Despite what someone might tell you, there’s no perfect wine pairing for Thanksgiving. A meal that’s so complex and extensive, with so many flavors, is simply too much of a challenge.
One solution is just to drink what you like. For me, that means red wine, which I find to be the best choice for turkey. Beyond that, I follow a few principles. Nothing too alcoholic. (The meal is enough to lull me into a stupor.) Nothing so delicate that it will be overwhelmed. I want something assertive without being too tannic, with ample fruit and acidity.
That usually leads me to Rhone-style reds and to this year’s choice, pinot noir. And for this quintessentially American holiday, I drink something from the U.S.
So here are a few suggestions, from the under-$20 category (good for a crowd), to selections in the $30-ish range, to a couple of big splurges.
It’s hard to find modestly priced pinot noir that actually tastes like pinot. Too often the wines are beefed up with other grapes, like syrah, that take over the blend. But I’ve tasted some amazing values in recent months. One is the 2017 District 7 Pinot Noir ($17), a wine from Scheid Vineyards that displays spicy raspberry fruit, a forest-floor note and a supple texture. The brand takes its name from the grape-crush district that includes Monterey County, which is where the grapes are grown. Another good value is the 2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 673 Pinot Noir ($18) from Russian River Valley, a pretty wine with ripe berry fruit and a slight leafy note. At just $12, the 2016 Bogle Pinot Noir is a remarkable buy; the finish is slightly coarse, but the dark cherry and berry flavors scream pinot.
Take a step up into the $30-$40 range, and you’ll find more depth and complexity.
From California, there’s the 2016 Bouchaine Estate Pinot Noir ($35) from Carneros, a structured yet supple wine with lively red fruit and a woodsy note. Another choice is the 2016 McIntyre Pinot Noir ($38) from the Santa Lucia Highlands, which offers red and black raspberry fruit accented by baking spice.
This is also a good price range for Oregon pinot, like the 2017 Stoller Family Pinot Noir ($35) from Dundee Hills, with its dark raspberry fruit, hint of forest floor and firm structure.
If you have a small group or have a lot to spend, these wines approach $100. Pricey, yes, but also delicious. You may have to order these directly from the wineries, so don’t delay.
First, there’s the 2017 Three Sticks “Cuvée Eva Marie” Pinot Noir ($90) from the Sonoma Mountain appellation. It’s deep and rich, with dark berry fruit and some spicy notes. The 2016 Calera Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir ($95) is structured and complex yet light on its feet, with lively raspberry fruit, spice and a leafy note.
Whatever wines you choose, remember that this is a celebratory feast, so have plenty on hand, roughly one bottle per person. You can always find a use for leftover bottles, and you don’t want to resort to a gas-station convenience store if you run out.