It’s time for my annual Thanksgiving wine recommendations. As a locavore and also as an historian, I promote drinking locally, especially since Thanksgiving is an East Coast tradition (first celebrated at Berkley Hundred on the James River in Virginia, on Dec. 4, 1619). Here are a couple of guidelines if you plan to observe Thanksgiving with a traditional menu:
- You can find the best wine matches with this special traditional menu with East Coast/Midwest wines instead of West Coast/European wines. East Coast wines have both vibrant fruit and acidity with moderate alcohol, and have a wide range of grape varieties whose chemistry favors complementing Thanksgiving fare.
- Think “ABC”, or “anything but Chardonnay and Cabernet.” You need vibrant, fruity wines with good acidity to match the rather heavy/fatty Thanksgiving fare, and reds should be low tannin varieties like Chambourcin, Norton, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir or Gamay.
Here are my picks for an ideal 2020 Thanksgiving in a traditional menu format:
***Muse Vineyards Thalia 2019: This is a rare white Rhone blend without Viognier, just Roussanne and Marsanne, used to make white Hermitage (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite white wine). The flavor and character are quite distinctive. The nose is elegant, with subtle pear, white pepper and mineral notes. On the palate, it is dry, with pear flavors and a rich tactile mid-palate, but finishing fresh and clean. A well-made, original blend in a classic Rhone style, and a fine choice for Thanksgiving.
***Glass House Winery Viognier 2018: While the ’18 vintage in Virginia was very difficult, I’ve been surprised by the high quality of many of the white wines I’ve tasted, that have much higher acidity than normal but also a rich, thick viscocity which is unique to the vintage and balances out the acidity well. This Viognier is excellent, with vibrant peach, nectarine and white flower notes on the nose, then peach and nectarine on the palate, drinking more like a Rheinhessen Riesling than a normal Viognier with brilliant fruit/acid balance, and a fresh clean finish. Very impressive and refreshing.
**-*Lost Creek Vidal blanc 2018: Fermented for 8 months in stainless steel from whole cluster pressed fruit. Nose: very subtle, fresh apple, typical of the grape but faint (young). Palate: Wow–mouth-filling, dry, with huge volume. Multi-dimensional, the wild yeast makes the difference compared to conventional yeast fermentations of Vidal in texture, complexity, lively acidity and wonderful integration. Two stars now, will age into three. Worth the $25 price, especially for the skeptics.
***Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer Reserve 2015: This bottling may no longer be available, but anyone who can obtain a more recent vintage (except 2018) should consider it. This wine is rich, aromatic and unctous, and this vintage was significantly influenced by botrytis, giving a rich, slightly drying richness to the wine’s texture but concentrating the fruit. The floral aroma and lychee and rose notes on the palate should be able to stand up to the richness of a Thanksgiving dinner, and five years of bottle age should give it a rich dimension.
**Bozzos Family Vineyard Lightly Oaked Chardonnay 2019: Although I said earlier that you could skip the impulse to serve Chardonnay at Thanksgiving, this is a fresh young version that you could make an exception for. Clean, forwardly fruity fermentation aromas, freshly cut pear, just a hint of malolactic dairy and caramel. Palate: Wow! Huge dimension despite fresh nose. Fresh lemon, apple/pear, flavors grow on the palate. Kind of fleshy mid-palateLively lingering acidity on the finish, but just enough malolactic for blunting the acidity while leaving fruit and acid to play well together. Stylish, very versatile and a great example of the new Virginia Chardonnay style in a fine vintage.
There’s a reason Beaujolais Nouveau has been the darling for matching with Thanksgiving fare for 30+ years; it’s called “money”. Why No, I meant “Manet”,since it’s French. Actually Beaujolais, made from the non-tannic Gamay grape, and with pretty vibrant acidity is a good match with Thanksgiving fare. So are Lemberger a k a Blaufrankisch, Teraldego, Zweigelt, Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc, to name most major red grape contenders. Here are my votes:
**Muse Vineyards “Pichet” 2019: This is a fun, juicy but dry, refreshing yet quaffable unoaked red blend mostly from Cabernet Franc. The name “pichet” is the French word for “pitcher”. Aside from the regular bottle at a very affordable $18., there’s also a cute one-glass can size (187 ml), at either $6 for a single or $20 for a four-pack. Nose: juicy, fresh red and black cherries, reminiscent of gamay. Palate: dry but juicy, fruit-forward, low tannin, great cherry flavors and fresh finish. A fun red wine for warm weather quaffing and a good match with Thanksgiving fare.
**Hermann J. Wiemer Cabernet Franc, Seneca Lake AVA 2017: The 2017 vintage was cooler in the Finger Lakes than in the Mid-Atlantic. This clean and fresh Cabernet Franc seemed to me like it could pass for a Pinot Noir, which is a big compliment. On the nose, fresh cherry and herbs with a hint of violet, and on the palate, no noticable oak, but ripe, smooth cherry flavors and a fresh clean finish. Elegant and a fine complement to Thanksgiving fare.
Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = impressive & distinctive, **** = outstanding.