Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations: 2007 Edition

It's three weeks until The Big Dinner. Believe it or not, I started getting hits in September from folks looking for "what wine goes with Thanksgiving dinner?" and "what is the best wine for turkey?" The stress of cooking the turkey pales before the stress associated with Thanksgiving wine. I held off until now because there's enough hysteria surrounding the meal without me adding to the frenzy. With three weeks to go, however, it's time once again for my budget-friendly Thanksgiving and turkey wine pairing picks. (vintage image from's collection)

Last year I posted a set of general things to think about when planning your Thanksiving food and wine pairings. Rather than repost it or try to find a new way to deliver the same advice, I'm just going to tell you that you should read it first by clicking here. Then, use your back button to return to this year's wine picks.

How do I come up with my Turkey Day picks? I go through my year's worth of tasting notes, and find the best values and most food-friendly wines--wines that I think will go well not only with the turkey (the easiest part of the pairing problem since everything goes with turkey) but with the 397 side dishes that can appear on dining tables around the country. Then I make sure they are still available from the winery or from retail outlets via Wine-Searcher, and post them with enough lead time that you can find the wines

So here they are, the 2007 Edition of GWU$20's Thanksgiving wine recommendations. Enjoy your big day with family and friends and remember to RELAX. It's all going to be fine--trust me.

Sparklers--for toasting, with dessert, or for the main event

NV Cristalino Cava Brut ($6-$9) Interesting aromas of bread dough and lemon give way to a citrusy palate with an edge of buttered toast. Reasonably good finish for a budget sparkler. A great bubbly for mimosas, but alright on its own with food, as well.

NV Blason de Bourgogne Cremant de Bourgogne Cuvee Brut ($8, Trader Joe's) Straw colored, with a fine mousse and tiny bead. Aromas of pears, toast, and apples. Apples, and nuttiness on the palate. Finish has a slight pithy bitterness to it. Deliberately reminiscent of Veuve, at a fraction of the price.

NV Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs ($10-$23). Pale copper color. Small bead but lots of froth. Nutty and apple aromas, more hazelnuts, apple, and a touch of berry on the palate. Nice brut wine, not harsh, with more complexity than many at this price point.

1998 Cameron Hughes Lot 25 ($18.90) Outstanding sparkling wine with some age on it. Buff color, biscuity and appley aroma. Fine mousse and bead. Long, rich brut finish. Exceptional value.

Whites--my favorite wine for Thanksgiving dinner

2006 Vinum CNW (Chard-No-Way) Chenin Blanc ($8-12). Very good chenin blanc, with a nice balance between bright citrus and soft melon flavors and aromas. Slightly silky texture. Will match beautifully with just about any style of sidedish you might put on the table, from light to heavy and mild to spicy.

2006 Mason Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Pomelo ($8-$14) Lots of grapefruit, clean flavors, crisp finish. A crowd-pleaser, and a little less grassy than the Cameron Hughes.

2006 Chateau Lamothe de Haux Blanc ($9-$11) Was pleasantly surprised at this wine, given the low, low price and the nice aromas of melon and citrus. These notes were echoed in the flavors, which were round and juicy. A full, delicious example of a dry sauvignon blanc-semillon blend.

2006 Cameron Hughes Sauvignon Blanc ($11). Textbook example of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Pale, almost watery color with tangy aromas of cut grass and citrus rind. The palate is predominantly white grapefruit and a bit of lemon, but the grass notes are reintroduced in the juicy finish. Great for those serving light side-dishes, lots of salads.

2005 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon ($13-$21) Gleaming golden color with aromas of toasted bread, pear, and butterscotch. Butterscotch, vanilla, and pear flavors. Round and rich, with good mouthfeel. Would be particularly good with heavier side dishes and smoked turkey.

2005 Roshambo Chardonnay Imago ($15) Nice pear and mineral aromas and flavors dominate this wine, complemented by nuances of white peach and lemon. Clean and refreshing.

2005 Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc ($15-$21) Very good white Rhone blend. Viognier is evident in the aromas and first sips, which are floral and perfumed. Crisp citrus flavors and a juicy finish. Excellent balance. This is what we'll be having for dinner!

2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Albarino ($18). Excellent domestic albarino. This one smells and tastes of almonds, apples, and citrus. Bit of a spritz on first opening, this quickly dissipates leaving a lively still wine. It has great acidity, but a rounder flavor profile than many Spanish versions of wines made with this varietal. This is less tangy, and the citrus takes a decided back seat to the almonds and apples.

