Thanksgiving is our only holiday devoted to borderline gluttony. Our other holidays are more noble, and a cinch for wine selections: Fourth of July barbecue—pour a red wine. Memorial Day at the beach—unscrew a chilled white.
But, Thanksgiving is another matter. With its cornucopia of flavors and textures, it provides ample opportunity for a variety of wines. In addition to the traditional turkey centered-table and copious side dishes, today’s celebrants also add Spanish dishes and spices, Middle Eastern rice and desserts, Asian ingredients, and a potpourri of Caribbean vegetables, seasonings and hot peppers.
No matter what the menu, it is an American holiday that calls for celebrating with American wines.
Some will reach for big, bold California zinfandels and cabernet sauvignon. But with 14.5 to 15.5% alcohol you’ll have grandma dozing at the table before the pumpkin pie is served. Others will instinctively reach for chardonnay, but it’s liable to be oak-infused and laden with residual sugar. With the smorgasbord of foods and various ages around the table, I suggest a mix of light, flavorful wines with acidity in the finish to clean the palate before the next forkful.
Start with a glass of nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut sparkling wine. The first sparkling wine made in Sonoma County, it was founded in the early 1980s by the Spanish Ferrer wine family with pinot noir and chardonnay clones from the Champagne region.
The Sonoma brut is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay with the former grape constituting 87% of the blend. The refined bubbles push upward enchanting floral, ginger and white fruit aromas, and the creamy texture carries baked pear and crème Anglaise flavors. Delightful from the first sip, and pleasing at the checkout counter, too. 90 points. Retail prices start at $14 and travel to $20. No need to go that high as this sparkler is widely distributed.
If your Thanksgiving dinner is a large family and friends get-together, the inexpensive 2018 Geyser Peak Winery Sauvignon Blanc California provides a refreshing citrus aroma and flavor wrapped around a light body. The low alcohol. (13%) lets the apple-flavored finish shine brightly. Enjoy it with dips and spreads before dinner, and a counter point to sweet potatoes and other cloying foods with dinner. 86 points. At $8 to $12 consider buying extra bottles for the holiday weekend.
If chardonnay is required, treat your fellow diners to the 2017 Clos du Val Estate Chardonnay Carneros Napa Valley, a valley pioneer for more than four decades. In 2017, a five-year drought ended, but Mother Nature delivered record-setting heat in early September. Winemaker Ted Henry turned out a croissant-scented and rich, pear and vanilla custard-flavored wine with mild acidity. It will complement the turkey. 89 points. Retail prices range from $28 to $37.
Whether it’s a traditional Thanksgiving menu, or one personalized with ingredients from other cultures, the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is an ideal choice.
Tom and Sally Jordan founded Jordan in 1976 after being unable to purchase Chateau Margaux, or any of the other four First-Growth Bordeaux wineries. But that loss was our gain, as Jordan winery’s lineage includes one of America’s most balanced and harmonious cabernet sauvignons.
For decades, winemaker Rob Davis has delivered Jordan’s cabernet sauvignon built around refined ripe fruit, judicious aging in a mix of American and French oak barrels, and moderate alcohol. In 2015, Davis made the first Jordan cabernet sauvignon aged entirely in French oak barrels (50% new). The wine has more floral and toasted scents than I recall heretofore, but the elegant Bordeaux-like texture, which I have always appreciated, is present and carries delicious blackberry and black-cherry flavors. Combined with its moderate 13.8% alcohol, the 2015 Jordan will contributed added pleasure to your Thanksgiving dinner. 91 points. Retail prices range from $49 to $83. As the wine is widely distributed, you should be able to find it at less than $61.
Wishing you a delightful Thanksgiving.
Photos by John Foy