This year’s wine selections are a plethora of different varietals from the Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and Sierra Foothills. Some are safe selections and some I chose ass experiments to see how they would pair with Thanksgiving fare.
So is there rules for selecting the right wines for your Thanksgiving dinner? There are general guidelines for choosing the right varietals, but I would never say that any wine is right or wrong, after all, wine is subjective. What one person may like, another may not. I decided to base my wine list on some based off of guidelines and some more outside the box.
1. JCB by Jean-Claude Boisset – No. 69
We here in the Napa Valley love our wine, and we tend to start our Thanksgiving celebration early. So naturally, bubbles are in order. JCB No. 69 is a sparkling French Rosé. It is from the appellation Cremant de Bourgogne (Burgundy) so as it’s not technically Champagne it is still from France. It is a vibrant Rosé with a creamy mouthfeel and lovely fruit yet it is still crisp.
We like to start our Thanksgiving day with a beautiful cheese plate, and this year I have selected Brillat Savarin (French), and Casatica di Bufala (Italian), two rich types of cheese, very creamy and would pair nicely with the JCB No. 69. This French sparkling is also very reasonable at $28 a bottle.
2. 2015 Lynmar Estate La Sereineté Chardonnay
This is a bottle of wine that I just recently tried at Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol and it was just awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast. La Sereineté contains the best of Lynmar Estate’s Russian River Chardonnay lots and is fermented in neutral oak, giving this a delicate balance. It has a vast array of citrus, tropical and stone notes that travel through the palate. Its bright acidity on the finish will pair well with Thanksgiving day mashed potatoes.
Usually, I prepare my Moms recipe, a vibrant version of day-ahead mash potatoes adding in sour cream, butter, and cayenne pepper. This recipe will save you time since all you need to do is reheat on Thanksgiving Day. La Sereineté should pair well with this dish even with your homemade gravy on top. Unfortunately, this particular Chardonnay is not as budget conscious, coming in at $70 a bottle.
The Alpha Omega Reserve Chardonnay is the polar opposite of the La Sereineté. This is quintessential Napa Valley Chardonnay style, using the malolactic fermentation process and new French oak to enhance the buttery flavors of the wine. Alpha Omega has several Chardonnays in there portfolio, and the older vintages of the Reserves are some of my favorites.
This style of wine may not be everyone’s recommended pairing for rich foods, but some of my guests enjoy rich, oaky wines paired with turkey and stuffing. I enjoy this Chardonnay as ‘intermission wine’ or the wine I need to drink while I’m cooking. Wine Enthusiast gave this Chardonnay 90 points but this vintage is hard to find online, and current vintages probably range around $100.
4. 2011 Goldeneye Gowan Creek Hillside Pinot Noir
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without Pinot Noir. If you ask most people to recommend a varietal for Thanksgiving, 90 percent would say Pinot. But these wines different from delicate to bold so what Pinot do I select?
My personal preference leans towards heavier Pinots or ‘Cab drinkers Pinots’ and most might say that this is the wrong type to select. Many Pinot drinkers prefer delicate, well-balanced, lighter Pinot Noirs with this type of meal. I enjoy the intense fruit and spice in the Goldeneye portfolio.
Goldeneye is from a small area South of Mendocino called Anderson Valley. This region has many Pinots producers and variations from earthy to delicate to bold. Goldeneye with its intense fruit can age longer which is why I selected the 2011 vintage. Gowan Creek Hillside refers to the specific area in the Gowan Creek Vineyard. Using only Hillside fruit will create a different flavor profile compared to using fruit from the entire vineyard.
I feel this goes well with turkey and since I use a brining technique that includes, salt, brown sugar, oranges, cider, rosemary, bay leaves, and peppercorns. I brine for 24 hours, letting the turkey soak up those savory flavors to complement the fruit and spice in the wine. The current release of this Pinot Noir is priced at $84.
5. 2013 Brandlin Bald Mountain Zinfandel
I decided to see how this particular Zinfandel pairs with Thanksgiving fare. Zinfandels are a powerhouse of juicy fruit and jammy flavors that make this varietal go well with turkey. However, Bald Mountain Zinfandel is 100% mountain fruit from the Mount Veeder AVA, which could contribute to higher tannins. As a 2013 vintage, I’m hoping that some of the tannins have softened.
We don’t want a wine drying out our palate as we dive into our turkey. As a general rule, pairing Zinfandels are a good idea when planning your Thanksgiving wine list. We will have to see how this one works with each dish. The current release of Brandlin Bald Mountain Zinfandel runs $42.
6. 2007 Gustavo Thrace Barbera
Barbera is an Italian Varietal that is a classic, lighter-style red. On paper, this varietal should pair perfectly with turkey and all the trimmings, after all, it is made for complementing rich dishes. However, this wine was not grown in Italy but the Sierra Foothills and created by Mexican-American Winemaker, Gustavo Brambila.
If you are a fan of the movie ‘Bottleshock,’ you should know that this is the same Gustavo portrayed in the film. The name on this particular Barbera, Gustavo Thrace, denotes a partnership between Brambila and Thrace Bromberger. I bought this specific bottle after a tasting five years ago, so it is safe to say that this one is a wildcard for me, which was the appeal when I pulled it out of the cellar.
The climate of the Sierra Foothills cool nights provide extended ripening time for the fruit, and hopefully, this Barbera will be more fruit driven than a standard Italian-style Barbera. The current release of this wine, 2014 Gustavo Barbera is priced at $50.
7. 2009 James Cole Aliento
The most daring of my selection for this Thanksgiving is the Bordeaux blend called Aliento. Most people would say that a Bordeaux blend would be much too tannic for this kind of meal and to save it for a steak. But guess what? As I said, there are no rules only guidelines, so why not share it with seven other people and see what they think?
A classic Bordeaux style wine is the blend of the five Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. I do plan to decant this wine because it was suggested. This vintage of Aliento is not currently available. However, the current 2013 vintage sells for $125.
So what have you learned from this article besides the fact that The Wine Ho has expensive tastes? I think it is essential to experiment with different types of wine instead of Googling “What Wine Goes With Turkey?” I feel that not everyone has the same tastes and if you are having several people over, create a wine list with some traditional pairings (Pinot Noir, Zinfandel) along with some experimental ones. Have fun with your choices, because that is the only way you will learn what you like, not what people tell you to like.
Enjoy… Wine Ho