832-225-6397
sippleco.com

Helenita and Danny Frounfelkner opened this non-alcoholic bottle shop in October 2021. Customers can get wine, beer and spirits, all of which are alcohol-free. The N/A wines are far more complex than one would expect and there is a good selection of varietals, including sparkling wines. It offers brands of beer like  Athletic Brewing Co., which was featured recently on CBS Sunday Morning. There are non-alcoholic IPAs, stouts and porters so there's a good selection for the sober beer lovers or designated drivers.

There are also alcohol-free spirits and botanicals for creating mocktails that are festive and delicious.

Liquor:

Spec's Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods
2410 Smith
713-526-8787
specsonline.com

There are numerous Spec's locations across the Greater Houston area with some better equipped than others to offer customers advice on alcoholic beverages. The flagship location near downtown is by far the best one for filling not only the liquor cabinet, but also the cheese and charcuterie board. There are international foods galore here and it's fun to try all the different candies, cookies and canned goods available from all over the globe.

For hosts trying to offer a selection of beverage options, the expert staff at Spec's can help find wines and beers for a variety of tastes. It also stocks a number of brews and liquors made right here in Houston and around Texas. While buying a good bottle of bourbon or scotch will work for a certain crowd, we find that opting for a couple dozen airplane-style mini bottles of booze allows a wider choice for guests. The minis are cheaper than investing in fifths or full-sized bottles and it also keeps guests from overpouring. Which may also keep the conversation on fun topics and not old grievances. 
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.