Vin Connections Perfect Thanksgiving Wines (November 2003)


Twenty Wines for Thanksgiving- Start a New Harvest Feast Tradition!

Thanksgiving… a time to feast. And what better to accompany a feast than the perfect wine? But since these repasts are often about quantity—of food and guests—you’ll want to make sure the wines you choose aren’t precious or expensive. Don’t limit yourself! In this issue, we feature 20 great wines that may part slightly with tradition, but will ensure you’ll want to start a new tradition for yourself.

This Month’s Reader Question:
“…I want to “break out” of my Chardonnay and Cabernet
habit without ruining my Thanksgiving feast.”

Second, a bottle of 1998 Peter Lehmann Shiraz “The Barossa” which my wife and I recently enjoyed on our 15th anniversary that blew away the server at St. Helena’s Martini House in the heart of the Napa Valley… and though we originally purchased it for just over a tenth the price of a particular “cult cab” we tasted (and did NOT buy) earlier the same day, it stood up remarkably well. (FYI, the 1999 vintage is a current “Buy-by-the-Case” selection in the Wine PocketList, with a list price of $19).

Lastly, and most important to you, the price/quality you’ll find in many Australian wines is quite remarkable. Though Australia’s 850 or so wineries produce about a third as much wine as California, the well-priced, well-made wines have earned admirers the world over. Chardonnay is now the third most popular wine (behind Shiraz and Cabernet) and Shiraz (the uniquely Australian adaptation of the French Syrah grape from the northern Rhфne Valley) is a big, flavorful red that has helped put Australian wine on the map.

Our mission, as always, is to help everyday wine lovers like us (who enjoy a good bottle of wine now and then) to make better and more informed buying decisions, while confidently trying new wines. If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact us.

We appreciate your feedback, and your readership.

It means a lot to us.


  • This Month’s Reader Question:
    “…I want to “break out” of my Chardonnay and Cabernet habit without ruining my Thanksgiving feast.”
  • This Month’s Wine Pick:
    20 Wines for a New Tradition
    Refreshing, Aromatic Whites
    Sparkling Wines that Go With Everything
    Rosй From Around the World
    A Selection of Fruit-Forward Reds
  • This Month’s Quote:
    Diogenes for Guests, and Myra Waldo for Hosts…


What to Serve a Houseful of Thanksgiving Revelers?

Q. “You probably get this question a lot. But I’ve got ham and turkey on the table, and a houseful of thirsty, hungry friends coming in just a couple of days. And, I want to “break out” of my Chardonnay and Cabernet habit without ruining my Thanksgiving feast. Any suggestions?
— Sara Lebolo, Miami, Florida

A. You’re on the right track. Moving away from Chardonnay and Cabernet is a really good idea.

It’s tough to pick the perfect wine for Thanksgiving, since the usual repast is chock-full of complex flavors and textures, like white and dark turkey, stuffing of all stripes, rich gravy, ham, sweet potatoes, tart cranberries, and rich sweet desserts.

In short, there’s no perfect wine to match every part of the meal, so don’t worry about it. We have only two rules we stick to: first, don’t bring out the most expensive wines, since Thanksgiving is typically about quantity. And second, stick with lighter, livelier wines so everyone isn’t sound asleep at 4:00. So while there are really no “rules” when it comes to choosing your Thanksgiving wine, we have some strong recommendations.

Which White? Chardonnay is great, but it’s typically not the best wine to serve at Thanksgiving. It’s usually too big, heavy, and oaky. In our experience, the best whites are medium bodied, refreshing, crisp, fragrant and fruity. Wines like Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Chenin Blanc. A huge personal favorite is Sparkling wine, as long as you don’t serve it too cold (kills the fruit!).

The Right Red. Well, it isn’t Cabernet. They’re usually too full bodied and tannic to match with turkey. And the sugars in a typical feast can make the tannins taste bitter.

When it comes to turkey time and red wine, we look for fruity, spicy, medium-bodied reds with very low tannins. Rosй goes with almost anything, and is a great— and usually unexpected— treat. Other favorites are Pinot Noir and Beaujolais. If you really like a hearty red, try a big fruit Syrah/Shiraz.

For me, the real fun of wine at Thanksgiving is in trying several different wines. You might want try our highly “informal” wine tasting methodology. We open up 5 or 6 bottles at once, and let everyone at it. Then you just keep an eye on which wines disappear first… and you’ll have yourself a winner. Of course, if you have one guest that keeps a bottle or two to themselves, and isn’t shy about drinking up, the results can skew dramatically.

