Thanksgiving, with its myriad of flavors and overload of food is mere days away. And while some look at wine pairing for so many flavors and textures as a challenge, I think it’s a whole lot of fun. Drink what you like and see what it works with and what it doesn’t work with. The bottom line is that you should have fun and enjoy the holiday. Pick some wines you know you like and a few you aren’t familiar with. The most American of holidays is a good time for experimenting. Here are a handful of offerings that I feel are perfectly suited for Thanksgiving and none of them break the bank. If you invite me over this is what I’m bringing.
Criterion 2014 Friuli Pinot Grigio ($11)
If I had a nickel for each anonymous Pinot Grigio I’ve ever tasted, well I’d have a lot of nickels. So many examples, many of them higher priced than this lack any character. For $11 I’m impressed with the genuine flavors and aromas this wine has that speak of Pinot Grigio from Friuli. Stone fruits and a hint of tropical fruit emerge on the nose. Similar characteristics apply through the palate which is light and supple. A gentle touch of honey, spice and a final bit of apricot are all part of the finish. You probably have an Aunt who drinks Pinot Grigio that costs twice this much and isn’t nearly as good. Pour her this on Thanksgiving, you might blow her mind.
Campo Viejo 2013 Tempranillo ($12)
When I started drinking Spanish wine, Rioja is the region that first got my attention. Plenty of other areas have more than hit my radar since then, but wines from Rioja hold a special place in my soul. Wild strawberry, vanilla and wisps of leather are present on the nose. Red cherry and other red berry fruits dominate the palate. A bit of red plum, black pepper and sour cherry are each part of the finish. If you shop around you’ll find this for under $10, buy a case and pour it all day.
Criterion 2013 Valle de Colchagua Carménère ($16)
Carménère is signature red grape of Chile. They grow more of it than anyone other country and it thrives there. This example is part of a collection of wines available at Whole Foods and other similar outlets. Tons of red and purple fruit aromas fill the nose here along with bits of savory herb, a signature component in Carménère. The palate shows of juicy red and black fruit flavors such as cherry and plum. Bits of spice, minerals and a hint of licorice show up on the solid finish. Firm acid keeps things in check nicely. For the price you can pour this all day on Thanksgiving. It’ll go with all but the really light foods.
Yangarra 2013 McLaren Vale Grenache ($23)
Grenache is one of the most food friendly grapes on the planet. This Old Vine example from the McLaren Vale region of Australia is no exception to that. Red and purple fruit aromas light up the nose. Black tea, red raspberry, spices galore and a hint of anise are all in evidence on the lush and generous palate. The finish shows off sour red fruit, bits of earth and a host of minerals. Firm, racy acid is the key to this wine pairing with so many foods. You could pour this as your only red of the day and it would hold its own with the entire smorgasbord.
Santa Ema Amplus 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($23)
The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Maipo region, one of the great areas in Chile for Cabernet. Look you can probably get through Thanksgiving without a Cabernet, I know I can too as much as I love it. But someone at the table is going to want one, maybe it’s your Uncle Irwin, maybe it’s that weird friend your cousin brought along. So give in and have a Cabernet on hand and make it a Chilean one, you’ll get great value. This example opens with blackberry aromas supported by bits of savory herb such as sage and thyme. The palate is loaded with dried red and black fruit flavors such as raspberry and cherry. Earth, chicory and a dusting of cocoa are all apparent on the above average finish.
Churchill’s White Port ($25)
This port is composed entirely of Malvasia Fina. It was aged for 10 years in oak. Chill this offering and serve it as a welcome wine or with light bites such as Marcona Almonds or soft, creamy cheeses. Right from the appealing nose, Sherry comes to mind. A hint of chamomile and toasted nuts are in evidence. The palate has just a little impression of sweetness but it’s basically dry. Apricots, peaches and a hint of nutmeg are present on the palate. There’s a bit of salinity and more toasted nuts on the finish which is quite persistent. You could start or end the drinking day with this on Thanksgiving and both would be good alternatives, so do one of them, but include this one for sure.
J.K. Carriere 2014 Glass White Pinot Noir ($23)
The chill in the air is no reason to stop drinking (good) Rosé. They can be delicious, food friendly, thirst quenching and fun. In short Thanksgiving is the perfect time for Rosé. Here’s an example from Willamette Valley in Oregon. It’s composed entirely of Pinot Noir and aged in previously used French oak. Unlike some Rosé’s the grapes were for this one were grown specifically for this wine. It opens with a welcoming nose that shows of bits of citrus, stone fruit and a hint of vanilla. Red berry fruit flavors and continued stone fruit characteristics are in play on the super-appealing palate. A hint of brioche shows up on the finish along with white pepper and a touch of nutmeg. It’s crisp, clean and goes down easy but it’s a very serious example of Rosé that will drink well for a couple of years. But why wait, they’ll make more.
Biltmore Estate 2011 Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs North Carolina ($29.99)
This is composed entirely of Chardonnay grown in North Carolina. Bubbles are appropriate and welcome anytime, anyplace and Thanksgiving certainly applies. This could be the white selection you pour all day and everyone will be satiated. Fresh white fruit and flower petal aromas light up the nose. The gentle and refined palate is stuffed with orchard fruits, spice and touches of brioche. White pepper, flaky biscuit and continued fruit flavors round out the above average finish. A lovely and delicious wine that will leave people licking their lips and saying, North Carolina, really?
J.K. Carriere 2013 Vespidae Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($42)
Pinot is the classic choice for Thanksgiving. It might just be the food friendliest grape on earth. This offering from Willamette Valley Oregon is no exception. It’s composed of Pinot sourced from 5 distinct vineyard sites. The nose is marked by mushroom, forest floor ad red cherry aromas. Dried cherry, cranberry and wisps of tobacco are in play throughout the proportionate and deeply layered palate. Black pepper and cinnamon notes emerge as well. The long, lush finish shows off sour black cherry, pomegranate, minerals and earth. This is a lovely example of Willamette Pinot Noir with medium tannins and bracing acidity. If you’re drinking it this Thanksgiving decant it for about an hour. Otherwise lay it down for the next dozen years.