Practical Pairing Advice from The Wine Country's domestic wine buyer.
November is upon us at the store with the leaves starting to fall and change color along with cool breezes that thankfully remind us that summer is over. For many Americans this is also the time of our honored tradition of gathering together with friends and family to enjoy each other’s company with festive food and drink.
If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving gathering this year and cooking you might find it difficult to find the time to find wines that fit both the diverse selection of food and guests that you’ll find at your dinner table this year. I wanted to devote a small amount of time here to help anyone in this predicament to find the perfect wine to pair with the right person and food.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, turkey is the star of the show, or Tofurkey if you’re a vegetarian, and this high protein bird is perfect with a lighter red like Pinot Noir. This is especially true when combined with the tangy acidity found in homemade cranberry sauce, which is usually found right beside the turkey at the dinner table. Pinot Noir is also a great pairing with this holiday due to its soft tannins and subtle herbal aromas such as sage, cinnamon, clove and pine that can also be found in some of the many dishes served on this day. The amazing heights of pleasure this grape can bring us makes it a great choice to open on this special day, especially when that one family member or friend who is a wine lover and isn’t easily impressed is going to be your guest.
The $37.99 Evening Land Pinot Noir from the Eola Amity Hills region of the Willamette Valley in Oregon is a great choice to share with its herbal and spice aromas and prominent minerality that can even put a smile on someone who only drinks a red wine from Burgundy France. This is a standout choice especially when pairing with the more mineral rich dark meat of the Turkey.
For someone who likes a more generous fruit profile of spiced cherry and silky-smooth texture, make sure to have the $60.99 EnRoute Russian River Valley Pinot Noir at hand as its truly the definition of a crowd pleaser.
Apples, spices and butter are three things that probably won’t be in short supply at a Thanksgiving dinner table which makes a wine made from Chardonnay, which usually has most of those three items, a great pairing choice. If you want to keep Thanksgiving fancy make sure to pick up the $63.99 2014 Ramey Platt Vineyard Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast. Its creamy apple profile has a streak of citrus electricity and toasty hazelnut running through the wine.
The $13.99 2016 Olelo Central Coast Chardonnay is also a great Chardonnay at an amazing value. Its profile is more fresh pineapple on the aromatics with spiced apple flavor and a generous but not over the top butter roundness. This wine is especially perfect if there is a pineapple glazed ham at the Thanksgiving table. A great choice for the moms or aunts of the family who like a great value and appreciate flavor and aromatic intensity with a slightly riper fruit profile.
Another great value is the $14.99 Union Sacre Central Coast Gewurztraminer which can pair equally well with an herb roasted turkey and nutmeg spiced stuffing. The root word of this grape translates to “spiced” which makes the wine right at home at this indulgent holiday. Big flavors of orange citrus and ripe peach can be found here but with a satisfying dry finish.
Vegetables can be an overlooked part of this meal and also in wine pairing but here are two wines that are going to make you reach for extra helpings of the green stuff this year. The $21.99 Patricia Green Oregon Willamette Valley Sauvignon Blanc and the $24.99 Trefethen Napa Valley Riesling are both aromatic and refreshing. They will give the asparagus, brussel sprouts and green beans you’ve probably been avoiding a much-needed lemon lime citrus pop as well as be complimentary to any green herbs found in the dish.
I hope some of these suggestions will help make some great decisions for you this holiday and on behalf of everyone at the store I hope you have a great Thanksgiving this year.
RAMEY 2014 CHARDONNAY PLATT VINEYARD, SONOMA COAST
The cool ocean influenced, and mineral driven Platt Vineyard will no longer be available to Ramey and many other high-quality producers as it has recently been sold. Soils here are ancient uplifted ocean floor, helping to create a current of citrus electricity that gives this wine verve and vibrancy. Full malolactic fermentation and lees stirring occur for complex texture and creamy mouthfeel. Aged for 19 months in 25% new Taransaud French oak barrels. This wine leads with tart lemon, followed by creamy apple and light oak toast for a layered complex finish. Bottled without filtration.
$63.99 per bottle
OLELO 2016 CHARDONNAY CENTRAL COAST, CALIFORNIA
With its wonderful fresh pineapple juice quality, this tropical Chardonnay has the amazing ability to transport you to the beach surrounded by sand and surf. This is very appropriate since the wine is made mostly for the Disney Resort Aulani in Hawaii by Master Sommelier Michael Jordan. 30% new French oak is in this wine but since malolactic fermentation has been kept to half, keeping the butter and cream quality low, refreshing acidity can shine. This allows the tropical fruits to appear vibrant and juicy. Meyer lemon, white peach, honeydew melon plus many more fruit flavors a wait when opening this bottle.
$13.99 per bottle
EVENING LAND 2015 PINOT NOIR "SEVEN SPRINGS"
EOLA -AMITY HILLS, OREGON
This magnificent wine is sourced from the Estates oldest own rooted vineyard blocks, planted in 1984. The vineyard is farmed biody-namically with-out the use of pesticides or herbicides. Much of the fruit was destemmed for ripe flavors but 35% was left whole cluster for added herbal, spice and floral complexity. Old world wine lovers will be thrilled with this Pinot Noir as it comes across very French Burgundian with low alcohol and acidity leading flavor over new oak. Aged for 16 months in 20% new French oak and bottled without fining or filtering.
$37.99 per bottle
ENROUTE 2015 PINOT NOIR "LES POMMIERS",
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
EnRoute is a project from the makers of Far Niente so you can expect high quality to be found in the vineyards and winemaking cellar. The “Les Pommiers” title comes from the fact that an abandoned apple orchard in the cool Green Valley area of the Russian River was converted to a Pinot Noir vineyard for EnRoute. This wine is an excellent example of the powerful black fruits that the Russian River Valley can bring to this grape along with smooth velvety tannins. Juicy red cherry and a slight herbal earth element can still be found here along with wonderful oak barrel spice aromas from 11 months aging in 40% new French oak.
$60.99 per bottle
PATRICIA GREEN 2017 SAUVIGNON BLANC, WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON
Sauvignon Blanc is a grape well suited to the cool Willamette Valley in Oregon but not much is planted. In fact, the production of this wine accounts for more than 50% of all the Sauvignon Blanc produced in the Willamette Valley. The wine is bright, fresh and without the excessive cut grass aromas found in many other Sauvignon Blancs. A small amount of this wine was aged in new and once used Acacia wood that provides lifted aromatics of a lemony herb quality and a rounder creamier mouthfeel that balances perfectly with the natural tart acidity of the grape. This wine is versatile with food pairings, try it with vegetables, risotto, salads with tangy vinaigrette and sushi.
$21.99 per bottle
UNION SACRE 2017 GEWURZTRAMINER, CENTRAL COAST
Gewurztraminer is a tough grape to grow and make wine from but our friends at Union Sacre have captured all the wonderful things like the amazing floral intensity while avoiding the overly rich and oily texture it can have. The spice notes that Gewurztraminer is known for has been preserved here along with delicious peach and pear flavors. Although the fruit is ripe the wine has a clean crisp and dry finish. The wine is cold soaked on the skins for 30 hours to retain color and spice notes. Only 800 cases made.
$14.99 per bottle
TREFETHEN 2017 DRY RIESLING, NAPA VALLEY
If you’re looking for a wine to give as a gift or to please multiple people for dinner, stop here as this is one of the most versatile food pairing wines you can get. Equally delicious with Pad Thai and shrimp as well as rich smoked sausages or green vegetables. Although this Riesling is dry, ripe apple, guava and lime zest flavors give it a perfect balance of refreshing acidity and citrus fruits.
$24.99 per bottle