Well everyone, another Thanksgiving is almost here. As I’ve written before, I suggest not getting too stressed out about pairing wines with Thanksgiving dishes. The variety of dishes that are being served and the assortment of guests mean that one size won’t fit all. The best approach is therefore to have a wide variety of wines at the table.
I also don’t believe in breaking the budget for Thanksgiving. Given the large number of people coming over, leave the trophy wines for after dinner or another day. Go with wines that you won’t cry if Uncle Phil pours a half bottle into his glass and glugs it down without a second thought. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality.
Given these considerations, here are a handful of wines to think about from the Pacific Northwest. I always like starting out with a sparkling wine. The Michelle Brut Rose ($12, review below) fits the bill with a great price and a pretty color. In terms of whites, Riesling is going to give you both your best bang for the buck and also your most diverse pairing options.
My favorite Washington Riesling this year comes from Trust Cellars with its 2012 Columbia Valley Riesling ($16, review below). It’s a wine that way overdelivers in terms of quality for the price. Another wine in this category is the For A Song 2012 Riesling Caliche Lake Vineyard ($10, review here), which is a bit sweeter in style. Chateau Ste. Michelle also offers a wealth of Riesling possibilities (see reviews here and here). At the higher end of the price scale, the Long Shadows 2012 Poet’s Leap Riesling delivers ($20, review below).
Looking to the south in Oregon, Riesling is making some inroads and the wines often have higher acid than found in Washington (and higher prices). Check out the Chehalem Wines 2011 Three Vineyard Riesling Willamette Valley ($22, review below) and the Trisaetum 2012 Ribbon Ridge Estate Riesling ($24, review below), which are both very impressive wines. Keep an eye on this grape here.
Chardonnay can also work well too. Two superb, well-priced wines are the 2012 Columbia Crest Unoaked Chardonnay ($12) and the 2012 Goose Ridge G3 Chardonnay ($16), which are both reviewed here. You can’t do better for the price.
Going off the beaten path, Gewürztraminer can be a great Thanksgiving wine and no one does it better in Washington than Dowsett Family Wines. The 2012 vintage ($22, review below) is a thrilling wine with abundant spice and lychee notes. Also thinking outside the box, try the Erath 2012 Pinot Blanc ($14, review here), a lovely wine at an absurdly low price. Viognier can also work well. Many of the best wines from Washington can creep up to a higher price point but the William Church 2012 Viognier offers high quality at a great price ($23, review below).
Dry rosés also have a place at the Thanksgiving table. Many of these wines from Washington are made in smaller production and are long gone. One that still has some availability due to higher production – which also happens to be my favorite from the state this year – is the Maison Bleue 2012 La Famille Rosé of Mourvèdre ($20, see review here). See more rosé recommendations here but, again, keep in mind that many of these wines are long gone.
In terms of red wines, I recommend steering away from wines that have a lot of oak or tannins. No need to kill the turkey twice. Instead, look to Pinot Noir. While Washington Pinot Noir is scarce, Oregon provides it in both quality and abundance. However, there is often a price to be paid.
Two well-priced wines that deliver – and offer a look at the radically different 2011 and 2012 vintages – are the Erath 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir ($19, review below) and the 2012 Rainstorm Pinot Noir ($17, review below). The Erath wine shows all of the elegance of the vintage with bright aromatics and a lighter bodied style. Meanwhile the Rainstorm wine shows all of 2012’s richness. It’s a thoroughly delicious bottle of wine and an absolute steal at this price.
For dessert, the Northwest is making an increasing number of quality wines of late. You don’t usually find value in ice wines but two exceptions are the Koenig Vineyards 2011 Riesling Ice Wine from Idaho ($20, notes below) and the Kiona Vineyards 2011 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine from Red Mountain ($25, review below). While these are both 375 ml bottles, ice wines usually reach up into the stratosphere and these wines over deliver at a very reasonable price for the quality that is in the bottle. In terms of late harvest wines Forgeron Cellars still has some of its delicious 2012 Late Harvest Riesling left (see review here). Drink up!
Whatever you open up this Thursday – and feel free to comment below or on Facebook with what it’s going to be – I wish you, your family and friends a very happy Thanksgiving!
Michelle Brut Rose Columbia Valley NV $14
(Good) A very pretty pale salmon color, this is an exuberantly aromatic wine with pomegranate, raspberries, and spice. The palate has tart, dry fruit flavors finishing a bit short. 93% Pinot Noir, 7% Pinot Meunier. 11.5% alcohol. 15,000 cases produced. Recommended
Trust Cellars Riesling Columbia Valley 2011 $16
(Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatic wine redolent with peach, herbs, and lemon zest. It’s off-dry with exceptionally well-balanced acidity and abundant stone fruit flavors. 100% Riesling. 11.6% alcohol. 1.95% Residual Sugar. 942 cases produced.
Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley 2012 $20
(Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with nectarine and wet stone. The palate is just off dry with abundant stone fruit flavors and tart, puckering acidity. 100% Riesling. Sonnet, Phil Church, Underwood, and Sagemoor vineyards. 12.90% alcohol. 1.25% Residual Sugar.
Chehalem Wines Three Vineyard Riesling Willamette Valley 2011 $22
(Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with mineral, citrus, and apricot. The palate is off dry showing an exquisite balance that persists all the way through the finish. Drinks best at 58 degrees. 100% Riesling. Ridgecrest, Stoller, and Corral Creek vineyards. 2.5% Residual Sugar, 2.83 pH, TA 10.5. 480 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Trisaetum Riesling Ribbon Ridge Estate J&A Frey Vineyards Ribbon Ridge 2012 $24
(Excellent) Draws you into the glass with honeysuckle, mineral, and peach. The palate is medium dry with sweet, rich fruit flavors that linger harmoniously on a long finish. 11.0% alcohol. 2.5% Residual Sugar. Sample provided by winery.
Dowsett Family Gewurztraminer Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2012 $22
91 points. Sourced from vines planted in 1982, it’s brightly aromatic with sweet floral notes, orange peel and lychee. Medium bodied, it drinks dry with abundant spice and floral flavors. A thoroughly delicious wine that begs to be paired with scallops or spicy Thai dishes. Wine Enthusiast, 11/1/2013
Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2011 $19
(Good) A moderately aromatic, appealing wine with herbs, mint, strawberry, cola, and moss. The palate is quite light and elegant in style with cherry, mesquite, and peppery spice flavors. A very pretty wine that is deserving of a spot at the dinner table. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged in French oak (25% new). 13.0% alcohol. 100,600 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended
Rainstorm Pinot Noir Oregon 2012 $17
(Excellent) An aromatic, fruit filled wine with abundant notes of cherry, cola, mint, and moss. It’s richly flavored with chewy, tightly wound tannins. Drinking young now, it improves with a good 24 hours open. At this price, it’s a case purchase. 13.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Koenig Vineyards Riesling Ice Wine Snake River Valley $20 (375ml)
This is an aromatic dessert-style wine with notes of orange marmalade, stone fruit, and honey. At 24% Residual Sugar, it’s rich and densely flavored with a lingering finish. An impressive wine at a seldom seen price for this category. Wine Enthusiast (Formal review upcoming).
Kiona Vineyards Chenin Blanc Ice Wine Red Mountain 2012 $25 (375ml)
(Excellent) An aromatic wine with honey, apricot, mango, and pineapple. At 17.2% Residual Sugar, it’s richly sweet but with the grape’s natural acidity shining through. 100% Chenin Blanc. 8.2% alcohol. 17.2% Residual Sugar. Sample provided by winery.