Roses--they're extremely popular right now, and shedding their 80s image. Remember, even if you don't want to serve a rose with dinner, they are a great match for leftovers in the days and weeks to come.

2006 Cameron Hughes Campo de Borja Lot 37 ($10). Deep, rich color. Floral aromas mix with whiffs of pretty raspberry and strawberry. On the palate, the first taste you get is pure strawberry essence, with a note of watermelon on the finish. Has some streaks of mineral running through it, too. Round, rich, dry. 100% grenache.

2006 Domaine de l'Hortus Bergerie de l'Hortus Rose de Saignee ($11-$15) A deep rose color distinguishes this wine, made from the saignee process. Aromas of soft strawberry and wet stone lead to a cranberry and strawberry palate with a bit of mineral and stone on the finish.

2006 Coral Mustang Tempranillo Rose Vista Creek ($15). Dark rose in color, made with 100% Tempranillo. Beautifully balanced rose with a dry finish. Aromas of rose petals, raspberry, and strawberry lead into a round berry palate.

2006 Handley Pinot Noir Rose ($18) An outstanding domestic pinot-based rose. Strawberry and raspberry without any candied watermelon notes, bone dry, and silky.

Reds--for those who like something more robust with their turkey, these are not so heavy that they will overwhelm your side dishes.

2005 Beckmen Cuvee le Bec ($11-$19). Good structure and depth to this blend of grenache, syrah, counoise, and mourvedre. Berry and chocolate aromas and palate.

2006 Solo Rosa Pinot Noir Piccolo Rosa ($13-$18). Unlike any other pinot I've tasted, this wine is not aged in barrels, but stainless tank fermented. As a result, it is a medium bodied wine with a flavor profile halfway between a gamay and a pinot. Aromas of cherry, with a faint whiff of rose petals. The flavors are cherry, rhubarb, and a bit of meatiness as you head towards the finish, which is not long.

2005 Eaglepoint Ranch Grenache ($14-20). Smells like a grenache, drinks like a beaujolais. Aromas of herbs, plums, and blackberries to start. This was followed by a wine with a distinctive strawberry note at the core of its flavors, and some mineral inflections.

2005 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir ($18). Rose aromas and juicy black cherry fruit are the entry to this very good wine with medium toast on the mid palate and a good balance already between fruit, spice, and acidity. Light- to medium-bodied, and a great deal for the price.

2004 Escafeld Petit Verdot ($20). Rich aromas of roasted coffee, chocolate, and berries give way to a silky palate of blackberries, huckleberries, and touches of spice. More chocolate and coffee on the finish. If you like robust reds with your turkey, this is the wine for you.

Dessert Wine--or the wine to sip while recovering from it all
2003 Robert Pecota Muscat Canelli Moscato d'Andrea ($12/375 ml). Aromas of honey and beeswax on first opening. Satiny texture, not thick or unctuous. As the wine warms in the glass, aromas of honey, honeysuckle, orange blossom, and lemon are echoed in the palate and joined with a bit of rich creme fraiche on the finish. Honeyed notes give it the illusion of botyritis, even though that is not present in this wine. Not overpoweringly sweet.


Anonymous said...

Are roses actually popular out there? Everything I've read for the past two years claims that they're "gaining popularity" but at least in this area, with our customers, they are not. I don't know... I haven't seen much interest in them. I love the Cristalino, though! Great list -- working on mine. (But where's the beaujolais nouveau? ;-) )

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,

Thanks for the nice note (and great to know that you'll be drinking Tablas Creek with your dinner)! I really think that Rhone whites are knockouts with Turkey, but I agree also with your ideas about Rosés.

One suggestion that's usually affordable and a great match to the fruitiness of the turkey's side-dishes is Beaujolais (not Nouveau, which is likely to be too sweet, but a solid Cru Beaujolais). That's probably going to be our red this year.

Thanks, as always.

Jason Haas
General Manager
Tablas Creek Vineyard

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Debs,

Thanks for including Escafeld on the list--here's wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving--I'll be raising a glass to you!

Joe said...

I've had a couple of those, but I think I like the Pinot pairing best - I have had Pinot and Turkey the last two T-givings and X-mas. I have read multiple times that Zin works, but I can't see it and I don't see any here - any thoughts on the ZinTurkey blend?

