By Dave Eckert | @eatsanddrinkswithdave
Thanksgiving might just be my favorite holiday. I love the family gathering, the tradition of giving thanks for all we have in our lives, and of course, the meal, which for me includes multiple bottles of carefully selected wine. As Covid-19 ravages our nation, many Thanksgiving get-togethers will be different this year with virtual Thanksgivings much more common. Undeterred, your intrepid food and beverage journalist will march forward with annual wine selections carefully curated to highlight the day from football, to turkey with all the trimmings, to my wife’s amazing pumpkin pie!
I’ve given you eight picks to please the palate-two each, one foreign and one domestic, in an array of categories: sparkling, white, red, and dessert. All are available online, and many locally, should you have the means and the interest.
I’ve written before that this might just be my favorite wine to pair with cuisine. Sparkling wines are celebratory, flexible with a wide range of dishes, and available in an even wider range of styles and price points.
Domestic Sparkling Wine – Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA-SRP $25.99
From the famed Champagne house of Roederer comes this terrifically balanced, complex, and affordable sparkler. No doubt, Roederer is one of my favorite producers of domestic sparkling wine, and this brut with notes of pear and spice is a great way to get your Thanksgiving Day, or your Thanksgiving meal, started. The bubbles will brighten your mood, and the flavors and aromas will do the rest. By the way, if you manage to save some as the turkey arrives, you’re in for a treat! This wine is a perfect accompaniment for a bird whether it is oven-roasted, smoked, or deep fried.
Foreign Sparkling Wine – Domaine Bousquet Rose, Mendoza, Argentina-SRP $13
Argentina put itself on the winemaking map with full throttle, high octane Malbecs, but this rose sparkler from Domaine Bousquet shows you Argentina is clearly no one trick pony. Made from estate-grown, organically produced, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from high elevation vineyards in Mendoza’s stunning Uco Valley, this wine has length, depth, and, perhaps best of all, is a screaming value. I’d buy multiple bottles of this if I were you. That way, you’ll have some on hand through the end of the year!
This is a terrific category for Thanksgiving meals as there are literally thousands of wines to pick that would be perfect with your holiday fare. As a general rule, I’d avoid lighter-styled, earthier, more minerally-driven varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, and Gruner Vetliner in favor of more fruit forward and generous grapes like Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Watch out for the oakier chards, though, as they can overwhelm the bird and fall flat with the sides.
Domestic White Wine – Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, CA-SRP $16
With almost 50 years of history with Chenin Blanc, Dry Creek Vineyards’ bottling seems to improve with each passing vintage. Always balanced with bright acidity and crisp fruit flavors, this 100-percent stainless steel fermented wine is beautiful in its simplicity and clarity. You will marvel at how the Chenin dances from the turkey, to the mashed potatoes, to the stuffing, veggies, and yes, even the cranberry sauce.
Foreign White Wine – Lievland Chenin Blanc, South Africa-SRP $18.99
One of the most underappreciated collection of wines on the planet, in my opinion, are South African Chenin Blancs. Often sourced from old vines, like this one, South African Chenins offer everything you want in a white wine: fruit, balance, earth, minerality, and acidity. If I hadn’t already drunk my bottle of Dry Creek Valley Chenin, I’d be comparing and contrasting it with the Lievland, and having a great time doing it!
This is a tricky category as many Midwestern plates are drawn, and not wrongly so, to the fuller-bodied red varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel. While I love many of those wines, I’ll be saving mine for the Christmas table and a future article in favor of light to medium-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Cabernet Sauvignon’s cousin, Cabernet Franc.
George DuBoeuf Beaujolais – Villages Flower Label, Beaujolais, France, SRP $12.99
While I prefer Cru Beaujolais to Beaujolais-Villages, a bottle of this wine from the “King of Beaujolais” is sure to please everyone. Lovely in color, flavor, and aromas, the DuBoeuf Beaujolais Villages is an absolute delight. Light on the palate, the wine is loaded with flavors and aromas of red and black berries, finishing with a voluptuous mouthfeel and silky tannins. What’s more, the price will allow for the purchase of multiple bottles, which I almost guarantee you will need for this crowd-pleaser!
Prospice, Cabernet Franc, Phinny Hill Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, WA-SRP $50
Want to go bigger than a Beaujolais, but not all the way to the top of Tannin mountain? Well, then this is the wine for you. Cabernet Franc, originally from France’s Loire Valley, is a polarizing grape. Some find its often green and vegetal notes off-putting. But I love the exchange of earth and fruit, herbs and minerals. Prospice’s Cab Franc is a new discovery for me, and a lovely one at that. Reminiscent of a Chinon from the Loire, though more complex, this Phinny Hill Vineyard bottling is a stunner with bright fruit highlighted by an herbaceous core, and lovely, mouth-cleansing. I’m guessing some will love this wine, some will not, and no one will know what they’re drinking but you! That, my friend, is a lot of fun.
I don’t drink a lot of dessert wine. I’m usually opting for another glass of red when the meal concludes. But there’s something especially lovely around the holidays about finishing with a glass of something sweet. Here, I’ve recommended two of my favorite dessert wines, both of which will complement the dessert of the house (in our case, pumpkin pie) and leave you wondering why you don’t have a glass of dessert wine more often.
Miles 10-year Madeira, Madeira, Spain SRP-$42
Okay, so it’s a bit pricy. I get it. But man is it worth it. Madeira, a fortified wine from Madeira island, a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is made from the native grape, Tinta Negra Negramoll, and soils rich in mineral, iron, and phosphorous. The resulting wine is one of the most complex and interesting I’ve had the opportunity to taste. It is sweet, but not cloyingly so, earthy, but not to a fault, and, perhaps most importantly, extremely well-balanced and unbelievably complex. I opened a bottle for my birthday (for which, my wife baked an amazing butter pecan cake). The Miles 10-year was perfect that night, and each of the subsequent six nights that I had a slice of the cake and a small glass of the Madeira. Truly memorable!
Taylor-Fladgate Tawny Port, Douro Valley, Portugal SRP $13.99
Almost nothing beats a glass of great port to finish a meal, and here, in the Taylor-Fladgate Tawny, you have a great port at a great price. With a typical tawny color, this sweet wine brims with flavors of apricot and butterscotch before finishing with a long, persistent mouthfeel and terrific acidity. Thank you, sir, may I have another?