Thanksgiving wine talk with Ken Frank of La Toque

by TrevR on November 12, 2007

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With Thanksgiving just over one week away, we thought it high time we give you a post or two related to the holiday. Now, we’ve all asked ourselves what wine pairs best with turkey or with a good old fashioned Thanksgiving feast. Living here in the Napa Valley, so close to so many knowledgeable and highly-regarded chefs, sommeliers and winemakers, we thought, who better to ask some of these age old questions than the very best!

Ken Frank, chef of La Toque RestaurantSo, early this past Friday morning we had a chat with Ken Frank, chef of the amazing, Michelin-rated La Toque Restaurant, which is located at the Westin Verasa Napa in downtown Napa, who was gracious enough to share his thoughts.

Frank has been cooking for more than 30 years beginning with summer jobs in France at age 16. He first achieved national acclaim when he was Chef of La Guillotine Restaurant at age 21 in 1977. Frank was the original Chef at Michael’s in Santa Monica, before leaving in 1979 to open the original La Toque on the Sunset Strip at age 23. After a 14-year run, Frank sold La Toque in 1994 and opened the award-winning Fenix at the Argyle before moving north to open the new La Toque here in Napa Valley in 1998.

What follows are excerpts from our talk, some direct quotes and some paraphrasing. Read on to learn what type of wine Frank suggests for the annual Thanksgiving feast (including dessert) and for general tips on wine pairing around this holiday.

CB: What’s the single biggest myth around pairing wine with a Thanksgiving feast and why?

Frank: The biggest myth is that there is an ideal pairing. The food is so varied that Thanksgiving is about pairing your wines with people, not with the feast.

CB: What is your advice to someone looking to find the ideal wine to go with their Thanksgiving meal?

Frank: You don’t want a really rich, heavy wine. You should avoid the young, jammy Cabernets. The obvious choice is Pinot Noir, but another option are the more mature, Bordeaux-style wines. Something that’s been aged 10-15 years, something like a Cask23 or Heitz, something that’s got some elegance and weight to it. To me, Thanksgiving means red wine.

Thanksgiving is also a good time to look at magnums too. A big meal with a lot of people is the right time to look at those big bottles. There’s something karmic about all sharing a glass from the same big bottle that is particularly appropriate at Thanksgiving.

CB: What about dessert? What would you suggest to go with pumpkin pie?

Frank: That’s easy, a Malmsey Madeira.

CB: What wines do you expect to have on your table come Thanksgiving?

Williams SelyemFrank: Probably a really good Pinot. Something like a Williams Selyem or Rochioli, both wines I never get enough of that get pulled for special occasions.

Not an everyday Pinot, but rather one where you could only get six bottles when you wish you could get ten cases. It’s a special time, so to me, it’s time to pull out a special wine.

CB: Thanks so much Ken–Happy Thanksgiving!

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, Ken Frank, Ken Frank's La Toque, La Toque restaurant, La Toque napa valley, thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, thanksgiving wine, wine pairing with Thanksgiving, Williams Selyem, Rochioli]

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About the Author

has written 724 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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