If you’re the type who stresses over finding the right wine to serve with a meal, Thanksgiving dinner is probably a nightmare. The roast turkey is the easy part. The side dishes — a plethora of tastes, from sweet to tart to savory — are where it gets tricky.
After years of trial and error, I’ve reached two conclusions. The first is that the best choice is a red wine with ample fruit that’s not too oaky or high in alcohol. (You don’t want to nod off at the table, do you?) The second is that the most successful, food-friendly reds are pinot noir and wines made from Rhône grapes. Since Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday, I usually choose something domestic.
That brings us to price. So I’ve broken down my recommendations into good buys ($20 or less), more expensive bottles ($21-$40) and splurges.
Never miss a local story.
Good buys: The 2012 Sea Glass Pinot Noir ($10), an amazing value from Santa Barbara County, offers pretty cherry and raspberry flavors and some spicy notes. The 2011 Francis Coppola “Silver Label” Pinot Noir ($18) is more structured.
Moderate: Siduri Winery makes a range of pinots, but one of its best values is the 2012 Siduri Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($22), which is bright and lively, with a lot of fruit and a drying finish.
Splurges: From the Santa Maria Valley, the 2011 Rusack Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45) has a real purity to its lively cherry and crushed strawberry fruit.
Good buys: The 2011 J. Lohr “South Ridge” Syrah ($15) from Paso Robles offers lots of spicy berry fruit, a hint of white pepper and firm tannins. The more savory 2011 Luli Syrah ($20) would also be a welcome guest, with its smoky blackberry and pepper notes.
Moderate: The robust 2010 Hooker “Home Pitch” Syrah ($24) from Alexander Valley offers lively blackberry, smoke and spice, with a slight roasted note.
Splurge: I like spicy, cool-climate syrahs for Thanksgiving, like the 2011 Morgan Double L Vineyard Syrah ($42), a wine that’s peppery and concentrated, with ripe berry and a long finish.
Good buys: Some of the best choices are Rhône-style red blends, like the 2012 Robert Hall Cuvee de Robles ($18), which is dominated by grenache and offers spicy strawberry fruit and fine tannins.
Moderate: Another good blend is the bright, spicy 2011 Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas ($30), with its red berry fruit, hint of white pepper and medium tannins.
Splurge: The smooth 2010 Bonny Doon “Old Telegram” Mourvedre ($45) offers dark berry, some spicy notes and a hint of lavender.
Pick of the week
Austin Hope 2011 Syrah ($42)
If you prefer a warmer-climate expression for your syrah, this one from Paso Robles displays plump, sweet berry fruit, some baking spices and firm but approachable tannins.