Wines to Complement Your Thanksgiving Day Feast

by artfuldiner on November 21, 2013

in Breaking News, Special Celebrations, Wine

More wine is sold for Thanksgiving dinner than any other meal of the year… The big question, of course, is which wines go with the variety of tastes, textures, and aromas that uniquely present themselves on Thanksgiving Day… To help you decide, listed below are a few of my personal favorites…



Moletto Prosecco Extra-Dry Non-Vintage (Treviso, Italy), $12.00 – $14.00

Prosecco, a sparkling wine made from Glera (or Prosecco) grapes north of Venice, Italy, proved the unexpected hit of the evening. Typically it is dry and very bubbly and tends to be crisp & clean on the palate. It is also combined with peach juice to make Venice’s most famous cocktail, the Bellini.

According to wine guru Robert Parker: “For pure delicacy, elegance and freshness, the best Proseccos are the finest sparkling wine values in the world.” Indeed, Prosecco seems to be the one sparkling wine that is both truly great and yet entirely different than Champagne. In general terms, Prosecco produces a much lighter-bodied, more casual and youthful sparkling wine with finer bubbles than does Champagne. The best Proseccos offer a clarity and freshness of fruit that make them incredibly simple and straight forward.

Founded in 1960, the Azienda Agricola Moletto is a family-owned estate in the province of Treviso. Its wines are made from estate grown grapes from the Piave and Lison-Pramaggiore growing districts. The winery’s non-vintage Prosecco is dry with mild lime, grassy, and floral notes and a light, refreshing acidity. This is pleasant and easy drinking at its best.

Graham Beck Brut Non-Vintage Sparking Wine (South Africa), $15.00 – $17.00

Most famous for its sparkling wines, Graham Beck is one of South Africa’s most modern wineries. It is also one of the larger wineries, with 400 hectares of vines and a production of 400 thousand cases per year.

This non-vintage sparkling wine is a blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay imbues the wine with elegant touches of fruit; the Pinot Noir contributes complexity and length of flavor. This is a dry wine that exhibits excellent acidity, medium body, and medium alcohol (12%). Unlike many types of bubbly, which tend to be rather sharp on the palate, this wine has a decidedly creamy texture and a long soothing finish.

In 1994 Graham Beck Brut NV was selected as the celebratory drink at the inauguration of South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. More recently, after declaring his intention to run for president in February 2008, Barack Obama took his wife, Michelle, to one of their favorite restaurants in Chicago. The sommelier recommended two glasses of Graham Beck Brut NV to toast this auspicious occasion. The Obamas were so impressed with this sparkling wine that they ordered six bottles for the 4th of November. The corks were then ceremoniously popped to celebrate the election of the 44th American president.

2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris (Oregon), $13.00 – $15.00

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the very same grape. Depending upon the climate and soil in which they are grown, however, this varietal can produce wines of vastly different styles. The immensely popular Italian Pinot Grigio wines, for example, are light bodied, vibrantly crisp, and rife with refreshing mineral elements and slightly floral aromas. A Pinot Gris from the Alsatian region of France, on the other hand, tends to be rather full bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous of texture.

The 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris has been described by the winemaker as an “Oregon Version” of Alsatian Pinot Gris. In contrast to the lighter Italian versions, it is rich, elegant, and has the ability to age. The small addition of Pinot Blanc, picked at an advanced stage of ripeness, adds to the soothing texture and contributes to the classic “Oregon Style.”

Willamette Valley Vineyards is an innovative and progressive winery. In 2005, they were the first winery to include resveratrol levels on their wine labels (resveratro is a polyphenol compound found in certain plants and in red wine that has antioxidant properties and has been investigated for possible anti-carcinogenic effects). Sustainable practices: Salmon-Safe (owner Jim Bernau has won “Hero of Salmon” award; 10-cent Recycling Fund (10 cents for each bottle returned to the tasting room); FSC Certified Cork (first winery in the world to use cork certified through the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council standards); Cork Recycling Program; Biodiesel Fuel Program; Carbon Neutral (solar energy, green energy).

2009 S.A. Prüm Blue Kabinett Riesling (Mosel, Germany), $16.00 – $18.00

Family-owned, S.A. Prüm was founded by Sebastian Alois Prüm in 1911. Since 1971, it has been owned by Raimund Prüm, Sebastian’s grandson and the head winemaker. Under Raimund’s leadership, the property has earned the reputation as one of the most successful wineries in Germany’s celebrated Mosel wine region.

