by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
In last week’s column, we offered a dozen recommendations for inexpensive pinot noirs that would do well with the traditional turkey dinner. This week, we ratchet up the offerings to more expensive pinot noirs that would not only complement turkey but also special dishes such as duck, pork, pasta and even lamb.
Inexpensive pinot noirs are generally light and medium body, which makes them a good match to a neutral food such as turkey. Expensive pinot noirs are concentrated, complex and more tannic because they spend time in expensive French barrels. The grapes often come from single vineyards recognized for producing quality fruit.
Given their cost, they are more suited to small groups when a single bottle will suffice. Or, they make good gifts for the host. Just encourage the host to open the bottle for dinner so you don’t miss out on the pleasure of drinking an expensive wine.
Enjoy these 10 luxury pinot noirs from the superb 2019 vintage:
Darioush Signature Russian River Valley 2019 ($85). This is an exotic wine with floral aromas, fresh cherry, cranberry and plum flavors with fine tannins and hints of sage, thyme and cedar.
LaRue Emmaline Ann Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 ($75). We liked the earthy, forest floor notes of this Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Its delicacy reminds us of a burgundy – deceivingly light in color but elegant and lingering. Noticeable cranberry flavors supplement the generous cherry notes. A good match to cranberry sauce.
FEL Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 ($75). Aged 16 months in large French oak barrels, this wine from multiple clones leans more toward the dark red fruit. It has a lot of enticing herbal and baking spice notes to make it complex.
Sanford Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2019 ($45). A steady, top-notch pinot producer since Terlato bought it in 2005, Sanford has stepped up its quality after bringing in winemaker Trey Fletcher. He built his reputation as an influential winemaker at Littorai Winery and later at Bien Nacido Vineyards. The Sanford is a balanced wine from its estate Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada Vineyards. Very bright and fresh fruit character with cherry, strawberry and cranberry notes.
SIMI Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019 ($45). Broad aromas of strawberries and toffee are followed by plum and earth flavors with a hint of spice.
Sosie Spring Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 ($45). From the Sonoma Coast, this delicious and juicy pinot noir draws grapes from three unique clones. Generous red berry aromas with raspberry, cherry flavors and hints of forest floor and a smooth, seamless texture.
Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2019 ($45). This Russian River Valley producer can be relied on to make consistently balanced and exquisite pinot noir. Sourcing grapes from several top vineyards, Farrell creates a more layered, nuanced wine with bright cherry, cranberry and herbal flavors, hints of earth and cola. Generous rose and violet aromas. Silky tannins.
The Hilt Estate Pinot Noir 2019 ($50). You definitely get what you pay for in this exquisite pinot noir from Sta. Rita Hils. Expressive in the nose and mouth, it has effusive red berry notes and a good dose of spice.
J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir 2019 ($35). Always luscious and fruit forward, this reasonably priced pinot noir from Monterey County has bright red cherry fruit flavors with a slight hint of spice.
Ram’s Gate Bush-Crispo Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018 ($75). This boisterous cuvee takes grapes from four different lots at harvest and shows tantalizing floral, spice and anise aromas followed by black cherry flavors. Dense and lingering on the palate.
Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019 ($55). Violet aromas with bright cherry and raspberry flavors and an earthy, forest-floor feel.
Not everyone likes pinot noir or chardonnay, so here are some alternatives for the holiday feast:
Ferraton Pere & Fils Cotes-du-Rhone Samorens Rouge 2019 ($16). We loved this equal blend of grenache and syrah, a nice soft approach to the holiday meal. It’s a great sipper but it is versatile enough to go with just about anything you put on the table for the holiday feast. Ripe and juicy blackberry, raspberry notes with a hint of black licorice and dried rosemary.
Chauvet Freres Morgon Cote du Py 2020 ($25). The gamay noirs from Beaujolais are great matches to turkey and all its traditional side dishes. They are generally very fruity and medium bodied, although this Morgon from old vines grown on a hill has tannin and complexity. Vibrant and juicy raspberry and cherry notes with a hint of clove.
Sanford Rosé of Pinot Noir 2020 ($20). The price is right for this exquisite rosé made from pinot noir grown in the Sta. Rita Hills. Classic strawberry and citrus aromas with juicy strawberry flavors and balanced acidity and a hint of mineral. We put it against a well-seasoned, grilled pork loin and it was a perfect match to the spice. But it will do well with turkey or served as an aperitif.