Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, family, and feasting next week. We're making Thanksgiving wine recommendations for WTF readers who will complete their turkey, stuffing, and pies just the right pairing selection. We'd start with something sparkling, serve hearty rosé and Oregonian Pinot Noirs at dinner -- consider getting creative with a still Touriga Nacional -- and finish it off with a glass of Port.
But first... You may not be thinking instinctively about sparkling wine at Thanksgiving, but humor us for a moment and consider the earlier part of the day when friends or family are converging on the dining room, exchanging hugs, catching up for the first time in perhaps a long while, telling their most exciting stories... this is the moment to break out a bottle of bubbles to lead the way into dinner.
Try the Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico, for example. This sparkling wine is a beautiful gold color that looks great bubbling up in the glass. It's dry, but very rich, and a little tart with some wonderful apple cider depth in the finish. This is a lush sparkling wine, like drinking a sophisticated orchard. We love finding good bottles from places a little off the beaten wine trail, and New Mexico definitely qualifies.
Indulge yourself with a sparkling rosé such as the Westport Rivers "Farmer's Fizz", made from estate grown Pinot Noir grapes that show a very light pink color in the glass. The actual pink color is quite striking actually, and is backed up by notes of strawberry and -- after some debate -- an ever so small hint of grapefruit. We love drinking this in the summer, but think it also a fun pour for the first part of your Thanksgiving feast when family and friends are just arriving and settling in for the afternoon or evening.
The goal here is to find something light and lively to celebrate being with the people you care about. Bubbles also tend to pair well with appetizers, so are a good choice if you're serving them. As an added bonus, a sparkling wine will often pair well with lighter desserts, so feel free to uncork another bottle after dinner for folks who aren't opting for a particularly rich pie.
Creative yet hearty Rosé
We'd recommend white wine drinkers try a nice rosé with their Thanksgiving dinner. Point of education here that when we talk about rosé. Luckily, the wine-drinking world is experiencing a bit of a rosé renaissance right now with winemakers around the glove having a lot of fun creating marvelous offerings that range from the the very light pink that's nearly white to rosé dark enough to trick you into thinking it's a light Pinot Noir.
In Virginia, the 2014 Delaplane Cellars Rosé is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Franc is the big standout here, though, with the nose offering notes of pencil lead and graphite that, while atypical in a Rose, are key to the complex charm of many a Cab Franc. Winemaker notes suggest pairing with strawberries, grilled chicken, and fresh baguettes. We say serve this sophisticated rosé cold, and stay sharp for the nice mint finish you might catch as it goes down.
Out west, you'll find that the 2015 Arizona Stronghold Rosé blend of French Colombard (58%), Malvasia Bianca (20%), Grenache (12%), Chenin Blanc (8%), and Malbec (6%) is unlike anything you've experienced. The wine is very dark, almost a a straight up red in the glass. Strawberry notes are pretty typical of a rosé, but there is something darker, stonier fruit happening here. It's cool, but dry, overall quite an interesting specimen that I'd certainly go back to any day between May and November.
We're touching on some of our favorites here, but the neat thing about rosé is the great variety of blends and styles out there. Experiment a bit, with a particular attraction at Thanksgiving to those made from heartier grapes like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha / Grenache, and even some off the wall choices like Malbec. Rosé of Pinot Noir is a great choice also because, well, Pinot Noir at Thanksgiving...
Pinot Noir from Oregon
Pinot Noir is our number one pick for red wine at Thanksgiving thanks to the excellent pairing partner it makes with the typical holiday dinner. We think that bottles from Oregon are the best here because they tend to be heartier wines with the right acidity to cut through the heartier food. In Oregon we love the Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in the Umpqua Valley, and Eisold Smith Wines in the Willamette Valley.
The nose of the 2009 Brandborg "Ferris Wheel" Pinot Noir, for example, reminds us of that warming, homey chimney smell of winter, giving way to a soothing combination of pipe smoke and beach plum. We'd characterize the palate as having "crossed the cranberry line", a quality we find in some cooler climate Pinots whose dominant cherry character gives way to cranberry notes with some nice acidity to complement a holiday meal. Sounds like Thanksgiving, right?
The 2013 Eisold Smith Pinot Noir, for its part, is a pleasing, more tart offering than some other Pinot Noirs we've tried from different years in the same region. We're told it was rather wet and humid that year. We'd characterize this Pinot Noir as raspberry restrained by cedar. Swirling in the glass will bring out some smoothness in the nose and on the palate.
If you can't find Pinots from either winery, we think you'll be really pleased with other Oregon Pinot Noir that your local wine purveyor might recommend in the $20-$40 range, give or take based on your budget.
Touriga Nacional from Portugal
We're going off script here, as we don't expect many of your run-of-the-mill Thanksgiving wine recommendations will include Touriga Nacional. This is the famous signature Portuguese grape, the key varietal in many Port wines, but also a really great Thanksgiving pair when used in still wine (i.e. "not Port"). Consider Touriga Nacional to be your wild card, the bottle that nobody thought of but everyone loves.
If you're looking for a still wine at dinner, consider the 2009 Quinta do Pôpa Touriga Nacional made from grapes grown on the steep mountainside that rises above Portugal's Douro River. We admit, Touriga Nacional isn't the easiest to find as a still wine, but this wine's authentic smooth style will linger on your tongue like whole cranberry sauce, making it one you'll thank us if you're able to find one for Thanksgiving. This wine
Port, as you may know, is the famous fortified wine from Porto, Portugal. We owe you some more in-depth discussion of Port, but suffice it to say Port is (generally) a heavier dessert wine, making it perfect for serving after dinner in the colder months, with Thanksgiving the perfect time to open up your first bottle of the season (Ports generally keep pretty well once the bottle is opened, so don't worry about re-corking and taking it out again next week). We recently visited the excellent Quevedo winery, but their distribution is limited particularly in the eastern United States (though oddly there are four shops in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle that carry it). Get some of theirs if you can! Otherwise, consider the more widely available Quinta do Noval ports. We recently sampled the Quinta do Noval Colheita 2003 Tawny Porto that featured notes of scorched caramel, creme brûlée, and brown sugar. It tastes like winter, with a little bit of maple on the palate. If you're looking for something fruitier, try a "Ruby" Port (instead of a "Tawny").