Years ago I realized that Pinot Noir and Beaujolais are the perfect Thanksgiving wines for really enjoying the big bird.

It’s probably my French DNA that loves great these two so much… The earthy notes, the round, voluptuous flavors that fill my mouth, and send essences of rich, rip plums to my taste buds. Maybe it’s all my years in New England and hanging out in forests, living on lakes and swimming in them throughout lazy summer day in that humid environment… This all speaks great French wines to me; and, when they present themselves, I’m once again thankful for it all coming back around once more.

Lately, when I’ve been queried with holiday suggests for wines, it’s been the Pinot Noirs that I’ve said, “sure” to, passing on other suggestions… I know what I want, I know what I like; and with Thanksgiving, it had better be something else outstanding other than Pinot or I’ll disappoint whomever is querying me. (I’d rather turn someone down, than to let someone down, honestly.)


This Thanksgiving is going to be starting out with Bubbly. This past year, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards sent her latest sparkling releases to me. I reviewed them, but I saved one.

2007 Iron Horse Joy ! ~ “Joy! is produced exclusively in magnums. The current Joy! is 100 percent Chardonnay, 13 plus years on the yeast in the bottle. A gorgeous combination of elegance, refinement and power. Each bottle is labeled with the disgorgement date.” Only 300 magnums exist…Now, only 299, thank you very much!($179.00)

It’s easy to see why this one needed to be saved. I wanted to savor it, and give it its rightful place.

For appetizers, I just tasted a Pinot Noir with friends, and realized that I’d not ordinarily serve a Pinot with appetizers, but this Pinot, because of it’s 14.3 percent alcohol, qualifies for purist of Pinotphiles. Here’s why: I just finished reading a wonderful book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine & Food Pairing,” by Jaclyn Stuart and Jeannette Hurt. On page 74, it reads, “With cheeses and dairy products, consider the intensity. Aged and blue cheeses can stand up to stronger wines, while fresh and mild cheeses will be overwhelmed by heavier wines. Wines with acidity can cut through the fat and richness of both cheeses and cream sauces…”

  • 2009 Sonoma Coast Vineyards, Freestone Hills Pinot Noir. The cheese? Try a Matos St. George, from Santa Rosa, CA. This wine, with its rich, deep flavors of black cherry and ripe, rich black raspberry is no shrinking violet. It’s 100 percent Pinot, and one might guess otherwise, if the tasting notes weren’t readily available. (Clones: Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, 828, and Pommard, Wild yeast fermentation followed by Assmanhausen yeast inoculation.) If you’re going to be serving a big, hard cheese, like the Matos St. George, this Pinot will work perfectly. (SRP $40)


Several Options ~ All Highly Recommended ~ From Around the Globe


  • 2009 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir ~ Martinborough, New Zealand.  A gem from the Martinborough region of New Zealand, it has flavors of black plum, cassis, licorice, and black pepper spice that will bring out the rich flavor of a thanksgiving goose. New Zealand makes great Pinot Noirs, which I discovered with I was working with Mills Reef Winery. The Craggy Range Pinot comes from the Martinborough appellation (north island at the extreme south end), which is a coastal, cool climate. I have to admit that this is the Pinot that was drained after our tasting, which turned into a food and wine pairings at Chinois Asian Bistro once we were done only evaluating the wines. This tells me that the 2009 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot is a crowd pleaser. (SRP $34)


  • 2009 Louis Jadot, Beaujolais Villages, Beaujolais, France. I love when Louis Jadot is in the house. Always a tasting delight, delivering that French heritage that I mentioned above (from my Ouelette and Bernier lines, rhymes with Viognier). This Beaujolais has lovely raspberries and plum on the nose, with a hint of grey pepper and rose hips. On the palate, this well balanced wine has flavors of dark juicy cherries, and the grey pepper still remains. It has good acidity and soft tannins on the finish.  This one is perfect for the breast part of the turkey, and is the best value on the planet. (SRP: $8)
  • 2009 The Crossings Awatere Valley ~ Marlborough, New Zealand. Pinot Noir is naturally suited to the soils and climate of The Crossings’ higher altitude, upper valley vineyards from which the grapes were sourced. This wine had earthy mushroom aromas and flavors, and was the more juicy of the two New Zealand Pinots. I got aromas of cherries, but then found strawberries and blueberries flavors on my palate with fine earth notes and black pepper spice. As light as the color was with this Pinot, it is definitely a very complex wine. French oak barrels had something to do with its complexity, to be sure. A dark turkey meat companion, it’s very delicious and a great value. (SRP: $13)


  • 2009 Llai Llai, Bio Bio Valley, Chile. This Pinot comes from 300 miles south of Santiago, and 30 miles west of the Pacific Ocean. Another cool climate grape, with the advantages being that of a slow ripening environment, this is another lovely Pinot Noir.. with a very playful name. This wine had a distinct character of mint… which would be my one rack of lamb suggestion, but still enjoyable for traditional birds. This Pinot leads with juicy black plums, and also delivers a good amount of black pepper. This wine presents the greatest value of all of the Pinots tasted. (SRP: $12)

[Image is borrowed from the Fonseca Website.]


For the post-poultry party, consider a port with your pumpkin or pecan pie ~ SWEET WITH SWEET.

  • Fonseca Bin 27, Portugal. The velvety, full-bodied Fonseca Bin 27 opens with deep aromas of blackberry and cassis, offsetting the nutmeg and cinnamon flavors of either traditional Thanksgiving dessert. In no other Port house is the inherited tradition of winemaking skills and knowledge more evident than at Fonseca Guimaraens. This winery has made Port wines since its foundation in 1822. The style of their Ports is of warmth and luscious fruit flavors. More round and soft rather than massive, Fonseca Ports are enjoyed for their fabulous flavors. Not my prerogative, but there will be some who’ll bring out big cigars for this one, while I’m heading for my annual pecan pie. [Try using the more healthy agave syrup instead of corn syrup when you make your pie…. This is my one segue from my mother’s recipe… and add 1/4 cup of Fonseca Port for more tasty and seamless flavors.] (SRP $19)

If you’re wondering why my suggestions aren’t all from America, it’s because we’re a land of immigrants; hence wines from around the globe: France, Chile, Portugal, and New Zealand, with a couple of California offerings…

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