A day of giving thanks and feasting with those we hold most dear – what’s not to love about Thanksgiving!? It’s also a fabulous excuse to break out some stellar bottles of wine to savor the progression of the day as well as the people in it. The Thanksgiving table offers a cornucopia of flavors with something on offer for just about every palate – sweet, savory, umami, spice, sheer comfort. This does, however, present a rather tall order for pairing wines. Chardonnay aged in oak doesn’t quite suit. Cabernet is just too tannic for the beloved bird while Sauvignon Blanc is just too delightfully green for autumnal flavors. Nevertheless, there are a handful of failproof choices that I look to year after year. Although I do prefer to have a selection of varietals on hand, each and every bottle on this list can elevate the entire meal on its own and evolve with the journey of the feast. So without further adieu…
Saint-Chamant, Blanc de Blanc, Grand Cru, Brut – Champagne
Although I always enjoy kicking off the day with a glass of bubbly and good blanc de blanc Champagne is entirely capable of carrying the entire meal without any assistance. Why blanc de blanc? Well, when produced with care and aged sur lie (on its lees/the spent yeasts from fermentation) a magical thing happens. The wine takes on a yeasty quality akin to freshly baked brioche – hello, popovers and stuffing! That’s matched with bright, thirst-quenching acidity that cuts right through gravy fats and buttered mashed potatoes like a laser beam. Then there’s the minerality of kimmeridgian limestone that only Champagne can muster in the wide world of effervescence – a brined turkey here will reach unfathomable heights. All the stars align to make Thanksgiving pairings across that beautifully set table sheer magic. For a blanc de blanc that knows no rivals in my jaded, vinuous heart, I always swing for the grower Champagne of Saint-Chamant. Octogenarian vigneron, Monsieur Coquillette, has been nurturing his vines and hand-crafting his wines since the 1950’s – the epitome of farm-to-table, this grand old man even continues to hand-label all his own bottles!
For other great blanc de blanc Champagnes, you can also look to producers: Pierre Moncuit, Pol Roger, Vazart-Coquart and AR Lenoble.
Château d’Epiré, Savennières, Loire Valley – France
Chenin Blanc from Savennières is truly one of my favorite wines on the planet. In this special little pocket of the Loire Valley the wines are fermented bone-dry (unlike the subtly sweet offerings from the more well-known Vouvray) and here the unique schist minerality is truly something spectacular. Flavors of braised yellow apple, dried apricot, lemon peel and quince compote dance across the palate with notes of chamomile, honey comb, aged, nutty cheese and wet wool – can you think of a more fitting tango partner for turkey day? And although the flavors are warm and hauntingly inviting, the crisp acidity and taut minerality make for a balance that will keep you going for glass after refreshing, satisfying glass. As far as producers go, I love Château d’Epiré for their remarkable price to quality.
For other exceptional producers in the appellation, look to the incomparable Nicolas Joly’s Coulée de Serrant as well as Domaine du Closel, Domaine de la Bergerie and Thibaud Boudignon.
White Rose Estate, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir – Oregon
Oregon’s status as the best price-to-quality Pinot Noir in the world is well-traversed ground. I’ve written enough to fill a Diana Gabaldon novel on the merits of Oregon Pinot, because it’s just that damn good. The climate – perfect. The soil – mind-bendingly complex. Simply put, Oregon’s Willamette Valley offers the New World’s greatest Pinot Noir at a fraction of the price for solid Red Burgundy. And although I love great Burgundy, I honestly don’t have the cash to serve a table of thirsty drinkers at my holiday table that sweet nectar of the gods. Nevertheless, if White Rose Estate’s Pinot Noir doesn’t charm even the most devout of Burgundy devotees, then I’ll eat my wine glass for Thanksgiving dinner. This pure beauty of bright red fruit, forest floor majesty, smoky minerality from the Jory soils and pitch-perfect, bright balance will elevate the savory elements of your turkey and dressing, make cranberry sauce zing across your palate and will dazzle and brighten just about any other side dish you choose to throw its way.
Other Oregon producers of Pinot Noir to look for this Thanksgiving are: Winderlea, Patricia Green, Eyrie Vineyards, De Ponte Cellars as well as Evesham Wood.
Julien Sunier, Cru Beaujolais, Fleurie – France
Cru Beaujolais is one of those wines that I fell for with the greatest reluctance, but once the flame was kindled there was just no turning back. I had always associated Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau – bubblegum aromas and cheaply produced shlock. Then I tasted Cru Beaujolais from a true artisan who crafted his wine as his ancestors had before him – organic/biodynamic vineyards, whole-cluster fermentation, indigenous yeasts and proper aging in old, neutral foudres (massive oak barrels that do not leave a footprint) – the result was a staggeringly elegant wine of such purity of fruit and sense of place, that I could scarcely believe I was drinking Beaujolais. Julien Sunier’s wines are just that – pure, unadulterated, terroir-driven from granite soils, and an example of what truly great Gamay (the grape of Beaujolais) should be. He’s followed in the footsteps of greats like Marcel Lapierre, but he’s made a name for himself that’s entirely worthy of the pioneers that came before. With aromatics and flavors of cold bing cherry, fresh strawberry and a hint of cranberry laced with peony, herbs de Provence, white pepper and granitic minerality, this lithe, refreshing and silky red beauty will give the savory, spicy and complex flavors of the Thanksgiving table wings. If you’re looking for one wine to rule them all for Thanksgiving, this is it.
For other Cru Beaujolais offerings, look for Cru Beaujolais from the villages of Morgon or Fleurie from these producers: Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Brun, Jean Foillard or Jean-Paul Thévenet.
Happiest of Happy Thanksgivings, y”all! And to my Canadians, I’m sorry this is too late for 2018 – love to you all!