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Reviewed Wineries

Don’t Panic Picking Thanksgiving Wines

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seattleites tune in to Q13 Tuesday at 5:30pm when I'll be talking about Thanksgiving wines.

Thanksgiving can cause a great deal of stress: the preparation, the cooking - the relatives. Don’t let picking wines become one of the problems.

More than any other meal, Thanksgiving can present wine pairing issues if you take it too seriously. So don’t. My only rule for Thanksgiving wines is…don’t break the bank because there’s a lot going on that day and the wine will be flowing freely.

The diversity of food at the table and the assortment of friends and family feasting assures that one size won’t fit all. Thanksgiving therefore presents the perfect opportunity to experiment with wine pairings by offering a wide assortment of wines, from sparkling to whites, roses, and reds.

Sparkling wines provide perhaps the most breadth in terms of pairing, whether as an aperitif or alongside the main course. In Washington, Domaine Ste. Michelle, made in the methode champenoise, offers a great bang for the buck (see review below). Or drink like the White House does with some Treveri Cellars, such as their sparkling Gewurztraminer (see review below).

Moving on to whites but sticking with Gewurztraminer - if you struggle saying this, think, ‘girlsaremeaner’ which makes the pronunciation both easy and unforgettable - try the 2010 Dowsett Family ($20) or 2010 Domaine Pouillon ($15). Both from the Columbia Gorge, these two wines showcase this grape’s inherent spiciness and can bring out some wonderful accents to Thanksgiving fare.

Riesling also has a place at the table, with its high natural acidity and apple and stone fruit flavors complementing turkey and stuffing. There’s an abundance of good to excellent Riesling made in Washington. Try the 2010 Pacific Rim Columbia Valley Riesling ($10), 2010 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl ($12), or 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling ($8). Or move up a bit in price with two of the state’s flagship bottles, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen’s 2010 Eroica Riesling ($20, see review below) or Long Shadows 2010 Poet’s Leap ($20).

If you’re looking for a white that’s a bit more full-bodied, try the DeLille Cellars 2009 Chaleur Estate Blanc $32 (see review below). This beautiful Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend is oak aged, giving the wine enough body and weight to stand up to turkey day without being overpowering. Or go with a racier style of the same blend with the 2010 Cadaretta SBS ($23) - among my favorites from the 2010 vintage.

Dry roses also fit in well at Thanksgiving - stay away from the sweet stuff as items like cranberry sauce are guaranteed to make the wine taste sour and many won’t have the acid to pair well with turkey. One of my favorites this year is the 2010 Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese ($12), which offers bright cherry flavors and spice.

In terms of red wines, leave the trophy Cabernets for after dinner. The tannins and oak on these wines can often overwhelm turkey. Instead, go with Pinot Noir, which makes a wonderful pairing, drawing out spice and earth tones of the herbs in stuffing.

Pinot has never been one of Washington’s strengths. No matter. Look just south to Oregon where there are an abundance of high quality wines. One Pinot value comes from A to Z Wine Works 2009 Pinot Noir $20 (see review below). Two other well priced wines are from Stoller Vineyards, the 2008 JV Pinot Noir ($25) and 2007 SV Pinot Noir ($40) reviewed below. Both of the Stoller wines possess bright fruit flavors and a sublime earthy quality, showcasing Oregon’s signature grape.

Grenache and Grenache blends can also fit in well as the oak and tannins are often restrained on these wines. The 2009 releases from Maison Bleue offer an embarrassment of riches - can you say Winery of the Year? - from the 2009 Jaja Red Wine ($20), 2009 Le Midi Grenache ($35), 2009 La Montagnette Grenache ($35), and 2009 Graviere ($40). These are all outrageously high quality, well priced wines that are guaranteed to wow your guests. Two other favorites from 2009 are the Betz Family Winery Besoleil ($45) and Gramercy Cellars The Third Man ($45).

All of these Grenache-based wines are so delicious – and moving up into higher price points – that you may want to have a secret hideaway to pour them to make sure Uncle Fred doesn’t guzzle the whole bottle without knowing what it is.

