Giving thanks... for the perfect wine

by Richard Frisbie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday November 14, 2009

"A Thanksgiving wine should have a medium body, be lower in tannins and able to handle the complexity of flavors offered in a Thanksgiving meal," said Katrin Naelapaa, director of Wines from Spain.

Katrin Naelapaa is talking about red Spanish wines here, specifically those made from Garnacha grapes. They are reliably fruit forward, easy to drink wines that pair well with turkey and all of the trimmings. She suggested Tres Ojos Garnacha 2007, Evodia Garnacha 2007, Borsao Tres Picos 2007, and Las Rocas 2006. Each has a fruity taste and fragrant nose and is widely available in the US for under $12 a bottle.

Other Red Wines

The garnacha grape is frequently used in red blends, too. For a fuller more complex taste there is another Spanish wine, a Rioja, Campo Viejo 2006 Crianza. ($10) Here the primary grape is Tempranillo, but Garnacha is added to create a smooth, hearty companion to turkey with all the trimmings.

Stronger flavors can handle stronger wines. Three reasonably priced reds that might also work for you are:

  • Rancho Zabaco Heritage Vines Zinfandel 2007 ($15) is a California wine with a deep ruby red color and nose of dark fruits. It’s a big and bold mouthful of classic zinfandel flavor. Let it breathe for the best taste.
  • Dow’s Vale Do Bomfim DOC 2007 ($12) is a Portuguese wine with a rich red color and fruity nose. It was smooth in the mouth with light acidity and not too tannic. The strong finish only got better the longer it was open.
  • Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Noir 2008 ($16) is a New Zealand wine with a thin, clear red color, more oaky than fruity on the nose. There was some bitterness and acidity that made me think I could also cook with it to bring out the best flavor. I imagine it would work well in Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq au vin.

    If your pockets are deeper, you might try one of these reds: Gordon Brothers Merlot 2007 from Columbia Valley, Washington ($25), Ilsley ’Single Vineyard Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa Valley ($55), or the Pine Ridge Stag Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($80). Each will give you a hearty, smooth and fruity accompaniment to your meal. None will disappoint.

  • White Wines Would Work

    Maybe you’d prefer a white wine - fragrant and fruity, not too much oak - for a Thanksgiving dinner. We’re talking about chardonnay now. Your favorite would work fine, but this one is very good if you don’t have a favorite: Clos du Bois Sonoma Reserve Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2007. ($18)

    If a semi-dry to dry white with a hint of minerality is your choice, look to a Riesling. Washington State produces many inexpensive Rieslings, and New York’s Finger Lakes Region is famous for their award-winning Rieslings. These New York wineries produced Gold Medal Winners at the Riesling du Monde International Riesling Competition in Strasbourg, France in 2008:

  • Chateau LaFayette Reneau
  • Dr. Konstantin Frank
  • Fox Run
  • Glenora Wine Cellars
  • Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards

    You could also go to the source, Germany, where Riesling was invented. A palatable and not too sweet option is Clean Slate Riesling Mosel Germany 2008 ($12).

    Finally, any one of the Soave wines from Italy would work as a dryer, smoother alternative to the German Rieslings. The Grisela, Soave Classico Doc, from the Italian winery, Tessari, was particularly pleasing at a recent tasting. ($10)

    There you have it, an opinionated and informed look at various wines to serve for Thanksgiving. Picking wines can be daunting. When in doubt, remember the wines you’ve enjoyed in the past. Look for the same grower. Try their other varieties and/or vintages. Then look for the same grapes. Try different wineries’ selections with those grapes. You’ll soon find what suits your palate. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  • Richard Frisbie is a bookseller and publisher in New York State whose food & wine travel articles appear in LGBTQ and regional periodicals, as-well-as at, and He accepts free copies of books for review, restaurant meals to critique, bottles of wine and liquor for tastings, and all-expense-paid trips in exchange for articles about the destinations. He is paid for these articles. Richard promotes informed, authentic information about food, wine and travel, and does not allow the financial arrangements and/or sponsorship to affect his judgment. You can email him at: [email protected]

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