Selecting wines for Thanksgiving is always challenging, because wines need to be both people- and food-flexible. People-flexible is a key because Thanksgiving brings together family and friends with diverse wine experiences and preferences. Food-flexible is important because a wide variety of dishes are served at Thanksgiving.
To meet these challenges this Thanksgiving, I’ve turned to Oregon wines. Not only is Oregon famed for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, two very popular and flexible grape varieties ideal for Thanksgiving, but also Oregon’s wine style of clean, lean, subtle and crisp pairs well with many different dishes.
Another very interesting aspect of Oregon wines was revealed when I calculated the average production of the state’s wineries was only 5,600 cases per year. That’s remarkably small for a major wine-producing state and implies Oregon wines express high craftsmanship and sense of place.
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Here are my favorites from recent tastings:
A to Z (by Rex Hill) 2015 Pinot Gris “Oregon” ($15). An excellent buy with an expressive personality, starting with its strong, complex nose and carrying through a palate featuring forward fruit nicely paired with refreshingly crisp acidity.
Montinore 2014 Pinot Gris “Willamette Valley” ($16). Beautiful yellow-gold color and a forward nose presage a palate that features rich fruit. With sipping, complexity builds to become equally expressive with fruit during a lingering finish.
King Estate 2015 Pinot Gris “Willamette Valley” ($19). Strong personality is apparent throughout, from hints of gold in the glass to forward fruit on the nose to refreshing acidity on the palate to a lengthy, forward finish. For an upgrade on the palate, seek its sibling King Estate 2015 Pinot Gris “Domaine, Willamette Valley” ($29) online.
Elouan 2015 Pinot Noir “Oregon” ($25). Outstanding color depth and beautiful hue catch the eye, but forward fruit, fine balance and surprising refinement for its moderate price clinches this Pinot Noir as a prime choice in its price range.
Elouan 2015 Rosé “Oregon” ($25). This first vintage of a Rosé from Elouan has deep pink color and a forward nose leading to flavors featuring expressive fruit, attractive complexity, fine integration, refreshing crispness and impressive length on the finish.
Ponzi 2014 Pinot Noir “Tavola, Willamette Valley” ($27). This is a fine choice in its price range with engaging development in the mouth as the fruit-forward attack is joined by increases in complexity throughout an extended finish. For a step up, consider the Ponzi 2014 Pinot Noir “Classico, Willamette Valley” ($43). Both are available online from ponziwines.com.
Drouhin 2014 Pinot Noir “Roserock, Eola-Amity Hills” ($35). My favorite Pinot Noir in its price range is wonderfully refined yet possesses impressive power. The nose has exceptional strength and complexity, and the palate has outstanding strength, complexity and length. For an even finer Pinot Noir, seek the Domaine Drouhin 2014 “Dundee Hills” ($45) online at domainedrouhin.com.
Elk Cove 2012 dessert wine “Ultima, Willamette Valley” ($36; 375 ml). Made mostly of Riesling grapes from an exceptional vintage, this rich dessert wine has concentrated, beautifully textured, well-balanced, complex flavors. Sure to appeal to wine novices and experts alike.
Chehalem 2013 Chardonnay “Ian’s Reserve, Willamette Valley” ($40). Oregon Chardonnays are generally excellent food wines, given their lean-ish style that focuses on fruit and balance. This fine wine beautifully develops in the mouth through an extended finish.
Erath 2014 Pinot Noir “Willakia Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills” ($60). This wonderful Pinot Noir is beautiful in the glass. Swirl and forward complexity is revealed. Sip and enjoy excellent balance, impressive complexity and a long, highly polished finish.
Van Duzer 2013 Pinot Noir “Saffron Fields Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton” ($60). I tasted this wine an hour after opening and was quite impressed. I returned to it an hour later and was stunned how much further it had opened to provide an engagingly wonderful tasting experience of strength coupled with superb complexity. Available from vanduzer.com.
Argyle 2005 sparkling wine “Brut, Extended Triage, Willamette Valley” ($75). Sparklers are another wine style to consider serving at Thanksgiving, as they are widely popular. This excellent example has years of maturity and features fine balance, refined froth and an expressive, long-lingering finish.
Zena Crown 2013 Pinot Noir “Slope, Single Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills” ($75). This superb, introspective Pinot Noir is beautifully purple-hued and features a refined nose. I loved its forwardness on the palate and impressive complexity, both elegantly expressed.
Chehalem 2013 Pinot Noir “Reserve, Ridgecrest Vineyards, Ribbon Ridge” ($80). Very smooth, refined and wonderfully balanced from first sip. Strength and expression grow, but this highly polished, exceptional wine retains its elegance throughout and finishes beautifully. More moderately priced, but still a very fine wine is the Chehalem 2014 Pinot Noir “Ridgecrest Vineyards, Ribbon Ridge” ($50).
John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears every month and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday. All wines can be ordered from local wine stores, except as noted. Prices may vary. John can be reached at email@example.com.