That’s why it’s informal… and why it’s so much fun!

[Do you have a wine-related question you’d like to ask? If so, contact us and you may see it answered in an upcoming issue!]


Twenty Wines for Thanksgiving- Start a New Harvest Feast Tradition!

Our picks this month cover the full range of types, flavors and (we just couldn’t stick to U.S. wines!) regions. I know several of these will end up on our table… so please, enjoy them as much as we expect to!

Refreshing, Aromatic Whites

2002 Chenin Blanc J.-C. Pichot Dom. Le Peu de la Moriette, Vouvray
Loire, France
IE: A-$11, Grade A-
2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris J. B. Adam Rйserve
Alsace, France
IE: B+$13, Grade B+
2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris Navarro
Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA, USA
IE: A+$16, Grade A+
2002 Riesling Wolf Blass
South Australia
IE: A-$10, Grade A-
2001 Riesling Tesch Spдtlese, Langenlonsheimer Lцhrer Berg
Nahe, Germany
IE: A+$21, Grade A+

Sparkling Wines that Go with Everything

Marquйs de Monistrol Reserva Brut (Cava)
IE: B+$9, Grade B+
Sparkling Zardetto Brut
Veneto, Italy
IE: B+, B$11, Grade B+
Sparkling Canella Extra Dry, Prosecco di Conegliano
Conegliano, Italy
IE: A-$11, Grade A-
Sparkling Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Brut
Sonoma County, USA CA
IE: B+$18, Grade A+
NV Sparkling Pacific Echo Brut
Mendocino County, USA CA
IE: B+$19, Grade B+

Rosй from Around the World

2001 Rosй Vega Sindoa (Nekeas)
Navarra, Spain
IE: B+$6, Grade B+
2001 Rosй Ch. D’ Aquйria Tavel
Rhфne, France
IE: B+$15, Grade B+
2001 Rosй Tasca d’Almerita Rosй di Regaleali
Sicily, Italy
IE: A-$11, Grade A-
2001 Rosй Garretson The Celeidh
Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
IE: A-$16, Grade A-
2002 Rosй Renard
IE: B+$12, Grade B+
2002 Rosй Tablas Creek
Paso Robles CA, USA
IE: A-$27, Grade A-

Fruit Forward Reds

2002 Gamay Georges Duboeuf Fleurie
Beaujolais, France
IE: A-$12, Grade A-
2001 Pinot Noir Edna Valley Paragon
Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, CA USA
IE: B+, A-$15, Grade A-
2001 Pinot Noir Sebastiani
Sonoma Coast, CA USA
IE: B+, A$15, Grade A-
1999 Syrah/Shiraz Vinterra
Mendoza Argentina
IE: A-$10, Grade A-
2001 Syrah/Shiraz Morandй Vitisterra Grand Reserve
Maipo Valley, Central Valley, Chile
IE: A-$15, Grade A-

Wine Quote

Special Thanksgiving Quotes for Guests and Hosts

“I like best the wine drunk at the cost of others.
“Diogenes the Cynic (Greek philosopher c. 412 BC)

“The primary purpose of wine is to make food taste better.”
Attributed to Myra Waldo in Wine Quotations, Helen Exley, 1994.


Understanding our System

Grade: [A-]
Our grades represent a composite score developed using our proprietary system to blend wine quality and scoring information.

Vintage: 1999
This describes both the year of the actual grape harvest as well as the year the wine was made.

Price: $12
The prices quoted in the WPL are the “suggested retail prices” quoted by the wineries and the distributors. Though these are close to what you’d pay at the winery, you’ll often find discounts of 20% and more off these prices at retail.

Individual Evaluations: IE: A, A-, B+
This represents the number of individual reviews and ratings on which the composite grade is based, primarily representing individual reviews in top wine periodicals converted to our scale, and ratings by our tasting panel.

Wine PocketList Exclusive Categories: WPL: BBC, W, S, B
These are four exclusive WPL categories, and many wines rated by the PocketList will fall into one of these special designations.

[W] Widely Available:
These wines typically have bottling of 20,000 cases or more, making them widely available in most regions of the U.S.

[BBC] Top Buy-by-the-Case:
Based on multiple, outstanding reviews and a solid history, these are wines you can purchase by the case to grow your cellar with confidence today, and into the future!

[B] Bargain Wines:
Top-rated wines for $10 or less. Most of these can go head to head with a typical $30 bottle sporting a fancy label . . . and beat it hands down.

[S] Splurge Wines:
For most of us, spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine isn’t something we do lightly. These are wines that, while more expensive, are well worth the price.

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