Greetings and salutations! It is hard to believe, but we find ourselves on the precipice of that truly American of holidays, Thanksgiving. And what Thanksgiving feast would be complete without a great selection of wines–for every budget–to assist you passionate wine sleuths out there whose contribution to the feast is a few (or, heck, several!) well-placed and thoughtful bottles of wine for your family, friends and loved ones? I for one am banned from the kitchen during the intensive meal preparation of the turkey and fixin’s, but somehow my stock always goes up when it comes time to serve the pre-meal and paired wines with the magnificent meal.
I always look forward to this Chapter of “The Wine Bargain Sleuth” if for no other reason than we get to share a number of our favorite Value Wines and Worth a Splurge Wines in a variety aimed at pleasing a number of choosy palates! With the recognition that many wine sleuths have their “go to” wines, we plan to offer recommendations that are traditional yet perhaps a little off the beaten path if your crew doesn’t mind zigging while others zag. Some of our recommendations will be familiar to the readers of our blog, while others are new recommendations that are recent favorite discoveries.
In recognition that your collective attention spans are understandably worn down following the recent Presidential election in the US (clearly the pollsters are exhausted and need a break when their predictions went, ahem, a bit askew), this month’s Chapter will simply get right to delicious recommendations. In the spirit of the great US of A, the majority of our wine recommendations, but not all, are American wines. For your reading pleasure and simplicity, we will break down our choices into both Value Wines and Worth a Splurge Wines, following our form of last Thanksgiving’s recommendations. Without further ado, here are our Fourth Annual Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations:
Although at Thanksgiving we tend to favor the classics, and assuming that roast turkey is the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving feast, a classic California Chardonnay or an Oregon Pinot Noir is a quality choice. However, our first selection is a terrific Oregon sparkler for your consideration. Nothing says “celebration” like some tasty bubbles, either before or with a celebratory meal! And don’t forget that a voluptuous, round Merlot can be a great choice, particularly if you like to smoke that big bird! As a reminder, the maximum retail of our Value Wines is $21 per bottle, which is wine sleuth code for you should be able to get the bottle for several bucks less with careful shopping. May I have the drumroll, please:
Argyle Vintage Brut 2012. Right now sparkling wine is at the top of our list. Like last year’s sparkling Value Wine Gruet Brut NV (which remains a terrific choice!), this beauty from the State of Oregon presents a great solution for your guests with a taste for expensive Champagne while your budget is decidedly of the beer nature? We sampled the Argyle Vintage Brut 2012 on a trip to Oregon wine country a few months back, and my entire group of four reacted similarly to this delicious sparkler after a long day of Pinot Noir tasting: Wow! What occasion is not made more fun and grin-invoking with a great glass of bubbles? The full-bodied sparkler has lovely tiny bubbles (like the best of Champagne’s efforts) and has a dry, apple and citrus profile with just a hint of toast. Wine Spectator bestowed a very solid 90 rating on this one. Although technically its list price exceeds our maximum for the Value Wines, a quick check on the internet can track down offers within a dollar of our benchmark, so we pushed the envelope just a bit to get some truly great bubbles to your feast!
Alternative selection: If you wish to simultaneously celebrate the timely aid that France provided in America’s history, then I have a terrific European bubbles alternative: Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blancs NV, a Cremant from the region of Burgundy, France. As its name implies, the Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blancs NV is made entirely of Chardonnay grapes from the world-famous Burgundy region. This crisp sparkler has a strong hint of grapefruit and a light profile of toastiness for complexity, making it an excellent cocktail hour wine or a terrific pairing with that hearty dressing or sweet potato side dish due to its refreshing acidity. Fans of blanc de blancs from Champagne may have a very difficult time telling this Cremant from the pricier and more renowned Champagne sparkler in a taste test. At the suggested retail price of $18 per .750 liter bottle, Louis Bouillet Blanc de Blancs NV provides a tremendous bang for your buck, and its quality is clearly demonstrated not only by the source of the Burgundy Chardonnay grapes but also by the respectable 88 rating granted to it by Wine Enthusiast magazine!
