Thanksgiving wines: Think bold, lively and domestic

No wine is the perfect match for Thanksgiving dinner. There are simply too many flavors in the meal to account for: earthy, savory, salty, tangy, even sweet. So I usually try to find a wine that does a reasonably good job at complementing all those flavors.

For my palate, the best choices are red. But nothing too oaky, tannic or alcoholic. Nor do I open anything too delicate, which would probably be overwhelmed by the food. The wine needs to have plenty of fruit and enough acidity to cut through the richness of the meal.

My go-to Thanksgiving wines are pinot noir or something in the Rhône family (syrah, grenache, blends). This year, I’m adding zinfandel to the mix — just not the kind with 16 percent alcohol. And even though I drink a lot of imported wines, for this quintessentially American holiday, I stick to something domestic.

There are lots of Oregon and California pinot noirs that would pair nicely with the Thanksgiving meal. I find that wines with a woodsy character are particularly appealing. That’s the case with the 2018 Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir ($40) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s also dark and structured, with ripe yet lively black raspberry and a supple texture.

From California, the 2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($36) offers plump, fresh raspberry and strawberry with baking spice, a hint of forest floor and a long finish. For an excellent value, try the rich, structured 2018 Ron Rubin Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($25), with its red cherry, strawberry and spice flavors.

I love the savory characteristics of many Rhône-style wines. Nuances of smoke, white pepper and roasted meat make the wines a great partner for the holiday feast.

The 2017 Meyer Family Syrah ($28) from the Yorkville Highlands of Mendocino County is dark and a little brooding, with black fruit, spice, firm tannins and nice freshness.

For a blend, there’s the 2019 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas ($60) from the Adelaida District of Paso Robles. The blend of 39 percent mourvèdre, 30 percent grenache, 21 percent syrah and 10 percent counoise displays lively red cherry and strawberry fruit with a slight dried cherry note and a hint of white pepper. It finishes with firm but approachable tannins. Admittedly, it’s pricey, and probably best for a more intimate gathering. For something less expensive from Tablas Creek, try the grenache-dominant Côtes de Tablas ($35).

Although zinfandel is not native to California, it has a long history there, dating back to before the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s.

Ridge Vineyards is a reliable producer of excellent zinfandel and zin-based blends. A current favorite of mine is the 2019 Ridge Lytton Springs ($45) from Dry Creek Valley, a blend of 73 percent zin and lesser amounts of petite sirah, carignane and mataro (mourvèdre). It’s ripe yet bright, with plump berry, a hint of white pepper and medium tannins. It’s an elegant expression of these grapes.




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