by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
As we head into the holiday season, we should stop and count on blessings. The last two years have been challenging for all of us – devastating for the families of those who lost loved ones to COVID. Giving thanks is literally at the root of Thanksgiving. Let’s not forget to do that when we sit down at the dining table.
We give thanks to our loyal readers who have nourished us for more than 32 years of writing this column. And, as is traditional at this time of year, we recommend wines to pair with the typical feast of turkey and all the trimmings.
This year we focus on pinot noir and chardonnay, versatile wines that complement the neutral flavors of turkey but also marry well with side dishes ranging from sweet to spicy. Next week we’ll offer suggestions for some very special, albeit expensive, pinot noirs for those of you who are having a smaller dinner or who wish to bring a nice gift for the host.
While next week’s more expensive pinot noirs are complex, extracted and often tannic, this week’s pinot noirs are relatively simple because they don’t see the same kind of oak aging and are not from grapes culled from top vineyards. They are lighter and arguably more suited to a neutral food like turkey.
Here are a dozen pinot noirs that won’t disappoint for the price:
La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019 ($25). We have a friend who prefers this wine over all others and we can see why. For the price --- often seen for far less – you get a melangê of red berry flavors. It’s simple but oh so delicious.
Marques Casa Concha Pinot Noir 2019 ($25). Another good value in pinot noir, this Chilean version has strawberry aromas and flavors of cherries and raspberries with a dash of licorice. Simple yet delicious.
Ritual Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir 2017 ($20). This organic wine from Chile represents a good value in pinot noir. Floral, violet aromas with bright cherry and raspberry flavors. Silky in texture and medium body.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 ($20). Balanced and loaded with bright black cherry fruit and a bit of spice. It has an earthy profile too.
Bogle California Pinot Noir 2019 ($11). Bogle makes good wine for the price in every category. This fruit-forward, juicy pinot noir has blackberry, blueberry and cherry flavors.
Benziger Monterey County Pinot Noir 2019 ($20). You can count on this biodynamically farmed property to produce a clean, pure wine year after year. We liked the herbal aromas and complex raspberry and plum flavors.
Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2019 ($19). This producer can be counted on to make a reliable pinot noir year after year. Lavender and anise aromas give way to a variety of flavors that include cranberry, cherry and plum.
Olema Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2019 ($20). Made by Amici Cellars, this pinot noir from several Sonoma appellations is a winner year after year. Floral, rose petal aromas with lively red fruit flavors, hint of cinnamon and a seductive mouthfeel.
Head High Pinot Noir 2019 ($20). Bill Price III of Three Sticks fame and other top-drawer properties is among the names behind this upstart from Sonoma County. The partners have in common surfing and a sense of adventure, hence the name. It’s just a pretty wine with balance and elegance.
Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir 2019 ($27). One of the best values in the pinot noir market, this wine uses grapes from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties. Its medium body and supple red berry flavors make it a versatile match to holiday fare. Hints of vanilla and cooking spices. For a few bucks more, try the delicious and bolder Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir that sources grapes from the producer’s Hop Kiln Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast.
Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018 ($30). From the Edna Valley, this exciting and balanced pinot noir shows off juicy cherry flavors with lingering notes of cinnamon.
Girasole Mendocino County Pinot Noir 2019 ($16). Simple but juicy red cherry flavors with lavender aromas.
If you prefer to have white wine for your traditional turkey dinner, we recommend chardonnay. Here are a few to consider:
Balletto Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017 ($29). You get a lot of complexity for the price but not a lot of overpowering oak. We liked that. It’s good structure makes it a nice match to turkey or it serves as an inviting, pre-dinner sipper.
Head High Chardonnay 2020 ($24). A great value, this crisp and pure chardonnay from Sonoma County shows off a piercing lemon/lime aroma and a refreshing mix of pineapple and grapefruit flavors. One of our favorite chardonnays in recent tastings. It’s no wonder that Bill Price III of Three Sticks and Kosta Browne is involved in this new project.
FEL Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2019 ($52). From the cooler end of the valley, this extracted and complex chardonnay was fermented and aged for 18 months in French oak puncheons. Citrus aromas with pear flavors and a healthy dose of exotic spices.
Sanford Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay 2019 ($35). A big wine for the price, the Sanford chardonnay has ample, fresh pear and stone fruit flavors.
Baileyana Firepeak Edna Valley Chardonnay 2018 ($28). The creamy texture of this delicious chardonnay is an ideal match to gravy, potatoes and even turkey. Citrus aromas with vibrant pear and pineapple flavors.
The Hilt Estate Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay 2019 ($50). The rough terrain of this fog-covered region gives unique flavors to the wines from this reliable producer. Full bodied with opulent apple and exotic tropical fruit flavors with hints of spice and a lingering finish.
Imaginary Friend 2019 ($28). This Sonoma Coast product of the inventive Anarchist Wine Co. is a delicious blend of mostly chardonnay and viognier. Ample melon and peach notes with a round texture.