Wines for Your Thanksgiving Table

by artfuldiner on October 24, 2016

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Breaking News, Special Celebrations, Wine, Wining and Dining

thanksgiving-wine-quick-referenceAs Thanksgiving Day fast approaches, the big question, at least from an oenological standpoint, seems to be: What wines will best complement your holiiday feast? And, although it may sound like some sort of heresy, you can pretty much throw what has become the centerpiece of this sumptuous celebration – namely the turkey – out of the equation. I say this because turkey is completely neutral and goes with just about any wine you’d care to throw at it. That’s the easy part.

Things get a wee bit more difficult, of course, when you try to come up with wines that marry well – or at least don’t totally alienate – a complicated variety of side dishes. Many traditional holiday sides, for example, have a decidedly sweet component to them: cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes immediately come to mind; and even stuffing may be festooned with dried fruit and/or apples. So a Thanksgiving wine needs to be versatile enough to go with any (or all) or these sides… as well as the ubiquitous green bean casserole that usually gets thrown into the mix.

The art of pairing wine with food is largely a matter of personal preference… However, there are several fairly safe amalgams – both white and red – to keep in mind. With white wines, the pairing priority is finding vintages with well-balanced acidity (ponderous, over-oaked Chardonnays, for example, need not apply); when it comes to reds, you want wines with fairly subtle tannins that will support the flavors of the food rather than overpower them. Keeping that in mind, here are a few of my favorites for the Thanksgiving table…


WHITE WINES:wines-of-the-month-november-2016-1

Riesling: This is a white wine that may be either bone dry or incredibly sweet. Whether hailing from Alsace, Germany, or Washington State, Riesling wines are absolutely the top pick for pairing with Thanksgiving dinner. Its innate flavors and clarifying acidity give it a significant pairing edge with items like sweet potatoes, turkey, and spice-laden or herb-filled stuffing. The 2013 Schloss Schönborn Estate Riesling is a recently discovered gem from Germany’s Rheingau region. It displays all those classic Riesling characteristics: bright notes of lime and tangerine, a great acidity, hint of spritz, and that archetypal petrol nose. A marvelous wine… and currently on sale at PA State Stores for $15.99.

Pinot Grigio (Gris): This is a wine that can be either light and vibrantly crisp, or richer and more full-bodied; and it is perfect for complementing/contrasting with garlic & onions and rich, flavorful high fat dishes. Hailing from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy, the 2013 Jermann Pinot Grigio is definitely of the full-bodied variety, exhibiting an intense straw color and an exotic richness on the palate. Highly acclaimed by both wine critic James Suckling and Decanter magazine, this is a wine of great balance and finesse. Ranges in price from $15.00 – $25.00. If you can’t lay your hands on the Jermann, be sure to give Oregon’s 2015 Acrobat Pinot Gris a try. Produced by King Estate, this wine recently placed numero uno in the Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 100 Best Buys of 2016.” Goes for about $13.00 per bottle.

Albariño: This is a white wine grape grown predominately in northwest Spain and Portugal, where it is known as Alvarinho. As Laxas is a top-notch Albariño producer located in the Rias Baixas district of Spain; and the 2014 vintage was certainly one of the Winery’s best efforts. It was awarded 92 points and an “Editors’ Choice” designation from the Wine Enthusiast. Elegant and long & stony on the finish, the 2014 As Laxas Albariño is a personal fave. It ranges in price from $15.00 to $22.00.

Chardonnay: As noted above, most Chardonnays (especially California’s lethally alcoholic, ponderously oaky representatives) are generally considered persona non grata at the Thanksgiving table. One of the marvelous exceptions, and a wonderful complement to any holiday feast, is Oregon’s 2014 King Estate Chardonnay. This is a succulent, juicy wine backboned by a vivid, refreshing acidity. Receiving 91 points from the Wine Enthusiast, this is an irresistible wine that is light on its feet and drinking beautifully. Goes for around $18.00.


wines-of-the-month-november-2016-2RED WINES:

Pinot Noir: This red wine is a traditional favorite at the Thanksgiving table. Pinot Noir’s subtle, earthy undertones and often mushroom-inspired flavors surround the fresh fruit features of the wine and tend to complement the variety of flavors present at the Thanksgiving Day meal. My favorite at the moment is Oregon’s 2012 Aubichon Reserve Pinot Noir. This is simply a wonderful wine. Pinot Noirs, in comparison to other red varietals, are comparatively light on their feet… but this Reserve has body to spare, great concentration & depth of flavor; and yet it remains enticingly elegant and supple. If you’re a Pinot Noir lover, this little beauty will make a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving table. Retails around the $40.00 – $45.00 mark but worth every penny. If the Reserve is unavailable, the 2012 & 2013 Aubichon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are also worthy contenders and weigh in around $30.00 per bottle.

Zinfandel: This is a fuller bodied wine that ups the intensity from a Pinot Noir; however, it still maintains a perfect complement to many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. This is an excellent choice for those in search of a heartier red wine with the capacity to accommodate a variety of spices and bitter & sweet flavor profiles. The 2013 Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys is a remarkable blend of 80% Zinfandel, 11% Carignan, 8% Petite Syrah, and a splash of Alicante Bouschet. It doesn’t have the structure or depth (or the price tag) of its more famous cousins – Lytton Springs and Geyserville – but is still rife with berry fruit, supple, beautifully textured… and boasts a modest $20.00 price tag.

Syrah: The Syrah grape brings a slightly spicy edge and/or a somewhat “meaty” character to the Thanksgiving table. And its peppery notes will partner quite well with both white & dark turkey meat and herb-infused stuffing. Hailing from France’s Côtes du Roussillon, the 2014 Domaine Lafage “Bastide” Miraflors is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache. Garnering an average of 92 points the past several years from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, the 2014 actually scored the same or higher than all but a dozen or so Châteauneuf-du-Papes from the same vintage. This is a marvelously deep and succulent medium bodied wine that is still light on the palate and would make an excellent complement to your Thanksgiving table. And the best part…? The 2014 can be ordered on line for a mere $12.00 per bottle. An unbelievable bargain. To quote Parker: “This is one to buy by the case.”

Nero d’Avola: The most important red wine grape in Sicily, and one that has been cultivated and used for wine production on the island for centuries, Nero d’Avola is often referred to as the Italy’s Shiraz, because of its distinctive peppery and spicy character. The 2014 Villa Pozzi Nero d’Avola is sourced from vineyards on the western side of the island. Elevations of 1,000 to 1,300 feet and clay soils give the grapes the balance they need to mature fully without becoming overripe. On the palate, this wine is opulent and full bodied, yet it is light enough for everyday quaffing and pairs extremely well with the variety foods that may be part of your Thanksgiving Day feast. But the best part is the price. The 2014 Villa Pozzi Nero d’Avola retails around $10.00 – $12.00 mark… Not bad, but a little surfing can save you a bundle. This wine is available online from at the unbelievable price of $6.45 per bottle ($77.40 per case). An astounding price for an outstanding wine.

As you can see, there are numerous viable libationary options for your Thanksgiving table. However, should you have difficulty making up your mind, just remember… bubbly goes with everything!

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!


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