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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giving Thanks with a Passion for Pinot

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This is the one meal that gets more wine recommendations than any other, and I guess that makes sense as many folks only have one chance a year to get it right. While many writers and experts will take the diplomatic high-road and tell you that there is no one perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner. I would have to say for the most part that I agree with that premise, because of vast variety of flavors and profiles of the food being served. But I can't resist the urge to buck that trend and take a contrarian view and suggest a single type of wine.

However, if you want to make it easy on yourself, I would suggest having a few different bottles standing by to cover all your bases. In that case I would recommend two Chardonnays, Two Pinot Noirs and Two bottles of bubbly. You don't have to spend a arm an leg either to get some good quality vino. But if you are a little more daring and want to stay with a theme, may I recommend this Thanksgiving that you develop a "Passion for Pinot Noir."

Lets say if you were to take a look around the web at this very moment, you're sure to find a plethora of suggestions from a cornucopia of wine writers, wine bloggers, wine snobs and maybe even your parents with picks ranging from Torrontes to Tannat, from Merlot to Muscat and even a Moet & Chandon (White Star). But I'm taking a different tact and I'm recommending "A Passion for Pinot" (not the book but the wine, Pinot Noir) is the ticket to having an outstanding Thanksgiving meal, with a wine that will meld effortlessly with your meal and will garner you high praise from either your guests or your host.

Is there a problem with my recommendations, I don't think so? However some may think the meal itself is the problem. It can be so varied and different in many homes that to name just one wine as "the one" could just be a mistake [perhaps]. As we all know there's no one wine which is perfect with every food and since we are all in agreement that this is the case I going to give a specific recommendation based solely on the traditionally observed Thanksgiving meal, with the Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy, Corn on the Cob, Green Bean Casserole, Yams,  Pan de Sal Rolls, Cranberry Sauce and homemade Pumpkin Pie.

So is you are planning on serving ToFu Turkey or some other substitute for your Thanksgiving meal, well you may want to check into a different wine for your meal, sorry these recommnedations won't work for you. Please let me upfront with you, there is nothing wrong with alternate choices when it comes to how you may want to enjoy Thanksgiving, this is America after all and variety is the name of the game.

That being said, I am going to suggest a what I will call a patriotic [just my opinion] choice this year and recommend getting yourself an [said, the way John Wayne use to pronounced it] Ameri-caaa [Oregon, RRV or SBC] Pinot Noir. Why because all of these wines have an elegant earthiness and lovely red-berry overtones which makes them the perfect choice and in my [not so humble] opinion these are the characteristics which makes Pinot Noir a prime choice for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Hey it's not just my opinion either, oh no a certain Jordan MacKay, Robert Holmes and Andrea Johnson in their book, "A Passion for Pinot" emphasize that "California and Oregon are home to Pinots greatest expressions in the New World." with all due respect to our friends across the "pond" in Burgundy, who really make a different "expression" of Pinot Noir, which I don't think would be conducive to taking on a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Further, seeing that I'm basing my opinion on having tasted plenty of both Old World and New World Pinot Noirs, that American Pinots high expression style will win the day.You don't have to agree it's okay to be wrong, I won't hold it against you.

Other Voices: To lend further credibility to my premise here, I've found another voice promoting my point of view, who's none other the the very well respected,  Mr. Eric Asimov who has been quoted to say, "If any grape would be at home in the pose of the femme fatale—smoke curling from its lips, long, irresistible legs crossed as another winemaker is sent to his doom—it would be Pinot Noir."  That would definitely be the guest I want invited to my Thanksgiving dinner, how about you?

This quote above should be the slam dunk affirmation you need to make up your mind which wine you are going to have with your Thanksgiving meal this year, hands down. What say you?

Finally who can deny this statement from the book A Passion For Pinot where this quote is taken, "Silky, complex, and incredibly versatile, Pinot Noir is the perfect food wine; full of charm and intrigue, it drinks beautifully on its own." That's well said and I could not agree more, thus I have compiled a list of wines from these regions which should grab your attention and take your Thanksgiving dinner to new and memorable heights.

