Wines for Thanksgiving: A Selection from the Year’s Tastings

Thanksgiving is a celebration of thanks for abundant harvests.  It is also an abundant meal consisting of many flavorful sweet and savory dishes surrounding the traditional roast turkey.  The combination of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and candied yams is a challenge for wine pairing. We propose offering a variety of wines to allow celebrants to pair food and wine as they wish.

The following are our recommendations, coming from the past year’s wine review articles and bi-monthly reports.  Since several of these wines do not have wide distribution, we offer a varied selection.  For imported wines, we give the importer’s name.

Appetizers: Oysters, Grilled Shrimp, Crudités  

We suggest starting off with something crisp and fresh to awaken the appetite.  Sparkling wines always work well on this celebratory occasion, but many dry still wines do, too.

Alphonse Mellot 2011 Sancerre “La Moussiere” Blanc ($35) 91+  An elegant, focused Sauvignon Blanc with mouth filling citrus flavors.  Importer: Elite Wines.

Caraccioli Cellars 2006 Brut Santa Lucia Highlands ($52) 93+  One of the very best California sparklers made by ex-Roederer’s Michel Salgues. It’s crisp and elegant with superb balance.

Pierre Moncuit NV Hugues de Coulmet Blanc de Blancs  Brut ($35) 92  This brut of 100% Chardonnay offers abundant floral aromas with notes of minerals and light yeast, crisp acidity and a persistent steely finish.   Importer: Vintage 59 Imports

The First Course:  Soup

It’s autumn, so a squash or cream of mushroom soup is a great entry to a celebratory meal.  The sweetness of the soups pair beautifully with rich, flavorful wines.

Chalone Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay Estate Grown ($25) 91+   A beautifully balanced California Chardonnay with the richness and acidity to pair superbly with creamy soups.

Linden 2010 Chardonnay ($22) 91   A rich tasting Chardonnay with flavors of melon and mineral highlights from one of Virginia’s finest wineries.

Spann Vineyards 2010 Betsy Backacher Semillon-Chardonnay California ($17) 89   This blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Chardonnay offers melon and stone fruit flavors in an easy drink format with a dry citrus note on the finish.

The Main Course:  Turkey, Cranberries, Sausage and Herb Stuffing, Wild Rice and Yams

The combination of savory and sweet dishes requires more than one wine on the table.  We suggest several fruity reds and exuberant whites that guests can choose from.

Red Wines

Costanti 2009 Rosso ($35) 90+  A gorgeous, fruity red with earth and dried herb notes that go well with turkey.  If the 2009 vintage isn’t available, the 2010 is almost as good.  Importer:  Empson USA.

Cass 2010 Grenache Paso Robles ($28) 91  Spicy red berries, plum and earth make for a good Thanksgiving pairing.

White Wines

De Morgenzon 2010 Chenin Blanc Reserve Stellenbosch ($30) 92  Honeysuckle, orange zest, and white fleshed stone fruit show on this great Chenin. The 2009 vintage is just as good.  Importer:  Cape Classics.

Kayoumi Vineyard Series: Carmel Winery 2010 Single Vineyard White Riesling Kayoumi Vineyard Galilee ($30) 90  A dry kosher Riesling with notes of stone fruit, orange peel, and petrol.  Importer:  Royal Wine Corp.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc Paso Robles ($40) 92  A complex wine of tropical, butterscotch, and mineral notes on a creamy smooth palate.


Graham Beck 2008 Brut Rosé Western Cape ($19) 91  Creamy in the mouth with light raspberry fruit, this sparkler pairs well with a variety of dishes. The 2009 vintage may be on shelves by now. Importer: Maritime Wine Trading Collective.

Roederer Estate NV Brut Rosé Alexander Valley ($23) 91  Cherry and almond notes on a lush palate make this a real food companion.

Collard-Picard NV Cuvée de Merveilles Champagne 90+ This bright red rosé de saignée with its ripe red berry fruit would be a wonderful pairing for those living in the UK or France.  Unfortunately, it’s not yet imported to the US. Our British readers might wish to have it with their Christmas turkey.

An Alternative Main Course: Goose with Chestnut Stuffing

The Pilgrims would have eaten wild turkey, which has more dark meat and a gamier flavor than today’s over-bred, farm-raised turkey.  Dark meated goose is a tasty alternative to today’s giant-breasted turkey.  Here are some wine recommendations for goose.

Binyamina 2007 Merlot Reserve Galilee ($25) 91  A kosher, Israeli wine that offers ripe plum and toasted oak. Importer: Royal Wine Corp.

Hamilton Russell 2010 Pinot Noir Walker Bay (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) ($44) 93  A rich, flavorful wine showing earth, violets, and spice—South Africa’s best Pinot Noir.  The 2009 vintage is almost as good.  Importer: Vineyard Brands.

Longoria 2010 Pinot Noir Lovely Rita Santa Rita Hills ($32) 90  This wine offers a red-fruited earthy nose of vanilla and dried cherries.  It is lush on the palate and has a long and flavorful finish.  A perfect pairing for goose.

Dessert: Pies and Tarts

The excess of the Thanksgiving meal reaches its peak with dessert, which usually consists of sweet pies of pumpkin, apple, and pecan.  A sweet wine added to these sweet desserts is just too much.  But a less sweet dessert – Pear or Apple Tarte Tatin – would pair superbly with a well-balanced, not too sweet wine.  Here are a couple we’d recommend:

Mulderbosch 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Noble Late Harvest Stellenbosch ($35/375 ml) 91+  Honeysuckle, dried fruit and toasted oak make this a good pairing for tarte tatin. Importer: Cape Classics.

Barboursville Vineyards 2005 Malvaxia Passito Monticello Virginia ($30) 90  Yellow peach, caramel, and spicy orange citrus show on this American passito. Improves with age, so purchase the oldest one you can.

After Dinner: American Cheeses

Fortunately, today one can find a wide variety of American cheeses of all types.  Here’s where we recommend finishing off the meal with a fortified wine.  We suggest a well-balanced wine that is rich in flavor but clean and fresh on the finish.

R. L. Buller Premium Fine Muscat Victoria ($15) 93  Creamy, rich and viscous with toffee and honey notes, this is one of the best fortified wine values on the market place. Importer: Southern Starz.

Ramos-Pinto 2007 Vintage Porto ($90) 92  An excellent vintage Port showing dark red fruit, violets and cracked pepper. If you see an older vintage, grab it. Importer: Maisons Marques & Domaines.


Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

November 2012

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