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Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday. It’s a cornucopia of everything I love. Good food, good wine, family and friends. I must confess that what I like best about Thanksgiving is that I no longer have to cook. I am officially the family wine steward.

As we prepare to feast, my sisters and their spouses, nieces, nephews and their families, and often a few surprise or last-minute friends gather around the table. Each has different palates and preferences, and pleasing everyone isn't an easy task.

What meets the traditional Thanksgiving food and wine pairing suggestions, is not necessarily what my family wants. The task would be easier, yet not as much fun, if I simply brought one type of white wine and one type of red.

My sisters are excellent cooks and are very capable of replicating the traditional Thanksgiving dishes our mother served with a few added twists to keep things interesting. Most Thanksgiving feasts are similar buffets of this type.

I like to choose wine that can be enjoyed before, during, and after the meal. Long before the meal, my sisters and I gather in the kitchen to peel potatoes, make gravy, place trays of appetizers out, and sip on wine.

What to do when one sister drinks only white and another drinks only red? Split the difference and go pink! It’s a perfect solution and we all enjoy the dry rose I serve during this sisterly bonding time. Dry rose is light, lower in alcohol, and pairs well with cheese, olives, pickles, and wild game salami we serve as appetizers.

Mealtime requires both white and red. For the white lovers in my group I always bring chardonnay. What works best with the bird and the sides on our table is chardonnay that is lightly oaked.

This year I will be serving white Burgundy or Chablis, which are both made from chardonnay grapes. If you prefer to go American, California and Washington both produce chardonnay in this style.

One of my sisters is a “I drink only California Cab kind of girl.” Nothing wrong with this because I always say drink what you like; however, in my opinion cabernet is not always the best choice for turkey and fixings.

A bottle of merlot will grace our table; with its generous fruit and less tannic structure, merlot pairs well with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

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My nieces and nephews prefer wine that is not too dry. Riesling is fruity with mineral undertones and ranges from very dry to very sweet. It is both palate and food friendly. No wonder it is one of the top wine choices for Thanksgiving meals.

I enjoy wine made from the gamay grape, specifically from one of the villages of Beaujolais — Brouilly. This red wine is soft, easy to drink, and pairs well with oven roasted white meat. Brouilly or another selection from the 10 crus of Beaujolais is my go-to holiday wine this year.

Beaujolais Nouveau hits the stores just in time for Thanksgiving each year. Although produced in Beaujolais from gamay grapes, the nouveau is a younger, fruity expression of the grape that pairs well with the feast. Lower in alcohol than many other styles of wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is an all-around crowd pleaser.

A growler or two of beer from a local brewery such as Lost Cabin, Hay Camp, Crow Peak, or Miner will satisfy the beer drinkers in my group. A good scotch ale with its smooth, caramelized maltiness pairs well with the flavors of Thanksgiving. English Barleywine or a good milk stout is sure to be gobbled up along with dessert.

We are all usually as stuffed as the turkey by the time we finish the meal, but for those who crave something to sip after the meal I’ll be sure to provide two options: sparkling wine or Champagne to toast an excellent meal and give thanks for all our bounty and Port to complement the end of a generous meal with family and friends.

Regardless of the traditions or size of your gathering, like Ernest Hemingway, I say wine is as natural as eating and to me as necessary. I toast you and yours on this most thankful of all holidays.

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Kathy Smith is a co-owner of Smith's Liquor Gallery and the Independent Ale House in Rapid City and is a certified executive sommelier.

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