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Headline

The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

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Latest Issue
About Us

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This Thanksgiving, Enjoy a Sip of American Wine Alongside Healthy Ingredients

By Cassandra Lord

As you likely already know, America is one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to agriculture. But it’s also one of the leading countries for wine production. The states of Oregon and Washington are two major producers of wine in the country and are quickly becoming favorites of the wine world for their climates and fertile soils that produce well-balanced and flavorful wines.

Thanksgiving is often synonymous with indulgence, with a hearty amount of classic dishes usually decorating the dining tables of homes. As more people switch to vegan or vegetarian diets, however, Thanksgiving might slowly become a dreaded time of year, leaving few healthy and plant-based options to be desired. 

Chef Akio Ogawa of Cielito Lindo Bar and Grill created a fabulous recipe with vegans and vegetarians in mind, inspired by the American holiday. So for Thanksgiving in Japan this year, why not bring a bit of America to the table and support businesses back home by pairing American ingredients with wines from the Oregon and Washington States?

Whether you’re a wine buff or not, here we’ll give you some suggestions for which wines to pick and what flavors will go well with them.

Oregon Wines

Oregon has been recognized as one of the world’s leading wine-producing regions, with 908 wineries in 2019 and approximately 80 different varieties of grapes. The most common grape variety in the region is Pinot Noir by far, accounting for more than 50% of the state’s wine grapes. Some parts of Oregon have very cool and rainy winters followed by dry summers, which help create high quality wines overall, but make for particularly good Pinot Noirs. 

If you’re new to the wine scene, a Pinot Noir wine is a light-bodied red that is very versatile when it comes to food pairings. It has a medium to high acidity, and is usually relatively dry. Younger wines tend to be vibrant and fruity with notes of dark berries and citrus fruit, while older vintages begin to take on more earthy and spicy flavors. Pinot Noirs are often even considered to have a mushroom-like flavor, meaning they pair particularly well with mushroom dishes as well as meats like chicken and pork, but their earthiness lends character to almost any meal.

Although we’ve mentioned that Oregon is one of the largest wine producers, it is actually made up of many smaller wineries. Each Oregon wine is handcrafted — you can practically taste the love and care that goes into their production. Added to which, winemaking practices in the region are often very environmentally and socially conscious, and the state is known for its biodynamic winemaking practices, so it’s easy to round off your sustainably-sourced meal with a sustainably-sourced glass of wine.

Washington Wines

The stark temperature difference between day and night in Washington State is one of the largest of any wine-producing region, which is very important for maintaining natural acidity and producing well-balanced wine grapes. In addition, fertile soils keep the plants very happy, creating all-natural, high-quality grapes perfect for winemaking. The climate naturally prevents pests and weeds, so the area is said to be good for sustainability due to its relative lack of pesticides. 

Interestingly, Washington State is located at around the same latitude as Bordeaux and Burgundy, but is famous for quite a different variety of wines. In fact, Washington’s most popular wine export is white wines. 

The state is quickly becoming a favorite among wine lovers, partly because of its forward-thinking and creative approach to the industry that results in unique and flavorful wines. Its extreme temperature contrasts make it a great region for Chardonnays. 

A Chardonnay from Washington State is likely to be crisp and delicate, much like a fresh green apple, and with notes of tropical fruits and vanilla bread. It is often considered a dry wine, with barely any tannins (that would lend an earthy flavor), and a medium acidity. Many consider it buttery or creamy, so it goes well with cheeses and seafood, but lends a refreshing note to many food pairings. 

Pairings with American Wines

Now you know which wines to choose for your Thanksgiving evening, it’s time to choose some suitably delicious food to go with it. 

Our first pairing suggestion is Calrose rice, the founding variety of California’s rice industry. If you’re looking to keep things plant-based, we’ve put together a Vegan Rice Salad Roll recipe featuring a fusion of western flavors with Japanese style. This light meal and the tang of the vinegar sauce pair very well with the crisp and delicate taste of a Washington Chardonnay. For something a little more hearty, the Calrose rice can be used in a spiced jambalaya or curry alongside the fruity and earthy tones of an Oregon Pinot Noir.

Keeping things in California, next up are California Ripe olives, known for their crisp and delicate flavor which works well as a snack or as part of a meal. Try them on pizza or pasta with tomato sauce, as the flavors will go nicely with either a red or a white. The mild sweetness of the olives and acidity of the tomatoes will pair nicely with a Chardonnay’s crisp and acidic flavors but will also bring out the cherry and berry notes of a Pinot Noir. 

Finally, we have American organic dried fruits and nuts. These dried fruits and nuts are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. As a snack, these go well with either red or white wine. If you want to use them in your meal with an American Chardonnay, try baking them into bread as a side dish, as the bitterness of the nuts, sweetness of the fruits, and buttery notes of the bread will balance out with the vanilla bread notes of the wine. To pair with an Oregon Pinot Noir, try sautéing the prunes in a red wine sauce with chicken or fish, or a plant-based substitute, as the prune flavors will match wonderfully with the berry notes of the wine. 

 

Finding American ingredients in Japan can be a challenge, but National Azabu and Nissin World Delicatessen are two of Tokyoite’s most trusted sources of international foods. 

 

National Azabu is an international supermarket that opened up in Minami-Azabu in 1962 for embassy staff and international employees living in Japan, with all sorts of ingredients available that are rare in Japan. On the other side of Minato in Higashi-Azabu, the Nissin World Delicatessen international supermarket features worldwide products, including high quality imported and domestic meat and wine from over 30 countries.


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