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Turkey Leftovers and Wine
By: Ralph de Amicis
Posted: Nov. 26, 2012

 [Photo: The best part of post-Thanksgiving: a good turkey and cranberry sandwich / Credit: kthread]


Every year in Wine Country as the vines yellow the question arises, what is the best wine with turkey? It’s a question worth asking even after the big day, when turkey leftovers are still in abundance. Now, I don't typically write about wine, but when it comes to turkey, I am a partisan.


Sonoma was where the standard white-breasted turkey was first bred. Wild turkeys are dark breasted, but a farmer here determined that a small number of white-feathered turkeys were also white breasted, so he bred for them and changed the industry forever. Even today Sonoma is filled with wild turkeys whose ancestors escaped from the breeding sheds that once dotted the valleys.


Why do I love turkey so much? Because I do the Paleo Diet (Cave Man) which depends on lean meats to boost the metabolism. While dark meat turkey is 50% protein, white meat turkey is 90% lean (the same as shrimp). It makes white turkey breast a perfect Paleo food. The low fat also makes it unpalatable to some, but a good wine can coax even lean flavors out onto the palate, where they meet their friends, sweet potatoes and gravy to our delight.


Pour too strong a wine and you roll right over those subtle, satisfying notes. Pour a white, crisp wine and it will wash those scrumptious fats away with too much acidity. Personally I think that Malbec deserves a good Thanksgiving dinner or set of leftovers. I prefer one with a lower alcohol level. Too hot a wine numbs the taste buds and hides the wonderful blending of flavors. Many in Napa happily pair Cabernet Sauvignon with most everything. We have a lot of Cab here and someone has drink to it. They might also reach for a softer Cabernet Franc or fruity Merlot and coincidentally, those two varietals are often blended with Malbec in Cahors, the French home of that increasingly popular grape. 


The Bordelaise unfortunately treats neighbor Cahors like hayseed, country cousins. Malbec's mild tannins doesn't lend themselves to the long aging that makes Cabernet Sauvignon so collectable. But, it also makes Malbec better for the digestion. The Black Wine of Cahors, a Malbec blend, was the preferred wine of the Russian court and recommended by the Tsar's physicians. 


Hint: always choose a wine with enough fruit to go with turkey. Why? Because it is not just the tryptophan in turkey that makes it so relaxing, it takes combining it with the sugar in the sides dishes, sweet potatoes laced with brown sugar, cranberry sauce and of course wine. Those sugars strap rockets onto that important amino acid, speeding it from the belly to the brain to provide that relaxing glow. That's why a turkey sandwich in the middle of the day doesn't guarantee a nap, but if you have it with a glass of fruit juice you may find your eyelids drooping.


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