It’s no shocker that for my family’s Thanksgiving dinners, I’m expected to bring the wine. But my siblings don’t make it easy! One year, the turkey might be roasted with rosemary; the next, rubbed with ground chiles and smoked. The dressing might involve sourdough and chanterelles or cornbread and chorizo. All of this adds up to a serious wine challenge. When the only thing I know about the dishes I’ll be matching is that they’ll be spicy, sweet, and savory, I opt for wines with three main characteristics: generous fruit, good acidity, and minerality or earthiness.
My go-to white is Riesling. Its racy acidity handles vinaigrettes; its stone-fruit flavors snuggle up to fruit and root veggies. And if it’s a tiny bit sweet, even better. The flavor cacophony that is Thanksgiving makes that a good thing. On the red front, I pick Pinot Noir. It’s also high in acidity, with red berry/cranberry fruit that works well with cranberry sauce. Pinot often also has layers of warm baking spice, resiny herbs, forest floor, and mushroom notes that link to the rotating ingredients of the day.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Dry (Columbia Valley; $10).The nose is all peaches and cream, edgy with pleasant petrol; lemon flavors and tart green apple follow with a peach redux on the finish.
Elk Cove 2012 Estate (Willamette Valley; $19).Fresh green apple and haunting honeysuckle; the touch of sweetness is countered byzippy white peach and lime, so the wine seems quite dry.
Long Shadows 2013 Poet’s Leap (Columbia Valley; $20).Floral aromatics and pretty stone fruit combine for elegance, with a core of acidity creating perfect balance in this slightly off-dry wine.
Milbrandt 2013 “Traditions” (Evergreen Vineyard; $13).Barely off-dry, with crisp apple and peach flavors balanced by citrus and wet river-rock minerality.
Trefethen Family 2013 Dry (Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley; $25).Vibrant green apple and citrus rounded by floral aromas, fuzzy peach skin, and tropical notes.
PINOT NOIR PICKS
Domaine Drouhin Oregon 2012 (Dundee Hills; $45).A whiff of cloves and woodsy herbs leads to well-balanced tart red fruit through a long,silky finish.
Dutton-Goldfield 2012 Dutton Ranch (Russian River Valley; $40).Elegant, briary cherry/berry fruit (close to loamy source), sprinkled with pepper.
Hilliard Bruce 2011 “Sky” (Sta. Rita Hills; $55).Silky and full of cherries dipped in fall baking spices, with subtle notes of earth and leather.
MacRostie 2012 (Sonoma Coast; $34).Bright red cherry cola leads, seasoned with cinnamon, fresh herbs, and a balancingearthy character.
Merry Edwards 2012 (Sonoma Coast; $39).Pretty raspberry melds with loam and lovely florals, with hints of clove and cinnamon.
Talley 2012 Estate (Arroyo Grande Valley; $36).Deep cherry fruit over layers of red earth, florals, dried herbs, pepper, and a kick of orange peel.