Recently I made an only-at- Sunset discovery ("only" because it required a test kitchen down the hall producing Thanksgiving dinner in July): There's a wine that can multitask through all the challenging spicy, sweet, and savory sides of a turkey dinner, traditional or not, and be just plain yummy at the same time.
The wine is Tempranillo, the most important red grape in Spain, and it's starting to appear more and more from West Coast vineyards.
The potential clicked when I caught a whiff of Thanksgiving from down the hall. So I put Tempranillo to the test ― with herb-rubbed grilled turkey and herb butter-basted roasted turkey; with roasted garlic in the mashed potatoes, rosemary in the sweet potatoes, and orange zest and mustard on the green beans. It was all wonderful. The characteristic berries in the wine turned to cranberries, and the herbs to sage, in the face of Thanksgiving dinner. And a tangerine-like quality showed up in a match with citrus-laced cranberry sauce.
Tempranillo ― especially when grown here ― is both earthy and fruity. It can have a lot of plum and berry flavors, but they come along with spices and herbs and a core of bright, food-loving acid, all wrapped in velvet. Even if the wine is "big," its tannins have no claws ― like Pinot Noir without its noir side.