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Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year, leading to more gatherings in December. While many people have different holiday traditions, the menu often is similar, revolving around such favorites as turkey, ham, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

For this tasting, I made what has become an annual visit to Leon’s Gourmet Grocer to pick up a number of traditional holiday food items, including its tender, juicy, white-meat turkey, homemade dressing, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, green bean casserole and cranberry/orange relish.

If you prefer not to cook for a holiday meal, Leon’s gets as close to mom’s cooking as you can find.

Wine pairing for large holiday feasts is always a challenge. The wide variety of flavors, from the mild turkey and potatoes to very sharp orange/cranberry relish, make finding one wine to pair difficult.

For this tasting, I focused on the Elena Walch winery from Alto Adige, Italy. The winery's namesake/matriarch is an icon in Italian wine making and everything it produces seems to be a prefect representation of the variety. Her wines are precise and her lineup seem ideal to pair with the cuisine from Leon’s.

I also tried an additional wine with this tasting because I felt a German Riesling possibly might hit the mark as well.

Here are my thoughts on each:

Elena Walch Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy, 2016, $16 -- The wine is pale yellow and offers scents of apples, pears and honey. It is crisp and light, with nice mineral and acidity and offers crisp citrus and a clean finish. Very tasty. 87 points

Elena Walch Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige, Italy, 2016, $23 -- Straw yellow in the glass, the wine is aromatic, offering opulent sweet spice, jasmine and herbs. It's bold and rich with pleasant viscosity and surrounds the palate with expressive spice and fleshy white fruit. It sounds sweet, but really is not sweet at all. The wine is interesting, complex, unique -- and impressive. 89 points

Elena Walch Schiava, Alto Adige, Italy, 2016, $16 -- Light ruby red in the glass, it almost looks like a rose. The wine is fragrant with scents of rose petals, cherries and strawberry. It's light, fresh and lively, dancing on the palate with delicate acidity and offering vibrant red fruit, tart cherry and strawberry. This wine is a smile in a glass. 88 points

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Valckenberg Madonna, Riesling, Kabinett, Worms, Germany, 2016, $14 -- On the nose, the straw yellow wine offers apricots, pears and clover. On the palate, it has a delicate sweetness with mandarin orange, peaches and honey. It is smooth, creamy, pleasant and satisfying. 86 points

The pairing, as I suspected, was tricky. My favorite wine for most of the meal was the Elena Walch Gewurztraminer. I found this to be a wine at the top of its category. Similarly, the Schiava, was superb as a pre-meal wine and with the first part of the meal. Both wines elevated the foods. But when accompanied with the cranberry-orange relish, these wines definitely clashed.

The best wine for the entire meal was the Valckenberg Madonna Riesling. Without question this wine is pleasant, easy to drink and brings out the best in the foods. On its own I would not put this in the same category with any of the Elena Walch wines, but with the full ensemble of dishes, this one was hard to beat.

One more wine that I did not review but has become an annual favorite at our house for the holidays is Santa Giustina Anricus. I’ve reviewed this wine before and it is always an exceptional companion for Thanksgiving.

Produced by the talented wine maker Gaia Bucciarelli from Emilia Romagna, Italy, this wine is a blend of ortrugo and sauvignon blanc that tastes as if it were produced specifically to pair with turkey, stuffing and even ham. I’ve served this at holiday gatherings for each of the past seven years and always enjoyed the way it marries with the wide spectrum of flavors on the table.

Mark McDonald and his wife Kim own The Italian Vine, a Lincoln-based wine distributorship. They recently lived in Italy for several years and studied and developed a passion for wine that inspired them to open their own enterprise.


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