Francis Coppola 2014 Director’s Cut Chardonnay. Francis Coppola is an extraordinary film maker, but year in, year out, his clever wine crew at Francis Coppola (which has been separated from his super premium Ingelnook brand) continue to be among the leaders in the value curve of domestic wine. A case in point is the 2014 Director’s Cut Chardonnay from Sonoma County, California. The Francis Coppola 2014 Director’s Cut is in short a pairing Chard, with high acidity to cleanse one’s palate from the cornucopia of rich foods inevitably on the Thanksgiving menu. Its flavor profile is one of rich fruit that melon and just a hint of vanilla on the nose. A smooth, slightly buttery touch will make the classic California Chard fans rejoice. Widely available with the modest retail of just $17, this is a terrific wine to stock up on for the holidays beyond Thanksgiving. Wine Spectator thought highly of this Value Wine, bestowing a solid 87 rating and noting that the Francis Coppola 2014 Director’s Cut Chardonnay from Sonoma County has “a side tone of pineapple, nutmeg and even clove, finishing clean and with simplicity.”
Alternative Selection: Cameron Hughes Lot 486 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay. Kindly forgive your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth if he sounds like a bit of a broken record with this recommendation. The world class negociants at Cameron Hughes have found yet another winner in the Lot 486 Arroyo Seco (Monterrey County) Chardonnay, available widely and on the chwine.com website at a cool $15. This decorated Chardonnay (a 90 point rating and Gold Medal Winner at the 2016 Critics Choice Awards) is not only a great value, but it might be preferred by those who enjoy their Chardonnay a bit more Oakey and full bodied, or as the CH Wine webside suggests, somewhat in the style of Rombauer.
2014 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir. My personal favorite Value Wine Pinot from my summer Oregon travels was the 2014 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir. Sourced from Pinot growers throughout the state of Oregon, the 2014 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir is a balanced, elegant offering that would fool many Pinot fans who taste it in a blind tasting alongside much more decorated wines. An enticing nose and tastes of cherry, strawberry, pomegranate and a hint of vanilla, with light tannins and refreshing acidity combine to add up to a terrific Pinot for your personal collection. Although the 2014 Wine by Joe Pinot has not yet been rated, past vintages have been awarded strong 89 ratings by both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines. At a suggested retail of $19 and its pedigree and sourcing of Oregon grapes, this represents a remarkable bang for the buck. Your guests will love the complex, nuanced Pinot, and you will love the price!
Alternative Selection: Another terrific value from Oregon is the A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2014. Described by Wine Spectatator as “Bright and tangy, with juicy raspberry and lime flavors on a sleek frame….” the 2014 A to Z is widely available, affordable at its $20 retail and has a full, lingering finish despite its apparent medium body. Very satisfying and a worthy consideration for your house Pinot Noir! Cheers!
Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot Alexander Valley 2014. Don’t forget your Big Red fans at the Thanksgiving table. There are lots of great Merlot offerings from Sonoma, Napa and Alexander Valleys that are most definitely Value Wines, starting with the terrific Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot 2014. Your guests will appreciate and enjoy the rounded, full-bodied beauty, which has a flavor profile of dark cherry and spice. This beauty, which retails for a reasonable $20, was featured in a recent Wine Spectator article about great Merlots, and was awarded an impressive 88 rating.
Worth a Splurge Wines:
Veuve Cliquot Brut Yellow Label NV. I recently had the rare opportunity to attend a Veuve Cliquot wine dinner under the supervision of the great chef Kent Rathbun (prayers for a speedy recovery, Kent!) in which each course was paired with a terrific Veuve Cliquot offering. The Brut Yellow Label NV was served as a cocktail and with hearty appetizers, and it occurred to me how good this Champagne was year after year. The most recent NV blend was given excellent 90 ratings by both Wine Spectator and Vinous, both of whom agreed that this classic Champagne is a “go to” offering. The Yellow Label NV has the classic tiny bubbles that are telltale of a well-made, classic French Champagne. Its flavor profile reveals hints of apple, lime and even a light creamy texture, followed by that toasty finish that I so enjoy. Not inexpensive at a $55 retail, but what great things in life are? Your guests will be delighted in your choice of sparklers with this beauty.