Finally, when it comes time for the pie pairings, think about a Port-style wine. A number of wineries in Washington have begun experimenting with these wines in recent years, using traditional grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao, and Souzao. One recent favorite is the Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Opulento ($18) (see review below). This wine is enjoyable enough to stand on its own while also being sweet enough to stand up to pecan pie.

Whatever you go with, remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be fun so relax and have a good time. And just in case the family isn’t making you feel too thankful, at least you’ll be drinking some good wine!

Happy Thanksgiving! And make sure to let me know what you're planning to open.

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Sparkling Wine NV $12

Rating: + (Good) Pleasing aromas of green apple, lime, and autolytic notes. The palate is just off dry with crisp citrus flavors. 88% Chardonnay, 12% Pinot Noir. 12.1% alcohol. 1.19% Residual Sugar. 191,540 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended

Treveri Cellars Gewurztraminer Demi Sec Sparkling Wine Columbia Valley NV $18

Rating: + (Good) An outrageously aromatic wine full of all of the grape’s inherent spice and floral notes. The palate is medium-plus sweet but finishes dry with abundant spice flavors. This is a fun wine that is guaranteed to be a good conversation piece.

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley 2010 $20

Rating: * (Excellent) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatic wine with a cornucopia of ripe peaches and nectarines, along with pear and whiffs of lime zest. Palate has rounded feel and a zing of acidity that runs from start to lingering finish along with persistent lime flavors. 100% Riesling. Zillah Ranch and Evergreen vineyards. Fermented at aged in stainless steel. 12.5% alcohol. 1.64g/100ml Residual Sugar.

DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc Columbia Valley 2009 $34

Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Consistently one of the finest white wines made in the state – with a correspondingly high price point – the 2009 Chaleur Estate Blanc from DeLille Cellars is another standout full of herbal notes, citrus, crushed nuts, oak spices, and gooseberries. Lingers on the finish. 62% Sauvignon Blanc, 38% Semillon. Boushey, Sagemoor, and Klipsun vineyards.

A to Z Wine Works Pinot Noir Oregon 2009 $20
Rating: + (Good) An aromatically appealing wine with plum, cream, strawberry, spice, and mint. Glides across the palate with vanilla and strawberry flavors with a silky, almost creamy feel. Has a bitter note toward the finish that fades as the bottle opens up. 13.5% alcohol. 79,023 cases produced.

Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir JV Dundee Hills 2008 $25
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with moist earth, strawberry, and mint. The palate is light bodied, delicate, and nuanced. A tart finish. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged in French oak (35% new). 13.5% alcohol. 5,810 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended

Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir SV Dundee Hills 2007 $40

Rating: * (Excellent) A fruit forward wine with strawberry, cherry, vanilla, and light earth aromas. The palate is plump and expands with red fruit and light smoke flavors. A tart, lingering finish. 100% Pinot Noir. 1,950 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Brian Carter Opulento Fortified Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $18

Rating: * (Excellent) Made in a Ruby Port style, this wine is lightly aromatic with spice, tea leaves, and lemon twist. The palate is rich and seamless, full of chocolate, caramel, and dark cherries. An extended finish. 60% Touriga National, 37% Souzao, 3% Tinta Cao. Upland and Lonesome Springs vineyards. Aged 22 months in French oak (20% new). 10% Residual Sugar. 19% alcohol. 449 cases produced.

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4 comments

  1. Cole Sisson Says:
  2. Hey Sean, That's a pretty decent list. Cheers! Cole

     
  3. Kimberly Says:
  4. Sean - where in Seattle do you buy the Maison Bleue wines? I've seen that JaJa Red referenced a few times now.

     
  5. Kimberly, good question regarding Maison Bleue. I would try contacting Vinum who distributes their wine. They can be reached at (206) 621-8843. Jaja might be all gone at this point but they've got lots of other great wines as well. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

     
  6. Kimberly, update on the Maison Bleue reds. I talked with the folks at Vinum and they said that Esquin, Pete's, and McCarthy & Schiering (both) all carry their wines. They said that Jaja in particular can be tough but Essential Market by Purple Cafe downtown has a couple bottles left. Good luck!

     

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