Alsace for Thanksgiving

Recommended Riesling and Pinot Gris


We tend to get caught up recommending red wines for Thanksgiving, and it's usually domestic wines at that. There’s something about the onset of fall that makes us think of and look forward to drinking rich red wines again, and the sweet flavors of Thanksgiving just seem to have an affinity for the intense, dense fruit of West Coast wines in particular.

With all that clouding one’s judgment, it can be hard to see the less obvious but perhaps better suited matches for Turkey Day. I’m not going to say that the myriad Pinot Noirs I just got through recommending are not great wines for the holiday, but I will say that some other wines, oh say white wines with richness, spice and a touch of sweetness, could be just as good, and are likely even easier to pair with all the disparate flavors we’re going to be faced with.

Alsatian wines are well known for being just that, rich, off-dry and spicy. It’s a wonderful recipe for delicious wines, but more to the point, it’s going to work with your butternut squash soup, candied yams, Turkey with cornbread and chorizo stuffing, and even a nice almond cake or roasted chestnuts. In short, Alsatian wines, and in particular Pinot Gris and some Rieslings, are perfect for your big meals from start to finish. Consider one this Thursday!

2009 Lucien Albrecht Cuvee Cecile Pinot Gris 13% $26

Quite mineral and a bit spicy on the nose, with nectarine, green apple skin and quince fruit backed up with hints of turmeric and cardamom. Lots of turmeric actually. Fairly dry in the mouth, this is big and intense and fairly classic Alsatian Pinot Gris. Plenty of honied apple, green plum and nectarine fruit peppered through with gently spicy notes of ginger and clove. Rich and nicely proportioned, this is a powerful Pinot Gris that finishes on the short side, but is spicy and dry if rich with honey flavors. 92pts

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2009 Binner Riesling Vignoble de Katzenthal 14.5% $25

This is crazy on the nose with intense floral, pine nut and honey aromas, all backed up with notes of passion fruit, lychee and mangosteen fruit. Exotic to the max! Much less intense on the palate. This actually is rather lean and very focused on the palate. A little peppery heat early on is slowly brought into balance by the soft fruit of the palate that recalls creamy mangosteen flavors, with a nice hit of spice on the back end and fine tea top notes. The finish turns to intense and fairly pure, cool and citrussy Riesling with low stony notes and incipient petrol top notes. There’s a lot going on here. Might be atypical Riesling, but it’s kickin’ wine. 92pts

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2010 Rene Mure Pinot Gris Clos St Landelin 13.5% $30

Lots of heirloom apple fruit on the nose with hints of pollen, white pepper and tree bark adding some detail. This is much sweeter than the back label indicates. Obviously sweet on the palate, this is lush and opulent with slightly simple pear and apple flavors that are pure and deep. Accented with a nice nuanced layer of mineral and slightly peppery spice notes. Very easy to drink, this is beautiful and picks up briskness and crisp red apple fruit on the fairly long finish which ends a peppery finale. 91pts

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2008 Willm Pinot Gris Reserve 12.5% $14

This smells aged, yet retains its freshness with dusky pear skin, dried flower and soft mint and beetroot nuances. Soft and round in the mouth, this has some sweetness, but is really quite clear and pure. Very nice intensity to the waxy yellow fruits, showing hints of licorice and poppy seed back behind the sweet peach and apple fruit. A little subtle, but I like this very much. Not intense or particularly rich, but complex and deep with really nice balance. 89pts

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2010 Hugel Gentil 12.5% $12

A classic Alsatian blend: Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc 46%, Pinot Gris 22%, Riesling 18%, Gewurztraminer 12%, Muscat 2%

Smells earthy right out of the bottle, but then gains nice smoke nuances and almost a bit of pipe tobacco, with floral notes and hints of grass and mineral. Just a touch of sweetness here, but this is also bright and juicy with wonderful plum and lemon flavors that are light and easy. The back end shows a touch more stuffing, with some fine tannins offering a light bit of grab and contributing a bit of spice to the gently floral, lightly honied, crisp white fruits on the finish.  87pts

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