Wine played a role at my Thanksgiving dinner this year, though not one I expected. Having thought and written about Thanksgiving wines—which go best with the meal, how to pair—I’d more or less concluded that a great wine-food experience was too much to expect, given the incoherent eclecticism of the traditional meal.

And in that regard, I felt confirmed: With so many different flavors and textures on the plate, I kept glasses of both a Morgan Chardonnay and a Peter Franus Zinfandel active simultaneously, to wash down different elements of the repast. It worked just fine, but wasn’t dazzling; far more dazzling, from a purely gustatory standpoint, were the wines themselves, on their own. These are both fabulous efforts, the Franus especially.

But here’s the great role wine played in our night together: I had the meal at the home of my wife’s parents, in Napa, and I brought a Beaujolais Nouveau at the last minute simply because I saw an intriguing bottle while shopping; my father-in-law, being a genuine wine-lover, was excited to put out the Franus, because he knows Peter, and knows how thrilling that Zinfandel can be; my wife’s uncle brought the Morgan, feeling rightly that it would pair well with the turkey breast meat; another guest brought a Billecart-Salmon demi-sec rosé, on a lark; and all together this vaguely loony wine list made for a lot of fun and talk and speculation among family and friends. Rather than aspiring to a unitary perfection, in other words, we let the wine go the way of the food—all over the Thanksgiving map—and we found in the process a series of unexpected delights to share. And that, I believe, is the way it should be.

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