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The Cellar: 21 Great Wines For Thanksgiving Day

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Don't get caught fretting next week about wine for your Thanksgiving feast... use this guide to get stocked up this weekend.

Thanksgiving is upon us and it is time to stock our wine cabinets, nooks or crannies with wine. This year we here at ‘The Cellar’ have decided to give you a few more pointers than usual. This year’s recommendations span across three popular prices points; the comfortable $10-$15 range, the ‘special occasion’ $25-$35 range, and the ‘once in a rare while’ $50 price point. The way I look at it; either you are hosting this year’s Thanksgiving dinner and will need a couple of wines for the table, or, you will be a guest and, as a good guest, be bringing a good bottle as a hostess gift.

Comfortably priced: $10-$15

Don't think because you're spending less, you're not getting great wines. This year’s $10-$15 recommendations are all featured on Wine Enthusiasts Magazine list of the top 100 Wines of 2012. While some people dislike the whole rating system as a matter of principle, others take as it is – a group of experienced wine tasters opinions. This year’s list consists of 30% American wines, approximately 45% European wines, with the remaining made up of wines from South America, South Africa, as well as Australia and New Zealand. This year the varietal that scooped up the most top 100 spots was Riesling.

Riesling is a great white wine to choose when you are having people over as they pair with a wide range of foods and come as both dry wines and slightly sweet – a style that a lot of people like. The highest placed Riesling is the widely available $9 2010 Dry Riesling from Chateau St. Michelle. As the name of the wines indicates this is a completely dry wine. If you would like a Riesling with a hint of sweetness go for the 2010 Dr. L Riesling from Mosel’s Loosen Brothers, which also placed high. Don’t worry if you can’t find the specific vintages mentioned here. Both of these producers make solid wines year after year - you won’t be disappointed. (Check out the entire Top 100 list here.)

Special-occasion priced: $25-$35

I usually bring two reds to my Thanksgiving party; one that is light and one that is medium to full-bodied. The lighter red is almost always a west coast Pinot Noir or a French Burgundy (also a Pinot Noir). Generally speaking, American Pinots tend to be a little riper, richer and fruit forward, than Burgundies that tend to be lighter and display earthier aromas and more savory flavors. In the $25-$35 price range it is very difficult to go wrong with a Pinot from Oregon producers Bethel Heights, Adelsheim, King Estate or Benton Lane. La Crema is a great Californian producer, so is David Bruce, Foxen and DeLoach. While it can be hard to find good, cheap Burgundies there are producers, like Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard and Louis Jadot, that make great wines in this price range.

Luxury priced: up to $50

If you’re looking for a bigger wine and don’t mind spending up to $50 I suggest you look at either a Cabernet or Merlot from California or a Grenache or Syrah based wine from France’s Rhone Valley. When spending fifty bucks on a single bottle of wine, most people want a ‘sure thing’ – a wine everyone will like and preferably one with some name recognition. There are a lot great Californian producers with wines in the $50 range. Iconic producers that pop to mind include Joseph Phelps, Jordan, Hall, Duckhorn, Provenance, Chateau Montelena, Rombauer and Stags Leap but there are plenty others.

You’ll find that a lot of these wines are big and massively concentrated with ripe dark fruit and soft, sometimes sweet tannins. If you are feeling adventurous in your search of a big and hearty red you could look to France and its northern Rhone Syrahs (Hermitage, Cote-Rotie, Cornas, etc). If you do however, be prepared for some spicy wines filled with flavors of olive, iron, pepper, smoke and game. if you want to stay in the Rhone but play it a bit safer go for a Chateauneuf du Pape. While equally big, the Grenache based Chateauneufs are usually softer with more pronounced and riper fruit flavors.

Don’t be afraid to ask your wine merchant for assistance when making your selection. Regardless of which wine you choose in the $50 category be sure to let it breathe in a decanter for at least 2 hours before serving it (alternative = an empty, clean, 1 gallon milk container) as this will soften the tannins and make it more approachable.    

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]. And as always, don’t forget to follow GoLocalProv’s Wine Cellar on Facebook and sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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