The Prüm family has a rich history in the mid-Mosel where they have owned vineyards since 1156 A.D. Today, the estate comprises 40 acres of vineyards planted principally with Riesling. Over 15 acres of S.A. Prüm’s holdings are located within the famed Wehlener Sonnenuhr (“sundial of Wehlen”) domain. Named for the historic sundial painted on an outcrop of slate by a Prüm ancestor in 1842, the incredibly steep Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard produces what is arguably German’s finest Riesling. The vines here average 80 years and older; and the soil is comprised of layers of finely decomposed, mineral-rich blue slate.

The 2009 Prüm Blue Kabinett Riesling is a quintessential German Riesling. The telltale “petrol nose” is especially prominent. On the palate, there is an initial swirl of sweetness followed by a not-quite bone dry expanse of fruit. This wine is intense & complex yet light bodied and, thanks to a wonderfully crisp acidity, especially refreshing. If you enjoy Rieslings, this is a dynamite wine for Thanksgiving dining.



2010 Paraiso Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands (California), $23.00 – $26.00

Thirty-five years ago, Rich & Claudia Smith arrived in what is now known as California’s Santa Lucia Highlands, planted the district’s first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and have implemented sustainable farming practices ever since. Their winery was the first vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands to be officially certified sustainable.

Paraiso continues to be a labor of love. Rich & Claudia’s daughter, Casey, and son, Jason, represent the second generation of Smiths working at the winery. Casey’s husband, Dave Fleming, is Paraiso Vineyards’ winemaker. Jason’s wife, Jennifer Murphy-Smith manages the winery’s tasting room and boutique.

Paraiso Vineyards is primarily known for its Pinot Noir. Their 2009, for example, the winery’s flagship varietal, received a whopping 92 points from the Wine Spectator… and the 2010 is equally up to the mark. The vintage is an example of modern winemaking at its most innovative, as four different Pinot Noir clones were blended together for their specific individual characteristics: elegance, perfume, intensity, and quality of fruit. The wine was then aged in oak for eleven months. The result is a wine that is both youthful & approachable with soft acidity and a decidedly complex Burgundian flavor.

2009 La Maialina “Gertrude,” (Tuscany, Italy), $12.00 – $14.00

Nestled in the Tuscan hills, La Maialina Winery was founded in 2009… but is already making something of a splash on the international wine scene. The name literally means “little pig.” It refers to the Cinta Senese heirloom breed of little pigs that originated near Siena. These pigs date back to the 14th century; today, they are the only breed of native Tuscan pig that still survives. And since the vineyards are located right next door to where the pigs live, they help to maintain the winery’s sustainable growing practices by donating their natural fertilizer for the vines.

The grapes for the 2009 “Gertrude” were sourced from highly regarded Chianti producer Castell’in Villa. The wine is a blend of 45% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. Each grape variety was fermented separately; following blending, the wine was then aged in French oak for 10 months. The result is a modern-style blend that is rich, full-flavored, smooth on the palate… and an amazing value.

2010 Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley (California), 18.00 – $20.00

Renwood Winery was founded in 1994 in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley. In 2011, however, the winery experienced financial setbacks and ended up on the auction block. It was then purchased by Argentine oilman Alejandro Bulgheroni for nearly $7 million during an auction in bankruptcy court at Sacramento.

From its inception, Renwood attempted to build its standing primarily as a zinfandel producer, a commitment that the new owner and his staff have been quick to embrace and expand. Secondary varietals have been dropped, while the winery’s lineup of zinfandel s has been expanded.

Renwood’s marketing strategy involves three price tiers. Wines bearing the red Renwood label are sold principally through mass-market supermarket chains in the $20.00 – $40.00 range. Wines with the black Renwood label are sold through markets with an ambitious wine focus, such as Whole Foods Markets. And wines with the white Renwood label are intended solely for restaurant wine lists and are priced between $75.00 – $100.00. This tactic avoids a touchy point between vintners and restaurateurs, who aren’t keen about guests wondering why a wine on the list is priced at $85.00 when they can find it at their neighborhood wine store or supermarket for $25.00.

The 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley bears the red label and, though currently on sale in Pennsylvania for a mere $12.99, normally sells in the $20.00 range. Regardless, however, even priced at $20.00, given its superior quality, this wine is still a significant bargain.

The wine is composed of 94.8% Zinfandel, 4.5% Syrah, and 0.7% Souzao. This latter varietal is indigenous to northern Portugal, but it is more widely grown in California and South Africa, where it is generally used in the production of Port, which contributes significantly to the Zinfandel’s deep color and intense fruit flavors. Oak is also quite prominent, as well notes of pepper and spice. This is a hefty Zinfandel, sporting 14.5% alcohol, yet it still maintains excellent balance and a touch of elegance.

Cheers & Bon Appétit!


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