RougeAndBlanc said...

zin turkey is great if you had deep fried turkey or turducken

Dr. Debs said...

Hi everybody. Carol, roses are popular out here, but it may be because we can eat outside 10 months of the year and never put our bbqs away! One thing's for sure, though: a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and a glass of rose the day after is one of life's true pleasures.

On zinfandel, Joe. Rouge and Blanc is right about the smoked/fried birds (though I refuse to eat Turducken--it's way too over the top for me!), but I cannot endorse zin because of the alcohol levels. I'm sorry, but high alcohol wines and holidays don't mix for me. I go on about this in my "general things to think about" post from last year, so click back on that if you want more but I'd steer clear of zins. Pinot is better--but I still prefer whites!

Anonymous said...

I had just started thinking about what to have for Thanksgiving, and found your site thanks to Food Wishes.

I just tonight had the red that will adorn my table. The VERY fruit forward El Burro 'kickass' Garnacha 2004 (yeah, I hate the name, too) got brought by a friend for dinner. It was perfect with a brined pork roast, and I expect it will be perfect with brined turkey, too. It's bright with fruit, but not too sweet. It stood up nicely to, but did not overwhelm, the delicate meat, and went very well with the brussels sprouts with bacon that I'm also likely to make for Thanksgiving.

Thanks for the other recommendations. I like the idea of serving the Garnacha for those who like red and the Sauvinon Blanc Pomelo for those who want something white. I really appreciate it!

David said...

Good article. I'm more a red fan with turkey, have had pinot the last few years and enjoy that combo. Am thinking of going with a moderately priced 2005 burgundy I picked up (don't have the name handy). I have tried zin a few times as I'm a big fan of the varietal, but agree it's a bit heavy for turkey day. But if you're doing something on the spicy side with the gravy or stuffing, it might be worth thinking about.

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Ron! Hope to see you back here soon. David, I think I'd rather have Ron's grenache with spicy turkey than zinfandel. Just toooo much alcohol for me! The grenache would be just as good with spice, but maybe less overwhelming?

winedeb said...

Too fun! As I am reading and taking note of the wines you are suggesting for the holiday, I am sipping a glass of Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Rose'! Oh Yum! Thanks Deb for the list and I will be "checking it twice"!

Nick said...

Who loves a good white wine with their Thankgiving meal? Raise your hand. *raises hand* Now I know many of you are going to tell me you like savignon blanc and riesling(which are not all sweet!!!!!) with that turkey and possibly ham. I love those varietals too people. Those however, are a given. Those are traditional wines that everyone has at this great meal. Well, its time to grab that proverbial shovel and start digging for some unknown treasures. Those are not the only whites that go good with the big bird. Spain offers a wealth of native varietals that provide not only gorgeous fruit but also ripping acidity to accentuate the flavors of the turkey as well as all the other delectable Thanksgiving side dishes. Here is one example of a white varietal that is unknown to most
Ever hear of a grape called airen? It is an aromatic white varietal grown especially in the south of Spain that offers fruits such as lemon, grapfruit, pineapple as well as banana along with awesome floral notes(dandelion,marigold), hay and brilliant acidity. These flavors are the perfect marriage for turkey. The citrus flavors as well as the acidity will enhance the flavors of a meat that is not necessarily the most flavorful by itself. The floral and grassy aspects provide a good seasoning(so to speak) to the turkey and are a delight along side the stuffing and the mashed potatoes. Here are some fine examples of airen wines to check out. Oh ! did I say airen wines are generally value driven? $8-$10 are the norm.
Finca Vieja Blanco- this wine is made from 100% airen. This wine gives you the grapfruit and lemony notes typical of the grape but focuses on the floral and hay notes with sharp acidity. $8-$9
Carril de Cotos Airen.-This wine gives you pineapple and banana flavors with alittle bit of the of peel and a good deal of acidity. This focuses more on the fruit.
So there. You have two different styles of airen wines to check out. Enjoy them. They will give you much pleasure. Don't forget to share with family and your closest friends! be thankful for a wonderful family, good food, and most importantly.....ok not the most important but pretty damn important if you ask me be thankful for delicious wine. Please check back for part 2 on Spanish whites for Turkey day. There is more delicious treasure awaiting to be uncovered.