Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving

 


Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving, it's an annual refrain that can be confusing at times. Pinot Noir, like all grapes, can produce a wide range of styles, from Fruit Bomb to silky elegance. When I think of a Pinot for Thanksgiving what I look for is great, ripe fruit and spice notes that make the wine pair well with a beautiful roast bird and all the fixins.

And it's those fixins that have always been the problem with Thanksgiving dinner. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem eating them, it's just that the rather sweet nature of yams, cranberry sauce, and the like can wreak havoc with a wine. You really need to have a wine that has some overt fruitiness to stand up to these flavors but then you run into the problem of over-whelming the delicate flavors of the Turkey. We could of course solve that by roasting a Duck, but that's not the point is it? The point is to match a wine with this wonderful array of uniquely American dishes.

So, in keeping with this theme of Americana, we often turn to our homegrown greats. Last week I took a look at Zins and found some great wines to pair with the feast. This week I turn my attention to Pinot Noir instead. With all its subtlety, Pinot can actually be a difficult match for the Thanksgiving Day spread. The trick is to choose a wine that forgoes some subtlety and gains that appealingly obvious sweet fruit.

While our recent blind tasting of Pinot Noir turned out a great group of unusually consistently praised wines, the nature of some of these wines may make their ranking a bit deceptive in terms of recommendations for Thursday.

Both our 6th place and 1st place wines were absolutely classically styled, with bright, acid driven flavors that may be too bright for Thanksgiving. The 2006 Ponzi A Tavola ($25) is made in a fresh, uncomplicated style with lovely nuanced flavors. On the other hand the 2007 Holdredge Russian River Valley ($40) still had a bit of oak to integrate but was layered and deep with fine complexity that perfectly married the oak notes with ripe sweet fruit. It's a great wine and will improve. It has just been released on the market so it may be hard to find but the 2006 version of this wine is at the same level and would make a fine substitution.

Ponzi Vineyards A Tavola Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
Screwcap - Very fresh with touches of sweet soil, aromatic wood/pencil shavings, and balsamic tones. More barrel and soil than fruit at first. Very savory spice notes add some depth to the perfumy sour/gamy fruit. Light yet lush and relaxed in the mouth but with real solid intensity to the slightly roasted strawberry fruits. Lovely bright acids and minor tannins are in good balance. Lots of twizzler red licorice fruit on the fresh, clean finish with a gentle sweep of forest floor that ends with a balsamic note. Very solid pinot and the right weight for Turkey day. 88pts

Holdredge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2007
Sweet and a touch overtly woody at first with a bit of Grenache like garrigue, dirt, red flowers, a touch of toast and hot iron over a reticent core of very fresh cherry. With air really gains Pinot typicity with a dusty minerality and subtle redwood and sappy accents to the red fruit. Soft and almost viscous tasting, but feeling fine and elegant, though the wine does seem to ooze across the palate a bit. Very fine tannin and a fair bit of them. Very autumnal top notes, dried herbs, leaves, tea, touch of caramel apple, dark spicy black cherry with a touch of ludens cough drop to it. Good transparency with read more...real lush ripeness to the flavors. Turns sappy and twiggy on the finish, which has an assertive mineral cut. Very perfumed on the very long finish but without a lot of intensity. Classic Pinot. 93pts

Our fifth and second place wines both hailed from Oregon and as is frequently the case offered up wonderfully earthy, gamy notes. The 2003 Willakenzie Estate $30 balanced the funky, kinky nose with rich, dark fruit on the palate. The 2006 Elk Cove ($30) really ratcheted up the intensity a notch offering up creamy blackberry fruit that has intriguing mineral tones keeping everything fresh. A pair of great wines but with their funk they may not be for everyone.

Willakenzie Estate Pinot Noir
Screwcap - Very fresh with touches of sweet soil, aromatic wood/pencil shavings, and balsamic tones. More barrel and soil than fruit at first. Very savory spice notes add some depth to the perfumy sour/gamy fruit. Light yet lush and relaxed in the mouth but with real solid intensity to the slightly roasted strawberry fruits. Lovely bright acids and minor tannins are in good balance. Lots of twizzler red licorice fruit on the fresh, clean finish with a gentle sweep of forest floor that ends with a balsamic note. Very solid pinot and the right weight for Turkey day. 88pts

Elk Cove Willamette Pinot Noir
Deep fruit, dark cherry with mint, dark herb, green spice and tea notes. Has a little Burgundian funkiness going on with a nice note of peppercorns and grilled, rare beef. Very clean, precise with modest but lovely crisp tannins, solid acidity is refreshing, red cherry fruit is fresh and crisp with a touch of that green spice up front then tea and earth on the midpalate. Medium bodied but very fine and layered with an absolutely refreshing feel, lovely focus and a moderately long finish that ends with a flourish of fine spice tones. Elegant and complex. 91pts

The two best wines of the tasting, for Thanksgiving at least, might very well be the 3rd and 4th place wine. In 4th place we had the 2006 Stoller JV from Oregon's Dundee Hills ($30). This was smaller scaled but had a wonderful spicy tone redolent of cinnamon with a brilliant core of sweet fruit2006 Saxon Brow Parmelee Hill Pinot Noir from Sonoma Valley ($40) is made in presented in a very precise and balanced package. The 2nd place wine had it all. The a fuller style yet is seamless in the mouth with plush, intense fruit that has notes of herbs, flowers, and mineral keeping this powerhouse fresh and delightful.

Stoller JV Estate Pinot Noir
Screwcap - Intense and ever-so-slightly roasted fruit that has excellent warm middle-eastern spice notes, and a grilled rare steak tone. Very interesting on the nose as it has some cool climate rainwater character but also offers up very ripe fruits with spicy, dried cherry tones. Sweetish yet with acid to support the fruit, very fine polished tannins sit comfortably under the drape of fruit. Very fresh yet completely ripe with complex shades of berry fruit, spice, soil, and herbs. Really complete stuff. Lots of very subtle coriander/sassafras tones that don't veer off into the cola/root read more...beer end of the spectrum. Very impressive transparency and mouthfeel. 92pts.

One last recommendation did not meet with universal approval. The 2007 Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot ($22) had a few detractors but its combination of modest alcohol, bright sweet fruit gently touched with spice and citrus tones, and cranberry rich finish make this a GREAT choice for Thanksgiving. If this sounds like something you might like it's absolutely worth checking out though, like the Holdredge, this is a new release but the 2006 is readily available and may even be a better wine!

Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir 2007
Warm and ripe with a juicy, roast meaty edge and smoky, little caramelized wood tones Gains freshness in the glass with distinct floral top notes and intense warm black raspberry and ollalieberry notes that gain an exotic persimmon tone. Low acid, rich and soft, dense with a very ripe feel but fresh flavors. A bit of wood tannin is a touch out of balance and a bit too assertive. Very nice minor liquory wild red berry/cranberry flavors, then finishes with a strong herbal/rhubarb vein. Lovely baking spice notes and a touch of watermelon on the finale. A curious wine with a big feel, yet gentle and offering read more...surprisingly fresh flavors. Delicious in a very fruity way. 89pts


Mentioned in this article

Comments

Add a Comment

Search Articles


Recipe Downloader

RiceSelect

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals »

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips








Snooth Media Network