Thanksgiving celebration: largest wine day in USA
Wayne On Wine
By Wayne Crawford
Photos by Wayne Crawford
This year the Big Canoe Wine Group celebrated Thanksgiving in October to get a head start on buying holiday wines. Ironically, a rafter of wild turkeys arrived just off the back porch as we began our tasting; all we needed was an “Eat Mor Chikin” sign to complete the picture.
Thanksgiving is the number one wine day in the USA, followed closely by Christmas and New Year’s. All combine to jumpstart the winter wine-buying season. I encourage readers to save on wine purchases for the season by shifting from a few bottles to a case to acquire a 10 to 12 percent discount.
Drink what you like but consider these wines as particularly noteworthy for pairing with holiday meals. You can never go wrong with sparkling wines, including Champagne, a wonderful acclamation or dessert complement. There are great buys in the sparkling wines, such as prosecco, cava and West Coast sparklers. The Bocelli Prosecco highlighted below was delightful.
Shifting to main courses, the choices are unlimited, but four wines complemented our meal and should be frontrunners in holiday wine selection: gewürztraminer, chardonnay, pinot noir and zinfandel.
Gewürztraminer is a traditional white wine from the Alsace wine region in France, but it the grape is widely grown in Europe and the New World. The wine in our tasting was from Washington state. This pink-skinned grape produces spicy flavors and perfumed scents with nice acidity and is a complement to holiday flavors, including cranberry and spiced sauces for ham and turkey.
Chardonnay is the number-one white wine selling in the USA. The Washington state chardonnay in our tasting paired well with vegetables, potatoes and turkey. There are several well-priced chardonnays on the market in the $15 range, such as Wheelhouse 2011, $9, and Kendall-Jackson 2011 Avant, $15.
Our red wines included pinot noir and zinfandel, but we easily could have substituted a syrah or brunello. I consider pinot noir a wonderful all-purpose red and, while the high-end wines of Burgundy, France are a challenge to match in taste and cost, there is a wide selection of superb domestic pinot noir producers. The wine fully complemented roasted turkey, cornbread and oyster dressing and fresh cranberry relish. Kirkland Signature 2011 Pinot Noir from Carneros is one of the best pinot noirs available at $10 from Costco.
Including zinfandel with turkey and ham and supporting sauces enriches the palate. This red wine reaches its zenith in the U.S. and is a great complement to the All-American Thanksgiving menu. Bogle 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel is a best buy at $11. Cline Cellars 2011 is available at $16 and 2011 Earthquake from Lodi, Calif., $23, is one of my go-to wines.
A great match for a rich dessert menu with pumpkin, chocolate or pecan pie is port or Madeira. The port included in this article pairs exceptionally well with desserts and is a Best Buy at $20. I was able to purchase a 2005 vintage of the same late-harvest port in Cumming for $22.
‘Wines drinking well now’
Bocelli Prosecco NV sparkling Italian, $15.99: The prosecco grape is indigenous to the Veneto region. This wine has flower and fruit aromas and is light and refreshing. An excellent acclamation wine and one of the best proseccos I have tasted. Best Buy.
Summit Estates 2011 Gewürztraminer, Wash., $9: This classic gewürztraminer, filled with floral and ginger notes, has intense apricot, peach and grapefruit flavors with a hint of spice. Complements the many spices integrated in a Thanksgiving meal. Best Buy.
Gorman Winery 2011 Chardonnay “Big Sissy,” Woodinville, Wash., $34.99: This single-vineyard chardonnay is barrel-fermented in 100 percent new French oak, using wild yeast. A well-crafted wine with fruit and floral flavors, it pairs well with the squash, sweet potato and turkey. Highly Recommended.
Cristom 2006 Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Marjorie Vineyard, Ore., $56: Medium-ruby red in color with noticeable earthy, floral aromas, on the palate, this wine exhibits blackberry spice and coffee flavors. The wine pairs well with cranberry and the apple-based sauces for both turkey and ham. Recommended.
Turley 2002 Zinfandel Paso Robles Presenti Vineyard, $44: This certified organic, estate-owned vineyard was planted in the 1920s on primarily limestone soil. The wines have a lightness and aromas unique to the site, with mineral and floral characteristics not normally seen in zinfandel. It pairs well with both turkey and ham.
Fonseca Porto 2000, Late Bottled Vintage, Portugal, $20: Fonseca Late Bottled Port (LBP) is a traditional port blend from robust and full-bodied wines from a single year. Since the LBP spends a longer time in wood, it is ready to drink earlier. Jammy on the nose with raisins, spice and black pepper, this is a sweet wine with medium acidity and a lingering finish. It pairs well with chocolate and pumpkin pies. Best Buy—and the 2009 LBP is still in the $20 range.
In my next article, the focus is on aged wines and wine shopping on the Internet.
Drink what you like but be willing to try something new!
Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.