I've come up with a list of American (New World) Pinot Noirs that I have recommended over the years. Why? Because these wines are not too hard to find and two, many of them are "reasonably" priced and finally, I've chosen these wines because they are consistent year after year. If you are unable to find a Pinot Noir from the list below and you come across one that has been gathering dust on some wine store shelf for quite awhile, that could mean trouble and you may want to avoid it altogether.

For example: If the wine has not been properly stored. Meaning, standing upright, with an inconsistent temperature environment, in the sun or direct light or a unstable shelf , its palatability could be suspect. On the contrary if the wine is "old" but stored properly, then I would say you're good to go. Sorry if I did not name your favorite PN's, so please don't be offended, instead feel free to offer your choice in the comments sections as I am sure they would be welcomed. Further don't just be a lurker, feel free to make a suggestion, after all this suppose to be a conversation and not a monologue.

Pricing: The prices which are listed are broadly representative, but can vary widely and while I am saying these are great choices they don't represent a best of the best list by any stretch.

Regarding Availability: While I wouldn't expect many stores to have all of these recommendations, you should be able to find them via the links I have provided below and are good examples of wines you may want to consider.

MY PICKS:

CAMBRIA 07 PN JULIA'S, 2007 (Santa Barbara County). $18.99. Great acidity, some spice and with all kind of cranberry and strawberry fruit that, obviously, is perfect for the meal. Complex, interesting, affordable and easy to find in most stores.

Patricia Green 2007 Estate OV Estate Old Vine Oregon, 2007 $29.99 Beautiful color, with a rich, a spicy and sensuous nose. The taste is voluptious and plush, with minerals, earth and great Pinot fruit. Interesting from start to finish.

Taz 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County Taz, 2007 $17.99 This wine had a very soft floral note, leaning toward the strawberry end of the flavor spectrum and the smell (rich and filled with berries). The taste is just classy, well-balanced and don't be afraid of some varietal funk. Nicely intense and won't compete for your palates attention amongst the plentiful bounty before you.

Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2007 750ml, 2007 $18.99 A light ruby colored core, bakers spice notes wrapped around well honed tannins, black cherry and cranberry are present in the nose of this Pinot. The palate presents a rich core of opulent fruit. Lots of cherry, blackberry round out the it subtle spices, that are underscored by a persistent layer of acidity that keeps everything balanced. This wine can also be found at most San Diego Costco's.

2007 Chehalem Pinot Noir 3 Vineyard Willamette Valley, 2007 $19.99 This smooth wine is fruit forward featuring bright raspberry and strawberry nuances, lively acidity, medium-high tannins, medium-high oak, and complex flavors. It is balanced, and has a medium finish. Overall, its appeal is attractive and would compliment your Thanksgiving meal nicely.

Testarossa Sleepy Hollow Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 2007 $39.99 An explosive burst of cherry and plum with underlying cedar and fruitcake spice notes make up the nose of this single vineyard Pinot Noir. Vibrant Pinot flavors in a very drinkable package featuring bright fruit yet light enough to complement everything on the table without adding yet another big taste.

Byron Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 2008: This is a wine my advertiser the Wine Chateau is selling for $21.97 and if you use the offer code below you can save some green. I actually purchased the one I tasted the other day from BevMo [who happens to be selling it for the same price]. This one fantastic Pinot Noir for the money, bursting with cola, sweet baking spices and cranberry flavors. It's light bodied and has great acidity making it very mouth watering. From the first sip to the last drop, flat out fantastic and I would decant this wine to fully release all of its wondrous complexities.

I want to wish everyone a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, watch some football, eat too much, catch up with family you may only see once a year and by all means enjoy a great glass of wine or two. Until next time, sip long and prosper, Cheers!

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3 comments:

Youngberg Hill said...

Although the 2007 Oregon Pinot noir has gotten some bad press due to difficult weather during harvest, it is nice to see that you have identified that the 2007s are still some fabulous wines. I will suggest however, that patience will be greatly rewarded by letting these wines age for 4 to 5 years. In the meantime there are still some great 2006s out there.

Bill Eyer said...

I totally agree with you about having patience for the 2007s, I typically don't wait as long as you have suggested. But when I get in the current years releases I tend to wait a year or more before I open them up. Hey took a look at your B & B. Looks great, next time I stop in OR I will have to stop by.

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