It has always struck me that Thanksgiving is the only American holiday devoted to gluttony. Plates and platters of food fill the dinner table—and sometimes side tables— with an abundance that is intended to carry over to the next day or through the weekend.
It’s not only the traditional turkey and its stuffing with sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie that create a cornucopia of flavors and dishes, but today’s Americans also add Spanish dishes, Middle Eastern spices, Asian condiments, and African and Caribbean vegetables, seasonings, peppers and desserts. Even though, Thanksgiving remains an American celebration of the settler’s harvest and, for me, that means American wines are on the table, too.
Nothing creates a festive atmosphere quicker than a glass of sparkling wine. For quality at a reasonable price pour the nonvintage Mumm Napa Brut Prestige when your guests arrive. Founded in 1983 by the Champagne house G.H. Mumm, this Napa Valley sparkler is fresh, and flavored with the classic blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. 88 points. And at $15 to $19, popping the corks won’t pop the budget.
With all the aromas and flavors on the table, the 2017 Outlot Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County is an ideal choice. An outlot is a parcel on land lying outside the limits of a town or city so these vineyards, located just outside of Healdsburg, give rise to its name.
Made and aged in stainless-steel tanks with a blend of 95% sauvignon blanc and 5% gewürztraminer, the 2017 Outlot captures sauvignon blanc’s citrus character of lime and passion fruit with a background of gewürztraminer’s lychee and guava-like accents. Its round, tasty style will please many and the price range of $15 to $19 will make you happy, too. 86 points.
Notwithstanding its DNA relationship to Italy’s Primitivo and Croatia’s Crijenak Kastelanski grapes, Zinfandel is America’s red wine. Planted in California since the mid-1800s, its leading advocate is Ravenswood winery with its generic Vintner’s Blend zinfandel and a series of small production single-vineyard zins.
The 2016 Ravenswood Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel is consistently the most elegant of the winery’s portfolio. Defying the popular notion that zinfandels are big, brawny macho wines, The Dickenson Vineyard offers delicious raspberry-like aroma and flavor seasoned with restrained pepper and cinnamon aromas and flavors on a medium body. 92 points. Expect to pay about $35 to $45 when this vintage is released. In the meantime, the equally elegant 2015 Dickerson Vineyard is available at $32 to $42. (My report on the 2016 Ravenswood single-vineyard wines will be published next month.)
Pinot noir is one of the most food-friendly and palate-pleasing wines in the world. It can be extremely pricey—Burgundy’s Grand Crus are the first example—but good value is found in the tasty 2016 Clos du Val Pinot Noir Carneros Napa Valley.
Founded in 1970, Clos du Val is one of Napa Valley’s heritage wineries in what is now the Stag’s Leap District. Established by New York businessman John Goelet and French winemaker Bernard Portet—whose father was the technical director of Chateau Lafite Rothschild—Clos du Val gained immediate fame when Portet’s 1972 cabernet sauvignon scored high in the famous Judgment of Paris wine tasting in 1976.
In 1978, Portet produced Clos du Val’s first Carneros pinot noir, an area now acclaimed for its quality pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
The 2016 Clos du Val pinot noir Carneros is a brilliant red with aromas and flavors that range from raspberry to rhubarb to cherry. Its substantial body reflects the warm growing season and 9 months aging in French oak barrels, of which 45% were new. Its round, rich texture and mouth feel comes at a reasonable $30 to $40. 90 points.
So, no matter your menu, these well-made American wines will shine and support all your caloric endeavors on Thanksgiving.
Photos by John Foy