The traditional Thanksgiving meal shared with family and friends features turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie and wine. While the Pilgrims may not have served the last item, today Thanksgiving is America's foremost meal for serving wine.
But selecting wine for Thanksgiving has its challenges. The wines must go well with a wide variety of dishes and must appeal to a wide variety of family members and friends.
Wines that pair well with traditional Thanksgiving fare combine fruit with refreshing crispness. There are many choices; however, wines such as tannic Cabernet Sauvignons and oaky Chardonnays are best avoided.
Appealing to the varied tastes of different family members and friends is easy. Whether buying two or 10 bottles, make each a different wine.
SLO Wine Country
A recent trip to California's Central Coast increased my exposure to wines from the San Luis Obispo region, also known as SLO ("slow") Wine Country. I was impressed that many wines from the region are ideal for Thanksgiving, so I suggest having a SLO Thanksgiving.
SLO wineries average only five miles from the Pacific Coast, so ocean breezes moderate temperatures throughout the growing season. Therefore, this cool-climate area produces many wines with clean fruit flavors and crisp acidity. Key grapes are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with aromatic whites such as Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner. In other words, SLO Wine Country produces wines that pair well with many Thanksgiving dishes while pleasing different wine lovers.
Here are several SLO wines I recommend for Thanksgiving:
Effort 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé "Edna Valley" ($18): Dry rosés can be excellent choices for Thanksgiving, especially those made with Pinot Noir. This beauty is very crisp, has expressive fruit on the finish, features smooth texture and is very food friendly. Only available from www.centerofeffortwine.com.
Zocker 2013 Gruner Veltliner "Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley" ($20): SLO Wine Country has several grape varieties uncommon in California. Gruner Veltliner is a white-wine grape best known from Austria. This SLO Gruner is a refined, intriguing wine with crisp acidity, expressive fruit and a flavorful, extended finish.
Chamisal 2013 Pinot Noir "Stainless, Central Coast" ($24): Pinot Noir is the perfect red wine for Thanksgiving. This nicely priced example sees no oak, being fermented in stainless steel. I enjoyed its fruit, fine balance and impressively complex aromas and flavors.
Stephen Ross 2012 Chardonnay "Edna Valley" ($24): This Chardonnay has a bit more oak than some Chards from SLO Wine Country, but the oak is very well-integrated. This allows fruit and crispness to shine, making this a food friendly Chardonnay. Only available from www.stephenrosswine.com.
Laetitia non-vintage sparkling wine "Brut Cuvee, Arroyo Grande Valley" ($25): Sparkling wines can be excellent choices for Thanksgiving, as many go well with various dishes. The Laetitia in particular has enough fruit and crispness for the Thanksgiving table. I loved its long, strong finish.
Claiborne & Churchill 2012 Dry Riesling "Estate, Central Coast" ($28): A prime purveyor of Alsatian-style wines, Claiborne & Churchill offers a dry Riesling with fruit that is well-balanced by acidity and also features beautiful yellow-gold color and a wonderful finish. The 2011 vintage is in Arizona, but the 2012 vintage is available from www.claibornechurchill.com.
Tolosa 2012 Pinot Noir "Tolosa Vineyards, Edna Valley" ($32): The first sip expresses a leaner style than many Pinots from the great 2012 vintage. However, flavors round out by mid-palate, exhibiting great development in the mouth as complexity builds into a beautiful, lingering finish. An earlier vintage is in Arizona, but the 2012 vintage is available from www.tolosawinery.com.
Niner 2012 Pinot Noir "Edna Valley" ($35): The first sip of this striking wine explodes with rich fruit delivered with decadently smooth texture. This first impression is followed by notable complexity and beautiful balance that extend through an exceptional finish. A truly memorable wine.