Yes there are other wines you can have for Thanksgiving (in fact, you can have whatever the hell you want!) but if you want something that will cross the vastness of a meal with turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, dressing,1 greens, gravy, and on and on, without either overpowering the food or being overpowered, then Pinot Noir is the way to go.2 Pinot Noir is a natural for poultry, pork, roasted vegetables, football, lounging…you get the point. That’s what makes it perfect for Thanksgiving. As my first wine love, it always occupies a special place in my wine cellar. Here are some that I’ve purchased lately or have been sent to me to try. Thanks to my #WineSquad for their always honest (and sometimes brutal) opinions.
2016 Ammunition Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, CA ($28)
Talk about the All-American Wine. Well known for their “The Equalizer” Red Blend,3 I’m happy to say that they also craft some tasty Pinot Noir. A vision of two guys who shared a dream, the Ammunition wines are crafted to celebrate the American way of life. Sporting the classic American eagle on the bottles, the goal was to create a wine “of the highest caliber” for hunters and outdoorsmen. But no worries if you’re not a hunter or outdoorsman as these wines have a wide appeal. Crafted of Pinot Noir from both Carneros and Russian River Valley, the Ammunition Pinot Noir provides head on aromas of roses and cherries. This one is definitely on the more full bodied end of the Pinot Noir scale. Smooth tannins and acidity on the lower end of the scale makes for a wine that has a softness to it. In the mouth, it dances on the tongue while offering up cherry, cedar, vanilla, and a hint of cola. Great for the dinner table or when you’re stretched out (in stretchy pants) watching the game. #DontJudgeMe. This one was quite a hit with one of the members of my #WineSquad.
The sister brand of Napa’s Amici Cellars, Olema primarily focuses on Sonoma wines, but also makes a Provencal Rosé.5 After a long tenured success with Amici, the proprietors shifted their focus to create an everyday wine that emphasizes fruit and terroir. Enter Olema. All of their Sonoma wines – the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir – are consistent and garner praise year after year. Crafted of Pinot Noir from the Russian River and Sonoma Coast, this has notes of lush, ripe black cherry, baking spice, and vanilla along with some earthy mushroom. Round and smooth with easygoing tannins, it’s quite the tasty sipper with an amazing QPR given the complexity. Lots of versatility with this one that could go from Thanksgiving to pizza to beyond. Available for purchase at Total Wine and Wine.com
I’ve been fortunate to recently attend a few different tastings featuring Pinot Noir from Italy’s Alto Adige region and have been quite impressed by the wines. Who knew I had an untapped region for Pinot? Better late than never! Peter Zemmer is one of the region’s most renowned wine-growers/winemakers and an ardent supporter of the region’s wines. In the tiny 600-person village of Cortina (a world-renowned ski resort and host of the 1956 Winter Olympic Games), high in Italy’s Dolomite Alpes, Zemmer runs the eponymous winery and vineyards founded by his grandfather in 1928. With high altitude and limestone soils, the is a high-acid, light-bodied wine anchored by plum, light cherry, and minerality that craves to be paired with food. Just be sure to give it time to open up.
2017 Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand ($18)
Villa Maria manages to be the #1 wine brand in New Zealand and yet still remain family owned with a commitment to sustainability and organic winemaking.7 I first had this one during a Snooth wine chat and must say that I’m quite impressed with Villa Maria’s entire lineup. I’ve gone back to this one as its more widely distributed so much easier to find.8 With an earthy funk9 on the nose, it offers of bright crisp cherry and cranberry along with some graphite and spice. A high acid wine that can certainly cut through all those Thanksgiving calories.
2016 Nice Notorious Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, CA ($40)
Located in Houston, Nice Winery is such a gem in the city. Those in the know, absolutely love them and those who have yet to discover them will wish they had sooner. With sustainably farmed wines from their estate vineyards in California, Argentina, Washington, and Texas, the folks at Nice Wines craft, well, nice wines. I recall my first visit there over a year ago and have been going back ever since.10 Even more impressive than the wines,11 is the ever-present charitable theme woven throughout their wine business. With several wines in their portfolio designated to raise funds for various charities, it’s so easy to drink for a cause.12 I first had their Pinot at a wine tasting at the winery, so of course, I had to bring some home. This one is pure silk with nuanced cranberry, black plum, mocha, and smokiness.13
- We’re fond of dressing rather than stuffing down yonder.
- My other Thanksgiving go-to is sparkling wine which can also take on such a meal.
- I’ve seen it at both Total Wine and Spec’s.
- Provided as a sample; however all opinions are my own.
- Check out this year’s Rose roundup for more on the Olema Rose, which I loved.
- Provided as a sample; however all opinions are my own.
- Villa Maria has been a member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (“SWNZ”) since its inception in 1995 and was the first major New Zealand winery to achieve BioGro organic certification.
- I’ve seen this one at Spec’s in Houston and at Wine.com.
- Funk is OK in wine life.
- The folks at Nice Wines are all about crafting great wines and educating consumers. Be sure to check their events calendar for one of the many wine themed events they host throughout the year.
- And they are impressive. I recently had their Vixen wine and man oh man!
- The story of their Ariana white wine which raises money for those with congenital heart defects will definitely tug at the heart.
- Wines available for purchase through the winery.