Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Pinot Noir

In lieu of a "Drink _______ on Thanksgiving" type of post, I'm going to suggest a few wines that you, gentle reader, may or may not want to seek out on that last-minute shopping trip. I certainly won't tell you what to drink because we all have different taste preferences. Thanksgiving is usually about gut busting quantities of food crammed down our feeding holes, followed by intensely lethargic periods spent watching Americans beat the crap out of each other on TV, while wearing pads of course. Why add to the stress of preparing a mammoth feast by worrying about which wine to pair with what food?

For this post, I'll highlight some pinot noir's that are easy to find and quite good, as well as being reasonably priced. First though, my view on why pinot noir is a nice pairing with turkey and the assorted side dishes we gorge ourselves on each November. With the plethora of dishes weighing down the table, finding a perfect catch-all wine is impossible. For simplicity's, I suggest a high acid wine, specifically a high acid red wine like pinot noir.

There you have it, my suggestion for this year's Thanksgiving. I like to go with red wines because they have a bit of muscle behind them, and when paired with some acid, can still retain a lightness that won't contribute to weighing down your stomach like that pecan pie will. And by the way, I love pie. There are other options, I've seen bloggers recommend everything from Barolo to Zinfandel. If those are more your style, go with them and enjoy!

Here are three pinot noir selections that might interest you, at price points under $40, from three regions around the world that produce consistently excellent wine. They were all sent as samples for me to review. The imported wines are brought in by WJ Deutsch & Sons.

1. 2009 The Crossings Awatere Valley Pinot Noir Marlborough - This Kiwi beauty comes in at under $20 and only 13.0% alcohol by volume. There are notes of cola, baking spices, dried cherry, and cranberry on the nose along with just a hint of white pepper. I tasted ripe red fruit, a hint of cedar, more of that white pepper, and some nicely integrated mushroom flavors. The finish is clean and precise, leaving your palate ready for the next bite of food. I liked the acidity because it kept the wine light and easy to drink, yet the mix of cherry, pepper, and cedar made for some interesting flavors within my glass. I think it would hold up well under the onslaught of turkey and stuffing.

2. 2010 Llai Llai Pinot Noir Bio Bio Valley - Hailing from Chile, we get another low alcohol (13.5%) pinot noir. At a suggested price of $12.99, this was the least expensive of the pinot selections I was sent to taste through. Noticeably riper nose, with aromas of black earth, sun dried tomato, red cherry preserves, oak, and a touch of rhubarb. Compared to the Crossings, the Llai Llai is a softer, fruitier pinot. I tasted raspberry and cherry notes, some oak, a touch of spice, and a nicely integrated tannin. Everything was well integrated, unfortunately the finish was a little too short and abrupt. That said, the pinot still retained a light mouthfeel and I wouldn't minding having it with sweet potatoes or stuffing with bacon.

3. 2009 Sonoma Coast Vineyard Pinot Noir Freestone Hills - Hailing from the Sonoma Coast AVA, this is the most expensive pinot noir in the lineup with a suggested retail of $40. Unfortunately it's also the booziest, coming in at 14.3% abv. Aromatically I think I liked this the most, as it was expressing more intensity across the bouquet than the previous wines.  There was a lovely strawberry jam component that wove through the aromatic palette, along with red licorice, dusty earth, and some cola notes. All together very pleasant though I did get a touch of heat right at the back of my throat. Wild strawberry and raspberry along with black cherry come through on the palate, the acid does a great job of restraining those fruit flavors though, which in turn leads to a nice peppery finish. Some oak does show but it's minimal and overall this wine is very nicely balanced.

These three pinot noirs are all of good quality and fairly priced, I'd be happy with each of them at Thanksgiving. Check your local wine shop or wine-searcher.com for listing of who might carry the labels in your neighborhood. Lastly, remember that Thanksgiving shouldn't be a time of year to stress out about wine pairings. I figure that since you already have enough on your plate (bad pun alert!), the wine should help ease that stress.

One final note for those of you who prefer white wines to red wines, my personal preference is a riesling, like the 2010 Weingut Ackermann or 2010 Cornerstone Napa bottlings. If you're more adventurous, try to find a riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York or a fine New Zealand label like Mt. Beautiful or True & Daring.

Don't forget sparkling wine either, be it a Prosecco, Champagne, Cava, or Sekt. Open whatever you want and enjoy it with your friends, family, and guests. Yes, that includes your Mother in Law...

Happy Thanksgiving!

These wines were press samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel


  1. Have my sparkling, my Pinot Noir and my Port. I think we are good to go!

  2. Which pinot noir are you going to be enjoying? Inquiring minds want to know!

  3. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving Beau! We had Riesling before dinner, and Pinot with dinner. No OR Pinot? :-) I agree with you on the acid, makes such a difference! Cheers!

  4. I did, thanks! Hope you did too. While we didn't drink Oregon pinot at the Kramer house, we did have some fine Burgundies, a 2007 Beaune and 2009 Montrachet, as well as a 2009 Maison Bleue Gravieres and also a 2004 Michaud syrah. The Beaune was amazing after five hours in a decanter, and the last wine, a dessert wine from Spain, was also absolutely sublime.

  5. Never having been in charge of Thanksgiving wine procurement before, I hadn't thought about pairings and never would have thought about Pinot Noir. We don't drink a lot of Pinot Noir over in Hawaii, where I'm from. But after spending quite a bit of time in Oregon and becoming a Pinot Noir lover, I found it to be the most excellent pairing for Thanksgiving dinner. It was all around light, and yet fruit-filled and lush, and yet hearty, and... well, perfect. Thanks for the post suggesting just this!

  6. More than happy to help, Kelsey! I liked your account of Thanksgiving :)