Welcome to the holiday season! Later this week we will hopefully be gathering with friends and loved ones, giving thanks, and feeling grateful to be together (hopefully vaccinated and safe.)
I love Thanksgiving. I love to cook the Thanksgiving meal, starting the day early to watch the parade with bubbles, then moving into a day-long prep of classic favorites, with a few twists (like spicy Thai sweet potato and butternut squash soup instead of traditional candied sweet potatoes and a fresh green bean and spring greens salad instead of a casserole.) But every year, the bird rules the feast, and with that, the perfect pairings for Thanksgiving usually include Pinot Noir. Here are a few tips to get you through the day, whether you are hosting a crowd, or toasting with two.
As I have said before, I love to start the day with bubbles. If you are budget conscious consider popping a Prosecco. Juicy and fresh, the Italian sparkler will get everyone in the mood to celebrate without costing you a fortune. Bread & Butter Prosecco DOC ($16) opens with fresh aromas of wildflowers and citrus fruit, followed by an easy palate filled with ripe pear, golden apple, and golden peach. If you prefer the creamy richness of a classic method sparkler, Lanson Le Black Label Brut Champagne ($50) shines opening with notes of brioche and marzipan, leading to a palate filled with ripe orchard fruits, creme brulee, honey, and lemon curd.
For post-parade enjoyment, prior to the big dinner, consider a lively, luscious white or Rose wine. We tried a Bordeaux Blanc the other night that Gary proclaimed may be his new favorite white….lucky for me, the selection is available for right around $16 a bottle. Comtesse de Malet Roquefort Bordeaux Blanc ($16) blends Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon, creating a vibrant wine with punchy freshness on the front, and a nice creamy richness on the back palate, layering ripe kiwi, lemon-lime, melon, and crushed stone, with a nice mineral note throughout.
Rose is still (always) in season, especially when paired with food. When considering a special Rose to open with those you love, always select an option from Provence. The Southern France region has been producing Rose wines for centuries, dedicated to showcasing the terroir with elegance, freshness, and a very dry palate. Miraval Cotes de Provence ($20) blends the classic Rhone varieties of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Rolle together harmoniously revealing layers of lemon, tangerine, and strawberry, melding with hints of wildflowers and soft herbs, tea rose, and a touch of briny saline.
As you finish final preparations for the big meal, open a few bottles of Pinot to let them start breathing. Napa Valley’s Cliff Lede found the ideal location in the heart of Anderson Valley to create world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. His FEL Winery home is the stunning Savoy Vineyard, at the “deep end” of the valley heavily influenced by cooling breezes off the Pacific, ensuring a long growing season retaining freshness and bright acidity, even with ripe, nicely rounded fruit flavors. Fel Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75) melds red berry, red cherry, and tart cranberry with crushed stone, and a spicy note that carries through the palate from the beginning to the end.
From Burgundy’s historic Domaines Albert Bichot, Albert Bichot Bourgogne Côte d’Or Family Secret ($35) blends Pinot Noir fruit from premier vineyards throughout the celebrated region, vineyards within the villages like Chambolle-Musigny, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Marsannay, to create an expressive wine that showcases the unique character of this home the variety. Nicely structured with black cherry, raspberry, and boysenberry notes, balanced nicely with floral violets, wild herb, and a subtle forest floor earthiness.
When we think of Oregon Pinot Noir, our mind likely goes to Willamette Valley, however, within the Umpqua Valley, nestled in between the Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Range to the east, with the Willamette Valley AVA to the north and the Rogue Valley AVA to the south, has been a wine-producing region since the 1880s when Napa’s Beringer Brothers first planted grapes in the region. In the 1970s the first Pinot Noir was planted, and though many were skeptical that the variety could grow well here, vintners like Richard Sommer and Paul Bjelland knew otherwise. With influence from the Umpqua River (similar to Sonoma’s Russian River Valley) and a mix of over 140 different soils including metamorphic, volcanic, and sedimentary, the region crafts elevated Pinot Noir wines with character. From completely dry-farmed, hillside vineyards within the region, Paul O’Brien Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir ($32) reveals earthy, mushroom and truffle notes often associated with Oregon Pinot, melding harmoniously with wild strawberry, raspberry, and Bing cherry.
Though not traditional, Imagery Winery adds a touch of Petite Verdot to their luscious, Sonoma grown Pinot Noir ($16) adding complexity and texture to the approachable wine. Woody herb, blackberry, and raspberry jam flavors open the wine, finishing with just a touch of toasted spice from limited French oak aging.
New from Prisoner Wine Company, Prisoner Pinot Noir ($45) delivers the character and style we expect from the winery known for its powerful red blends. Revealing aromas of dried leaves, toasted nutmeg and cinnamon, and juicy fruit the concentrated wine will go as nicely with the main course as with pecan pie. Vanilla, dried cherry, marionberry, and toasted oak fill the palate melding with a bright pop of acidity keeping the wine bright and food-friendly.
Highly approachable on the palate and pocketbook, sustainably farmed and crafted Highlands 41 Pinot Noir comes from estate vineyards in Monterey County where vineyards enjoy a long growing season filled with sunshine-filled days and cool nights. These two attributes combine to create a luscious wine with an easy character layering red fruit, earthy forest floor, and spice notes. An effortless go-to any night of the week.
#Cheers and enjoy the holiday!