Kistler McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2013. I recently had the privilege to sample four Kistler Chards, including one cuvee and 3 single vineyard Chardonnays, without question the one that rang all the bells of my senses was the world-class Kistler McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2013. The 2013 Kistler McCrea beauty, blended from a Sonoma Mountain source, was truly reminiscent of a Burgundy Grand Cru, managing to be elegant, balanced, complex and absolutely thrilling all in one sip. With tones of muted lemon, fresh apples and a hint of creaminess, as well as the minerality that gives this Kistler beauty the complexity and a thrilling, lengthy finish, this Chard would pair impressively with boiled crab, roasted turkey or a zesty green salad. Still very young, the Kistler McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 is very approachable today, particularly when paired with fresh cold cut meats and cheese. The winery recommends cellaring this beauty for 4-8 years–that is, if you can resist popping that cork. No promises on this end, especially with a dozen or so guests rolling in for Thanksgiving! Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate bestowed a strong 94 on this white, which impressive mark was matched by Vinous.
Alternative selection: For less than half the price of the terrific Kistler McCrea Vineyard Chard, a clever alternative, particularly for fans of less oakey Chards, is the Mer Soleil Chardonnay Monterrey County Silver Unoaked 2014. Without the oak flavor, the ripe peach and nectarine flavors of this Chard are front and center. The excellent fruit still manages a complex, almost woodsy finish. A nice surprise at the $24 price point. Wine Spectator likes this one as well, laying a solid 90 on this offering from California.
Elk Cove Goodrich 2014 Pinot Noir. On a visit to Willamette Valley, the many Elk Cove Pinot Noirs that we sample did not disappoint, among them the decorated 2014 Clay Court and 2014 La Bohemme. However, the absolute star of the trip was the Elk Cove Goodrich 2014 Pinot Noir. Layered, polished, lengthy and enticing with its classic profile of cola, bing cherry and a hint of vanilla, this Oregon wine made my mouth come alive. No less an authority than Wine Spectator thought similarly, bestowing a stout 94 rating on the 2014 Goodrich Pinot. Somewhere my late mother, whose family name on her mother’s side was Goodrich, is flashing her trademark grin on this selection, no doubt. And what better way to honor my sainted mother than to have a glass of her family’s namesake Pinot on Thanksgiving? Cheers!
Alternative selection: Stoller’s vineyard in Oregon in a beautiful valley that looked up at the hills rather than the other way around. We sampled several Stoller wines, but the favorite of that tasting was the Stoller Pinot Noir 2014. In most wineries we visited, a cuvee of multiple vineyards was offered along with the pricier single-vineyard varietals. In Stoller’s case, the cuvee was more balanced and the best tasting to our collective palate. Retailing for a reasonable $30, this elegant, layered cuvee would be a great pairing for your Thanksgiving meal. Ratings? Wine Enthusiast bestowed a strong 91 rating on this.
The Prisoner Wine Company Merlot Thorn 2013. For those Big Red fans, a substantial red is more enticing than a lighter-bodied Pinot Noir. In that case, you should strongly consider this rounded, lovely Merlot from The Prisoner Wine Company. At a price of $40, this is a lot of goodness for a reasonable price. Accordingly to the recent Wine Spectator article about California Merlots, the Merlot Thorn 2013 was described as having “…a firm structure,” which “combines with ripe, plush fruit.” With a rating of 91 from Wine Spectator you can present your guests with a world class Big Red alternative without breaking your piggy bank.
Alternative selection: Hall 2013 Merlot. The Hall 2013 Merlot is a favorite of family and friends. While Hall is better known for their remarkable Cabernet Savs, this 2013 Merlot should not be overlooked. Rich flavor profiles of red fruit, milk chocolate and vanilla with a bit of earthiness come to mind when tasting this Big Red. This Hall beauty which retails at $33 is not yet rated, but past vintages have been solidly in the 90’s by the big critics. This wine is a strong candidate for your holiday table!
Wine Thought for the Day:
Finally, I would like to repeat my annual Thanksgiving blessing to each of you. As I continue to, ahem, gain maturity, this holiday’s importance to your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth increases–to thank the Father above for all our blessings: Family, friends, the blessing of living in the country and palates that allow us to discern and enjoy great food and wine:
May you share your Thanksgiving feast with those whom you love and those who love you, and may your plate be filled and your wine glass overflowing…until it’s time to watch the Cowboys game!
Until next month– Cheers!
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