Let’s face it — there is no “perfect” wine for a meal like Thanksgiving. So just like the different food prepared for the table, I like to offer a variety of wine to sample as well so everyone will be happy with their choices. My experience is guests want to eat, drink, and be merry, and whether a wine happens to pair perfectly with the current taste in their mouth isn’t the main concern, which is all the more reason to have several available. I always set the table with two wine glasses to accommodate tastes — and tastings.
Because I always like to support local economies, and because we live in the land of plenty wine, my recommendations have always been California wines. This year, I’ve mixed it up a bit not only with some from near and far, but also a few made with some rather untraditional and interesting methods.
King Estate Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 ($29). Pinot is praised as “the” Thanksgiving wine, so this blend of organically grown estate grapes from the southern tip of the Willamette Valley with others from sustainably farmed vineyards throughout Oregon will foot the bill. The malolactic fermentation makes it rich and smooth on the palette with lots of berry flavors to complement a variety of food.
Sonoma-Loeb Carneros Viognier 2014 ($32). I’m usually not a fan of Viognier, but this wine is a delightful surprise. The rocky soil of the acclaimed Cold Creek vineyard on the Sonoma side of Carneros, along with the cool San Pablo Bay breeze combined with barrel fermentation in aged neutral French oak for eight months produces a lovely wine with tropical aromas and crisp lemony melon flavors with hints of vanilla.
Apothic “Inferno” California Red Wine 2014 ($12). This limited release red could very well be the novelty wine at your table: It’s aged in whiskey barrels. The Apothic line of four red blends are all rich and fruit forward, reminiscent of Lodi Zins, but the aged, charred oak whiskey barrels impart a spicy maple flavor with a clean finish.
Spicy Vines California Spiced Red Wine ($24). I tasted this wine years ago at an event when they were first starting out and deemed it delicious. Though they never sent me a promised bottle, it’s a fun — and unusual — pour and a gold-medal winner at that. The Zin blend (with Syrah, Petite Syrah, and Grenache) is further blended with, wait for it … brandy, and then infused with a little fruit and spice (and, no, it’s not sweet).
Titus Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2013 ($38). Yes, the maligned Merlot, the poor varietal that was unduly snubbed in Sideways. True, there are bad Merlots out there, but this isn’t one them, in fact, there are no bad wines from Titus. This Merlot is a wonderful example of how good this varietal really is — dark, fruity (but not too), and full.
Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot 2013 ($110). This Chardonnay from the most prestigious region of Burgundy is grown in clay and limestone soil and aged in oak for 12–15 months to produce a full-bodied, rich wine that would be the perfect complement for your turkey breast with gravy. Or, because it’s a bit of a splurge, you may want to just enjoy it as a course by itself while you pause for dessert. That’s my vote.