Whenever I hear the word “feast,” I think of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” where Charlie and pals busily prepare toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jellybeans for Peppermint Patty and her friends to feast on. Though I may not serve jellybeans on Nov. 24, I am preparing dishes that must appeal to guests ranging in age from 9 to 76. The variety of sweet, spicy, earthy, and even sticky foods can pose a challenge when it comes to wine pairing. For many years, the standby varietal has been pinot noir, due to its lighter, red-wine elegance, high acidity, lower tannins, and berry notes that beautifully complement the turkey, stuffing, and even the toast. Pinot noir’s appeal has grown exponentially since the 2004 movie “Sideways,” where Miles exalts pinot noir and condemns merlot. Sadly, merlot is still a bit of a stepchild in terms of production volume, but happily for us, pinot noir is more finely crafted than ever.
Today I’m recommending a few of my left coast favorites for your Thanksgiving table. These wines range from $15 to $75 and are available from specialty wine stores. These shops are your best friends this time of year—tell them your needs, your price range, and they’ll make you look like a holiday hero.
California The Santa Rita Hills is an esteemed pinot noir growing AVA with successful wineries like Brewer-Clifton, Liquid Farm, Loring, Calera, Dragonette, Sandhi, and Melville. Up the Coast towards Monterey, you’ll find tremendous value and taste with the 93-point Hahn SLH Santa Lucia Highlands for $20. Head further north and on the Sonoma Coast, you’ll want to snag Gros Ventre, Patz & Hall, and Paul Hobbs Crossbarn pinot noir.
Oregon After just 50 years of winemaking, Oregon’s Willamette Valley wineries are rivaling those of their distinguished French Burgundy counterparts, for a fraction of the price. Pinot noirs perfect for your Thanksgiving include those from Bergstrom, Elk Cove, Erath, Formaglini, Sokol Blosser, Big Table Farm, Adelsheim, Cristom, and Alexana.
Before cracking open the pinot noir, I’m popping a new sparkling rosé I found—Sieur d’Arques Aimery Grand Cuvee 1531 Rosé Cremant de Limoux from the Languedoc region of France, for around $15. I’ll open several bottles of pinot noir for my wine-guzzling family, and a great rioja like the Antano Reserva for just $10, and Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais for $12.
Whether it’s pretzel sticks or turkey legs on your table, take a moment to savor the wine, your friends, and your family …
“Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. We should just be thankful for being together.” – Marcie