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What to Drink Now: Syrah, Zinfandel and Beaujolais for Thanksgiving

Perhaps the most common wine varietals for the Thanksgiving meal, outside of Pinot Noir, would be a Zinfandel, a Syrah/Shiraz and the ever popular Beaujolais Nouveau.  Zinfandel is such a fruit forward and spicy wine that it will pair well with big Thanksgiving flavors, without overwhelming them.  Whether you prefer a Syrah from the Rhone region or from Argentina or from the states, or a Shiraz from Australia, both have great smoke and spice notes which enhance the flavors of the holiday and can still stand on their own for sipping after dinner.  Some wine selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Amavi Cellars Syrah - When most people think of wine from Washington State they immediately go to their Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, and the various regions throughout the state do an amazing job with those varietals.  But don’t forget the powerful Syrah coming out of Washington, Walla Walla in particular.  Amavi Cellars 2009 Syrah combines both dark fruit, like black cherry, blackberry and figs with mineral notes and earthy undertones.  A well balanced wine that will compliment any dish on a Thanksgiving table.

Novy Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah- The Santa Lucia Highlands region just outside Sonoma was made for growing incredible Syrah and tasty Pinot Noir.  Novy Winery sources grapes from this distinct region from some of the best and most respected vineyards, Gary’s, Pisoni and Rosella’s, to create their SLH Syrah.  Spicy and smokey, with cherry, blackberry and black currant.  It is the spice and smoke that really shine in this wine, with almost a meaty quality, making it a delicious food wine.  

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Shiraz  – I recently sat down with McWilliam’s Estate 6th generation family winemaker, Scott McWilliam, to taste through his portfolio of wine that has been produced in New South Whales, Australia since the 1914.  Several varietals were tasting incredibly well, including a crisp and light Riesling, but the Shiraz shone the brightest with ripe fruit and spice, a wine to be enjoyed everyday on its own or great with food.  The best part, with a price tag around $15 you can. 

Sbragia Gino’s Vineyard Zinfandel- I am a fan of just about everything that is produced out of the Sbragia winery, from Chardonnay to Cab to Zin, with vineyard driven flavors expressing the distinct flavors of Napa and Sonoma.  The Sbragia Zinfandel is elegant and lush with ripe fruit flavors without being too jammy, followed by spice notes and a long finish

Turley Zinfandel- I recently heard Chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega in Napa Valley describe Turley Wine Cellars owner Larry Turley’s Old Vine Zinfandel as a wine with “mannoir” last weekend, meaning if terrior is the ultimate description of place for wine, Turley Zin is the ultimate expression of the man.  If you are a Zin fan you know Turley as it is one of the best producers of Zin around.  Big and abundant with ripe, juicy fruit flavors, a wine to take notice of, just like its namesake. 

St. Francis Old Vine Zinfandel- Old Vines indeed, 50-100+ year old vines that are dry farmed (not irrigated) to produce highly concentrated, interesting Zins from this winery started back in the 1970′s.  Black fruit with white pepper, toasted vanilla and oak.  A great wine for the holiday.

George Dudoeuf Beajolais Nouveau- This years vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau just hit store shelves, as the release by French law can not occur until midnight on the third Thursday of November, starting the celebration with new fans and old friends of this Gamay grape that is raced to Paris each year from Beaujolais to deliver the freshest wine.  An extremely food friendly, easy to drink wine, George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be enjoyed young, with its cherry, raspberry and cranberry flavors, making it the ideal Thanksgiving wine.  And, the price tag is always affordable (usually under $10 a bottle) and can be found at just about any grocery store around town.