Friendsgiving is everything I love most, all in one place: friends, food, and gratitude. Why not take it to the next level by turning your gathering into a Friendsgiving Wine Pairing party?

Every year I host my friend group in Brooklyn, and I have so much fun with the menu. The beauty of Friendsgiving is indulging in all of the flavors of the season, minus the soggy green bean casseroles and wobbly cans of cranberry jelly that you might have to endure at a family Thanksgiving (also minus the possible political arguments that might arise at a family Thanksgiving). I love to reinterpret classic Thanksgiving flavors and update them into party-sized bites with a fresh and modern twist. And pairing each bite with a different wine makes any Friendsgiving party extra unique and memorable!

Host a Friendsgiving wine pairing party this year for a fun, unforgettable gathering. Photo: Sarah Tracey

Port is the perfect Friendsgiving wine pairing partner. It complements both sweet and savory dishes—which is a lot of heavy lifting to expect from one wine, but Port can do it easily! If you’re not familiar with Port, it’s a Portuguese fortified wine, which means that a bit of ‘neutral grape spirit’ (brandy) is added to the wine during fermentation. This means that some of the fruit’s natural sweetness is preserved, along with a full and rich texture. You get the complexity and aromatics of a wine, but with a little extra festive kick (Port ABV is usually between 18-20 percent, higher than a table wine).

Depending on the style of Port, flavors can range from rich dark berry fruit to caramel and butterscotch to toasted nuts, spices, figs, and even chocolate. If that doesn’t sound like the holidays in a glass, I don’t know what does! I fell in love with Port when I visited Portugal a few years ago, and opening my friends’ palates up to the pleasures of Port always results in an unforgettable night.

Easy but Decadent Port Pairings for a Perfect Friendsgiving

Friendsgiving Pairing #1: Croft Pink Rosé Port + Sweet Potato Grilled Cheeses

Croft makes the world’s first rosé Port, and it’s got lovely red cherry and raspberry flavors with a touch of honey nuance and a dry finish. Meant to be sipped chilled; I even picked up some cranberry notes… which made it a must for Friendsgiving!

I love taking something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich and elevating it. I filled mine with mashed sweet potatoes, fresh rosemary, chopped toasted pecans, cranberry jam (which I hit with a splash of Port while it was simmering!), and of course, lots of good cheese. I recommend a mild cheese like Havarti that melts well—but you could also use an Alpine-style cheese like Comte or Emmenthal, or even a bloomy-rind cheese like Brie.

Croft Pink rose Port paired with sweet potato grilled cheese sandwiches. Photo: Sarah Tracey

Friendsgiving Pairing #2: Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Tawny Port + Polenta Bites with Quince and Blue Cheese

Taylor’s 10 Year Tawny is filled with tones of honey, golden raisins, golden figs, and toasted walnut flavors. This is perhaps my favorite Port style. For this pairing, I went super classic: Tawny Port is traditionally paired with blue cheese.

I was inspired by this recipe to make a polenta bite! While I often make crostini or toasts with different toppings for a wine tasting, I also want to provide options for my gluten-free guests, and crisped-up polenta rounds are perfect for that. I topped the polenta with a quince poached in Port and added blue cheese and fresh rosemary. Drizzling a bit of Port reduction is the perfect final touch.

10 year old Tawny Port pairing with blue cheese and quince on polenta. Photo: Sarah Tracey

Friendsgiving Pairing #3: Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port + Pulled Turkey Sliders

Taylor’s 20 Year Tawny is powerful and rich, with lots of darker fruit tones; the wine’s deeper intensity and soft tannins called for rich, savory meat of some kind. This being Friendsgiving, turkey was the obvious choice: rich, meaty, and hearty turkey thighs.

Instead of roasting a whole bird, I went with a much easier and laid-back approach: pulled turkey sliders! I seasoned my turkey thighs with salt and pepper and put them in a slow cooker overnight with a can of pumpkin ale. By morning, they were tender and falling off the bone! You simply shred the meat with a couple of forks, and it’s ready to be piled onto a multigrain roll. I also added braised collard greens cooked with maple and bacon, topped it with Port mustard, and finished it with fried onions for some crunch. Serve open-faced with the top bun on the side to let everyone appreciate all those lovely layers!

Taylor 20 Year Old Tawny Port with pulled turkey sliders. Photo: Sarah Tracey

Friendsgiving Pairing #4: Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port + Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles

I wanted to keep things light for dessert: my friends usually end up rolling back the rug and dancing the night away, so I didn’t want to load everyone up with decadent and heavy cakes and pies. I am, however, a fan of a sweet bite. Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage Port is really the perfect dessert choice: very dark and rich, with spice, fig, and dark chocolate flavors.

These chocolate pumpkin truffles are easy to make and offer a sweet hint of pumpkin in the filling, wrapped in a dark chocolate coating. I sprinkled on some cinnamon sugar and graham cracker crumbs for a beautiful decorative touch!

Making chocolate dipped pumpkin truffles, a perfect pairing with Taylor Fladgate Port. Photo: Sarah Tracey

Sarah is a professional sommelier based in Brooklyn who has proudly worked her way up from spit-bucket-emptier to Michelin-starred Wine Director since her very first winery gig in 2011. Certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, she has taught over 300 wine classes to date. She launched her site The Lush Life in 2014 to deliver fresh lifestyle content featuring wine and cocktails, entertaining how-to’s, and wine news her friends could actually use! She explores wine regions around the world, hosts events & create digital content on behalf of wineries and brands, and produces fun and interactive wine tastings for private groups. Her idea of ‘self-care’ is a solo Beyoncé dance party with a glass of rosé Champagne (try it, you’ll feel better!).

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