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What To Drink Now: Thanksgiving Pinot Noir

There are many options to go to when planning your Thanksgiving wine  to pair with your Thanksgiving meal, but for me Pinot Noir is always a solid go to which will suit both the meal and your dinner guests.  Somewhat like a Labrador Retriever, Pinot Noir (especially New World Pinot) is a super likable, friendly wine that has the ability to please just about any palate and pairs well with everything from roasted turkey, to cranberries, to sweet potatoes, to pumpkin pie.  Here are a few suggestions that will make you thankful for Pinot.  If you just insist on serving a spicy Zin, Syrah, Beaujolais or Grenache on this special day I will have a list of others up soon, but for now it is all about Pinot.  A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Etude Winery, may be best known perhaps for their Heirloom wines, but just the basic Etude Estate Pinot Noir from fruit grown in their Carneros, Napa Valley vineyards enahnces any dinner table any time of year, but particularly with the Thanksgiving meal.  From cool, maritime influenced fruit, and created with the belief that the winemaking happens in the vineyard and not in the winery, the Etude Pinot Noir is filled with concentrated cherry, blackberry and red berry jam flavors enhanced with touches of soy, star anise, clove and slight minerality from the clay and gravel soils of Carneros.

Etude founder Tony Soter, left California for Willamette Valley to start Soter Vineyards, creating the winery in 1997 with the help of his wife (and Portland, OR native) Michelle, and their children, believing the Willamette Valley soils of their sustainably farmed 240 acre Mineral Springs Ranch in the Yamhill-Carlton District was ideal for creating his next great Pinot Noir wines.  The Mineral Springs Ranch (green label) Pinot Noir defines the area in a glass – ripe, red cranberry, pomegrantate and persimmon fruit, balanced but present earthiness, lush tannins and a sikly, lingering finish.

Also in Oregon, Adelsheim was one of the first and remains one of the most celebrated wineries in Willamette Valley.  Their Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir a perfect go to wine if you are looking for a well-rounded, elegant and always delicious flavor profile that has been made from a blend of the best Pinot Noir barrels since its first bottling in 1986.  Filled with strawberry and raspberry notes married with sweet baking spice, cedar and just the right balance of earthiness.

The Jory soils of the Dundee Hills in Willamette Valley are known to produce earthy, mineral rich and refined Pinot Noir.  Two excellent examples come from Domaine Serene with their Evanstad Reserve and Winderlea, with their Ana Pinot Noir, both some of the best from the Dundee Hills, balancing fruit with spice, and spice with earth to create luscious, interesting and always tasty Pinot Noir.

The sustainable and biodynamic vineyards of Benziger Winery make many great wines including their Pinot Noir from Russian River, easily one of the best areas in the world for growing Pinot Noir, though often more fruit forward and fresh than those of Willamette Valley. This one is filled with layers of red berry, currant, vanilla and spice with good tannin, texture and balanced acidity, making it a great food wine.

Also from Russian River I was recently introduced to a new winery, Inman Family Wines owned by winemaker Kathleen Inman, making nicely aged Pinot Noir (17 months in partially new French barrels) from grapes picked at three different times to ensure the ultimate ripeness was achieved when they picked.  This is a big wine, yet still elegant and sillky as you would expect from Russian River fruit.  Filled with ripe fruit, wild roses, black tea and anise with touch of chocolate and cedar on the finish.  Rich, textured and refined, a great new Pinot Noir find.

In addition to those from Willamette, I am particullary partial to the Pinot of Santa Lucia Highlands, especially those from wineries like Miner, Vision Cellars and Siduri.

Miner Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot from the southwest facing slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains is fruit forward, spicy and always, always enjoyable.  Fresh cherry and plum mix with cinnamon, nutmeg and cedar with a touch of violet and lilac floral notes for a luscious, velvety and delicious Pinot Noir.

Winemaker Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars

Vision Cellars, owned by the incredible and talented, Texas native Mac McDonald, specializes in very small production, very high quality Pinot Noir from fruit grown throughout Northern California.  Their Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir blends blackberry and black cherry fruit with layers of earth and spice, and just the right balance of tannin, for a wine that will pair well through the holidays with anything from the Thanksgiving turkey to the Christmas beef tenderloin.

Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir blend some of the best fruit from the area, including 33% Sierra Mar Vineyard fruit, 24% Rosella’s Vineyard, 21% Pisoni Vineyard, 19% Garys’ Vineyard, and 3% Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir.  The longstanding trust and relationship these vineyard owners have with Siduri owners/winemakers Dianna and Adam Lee ensures that this prized fruit makes its way  to the Siduri warehouse each harvest for them to create their award winning Pinot Noir.  Filled with ripe red cherry, red plum and cranberry with sweet spice, toasted cedar and a touch of smokiness this is a Pinot that will please anyone at your table.

The cool climate of the Sonoma Coast is ideal for growing balanced Pinot Noir with character and personality.  The wines of Freestone and Fog Dog, Kistler, MacMurry Ranch and David Bruce consistently deliver.  I tried a new one from Jenner Vineyards recently.  Very affordable for Pinot Noir (about $20 a bottle) and filled with fresh violets, bing cherry and vanilla with a good balance between acidity and tannin, making it an ideal food wine.

The from Casablanca Valley in Chile is fast becoming known for their juicy, earthy and slightly smoky Pinot Noir.  The Morande Gran Reserva Pinot Noir highlights this with layers of ripe wild strawberry, cherry, sweet spice, fresh herbs,  roses and a touch of earthy minerality.