On the surface, a moderately oaked Chardonnay seems the perfect choice for your plump Thanksgiving turkey.
But turkey is only part of the day’s menu. The majority of the meal is comprised of buttery–flavored dishes with lots of savory components.

To my palate, that calls for an earthy wine – one that will work and play well with dishes teaming with sage, mushrooms, butter and tangy cranberries.

My friends, meet Pinot Noir.

Of all the grape varietals, Pinot Noir is a sponge for its terroir – picking up and delivering the essence of its environment.
Here are a handful, at a variety of prices, that would be welcome Thanksgiving guests:

Domaine Serene: I have been a longtime fan of this vineyard’s Yamhill Cuvee. But if you want the ultimate Oregon Pinot – and one that will impress your hard–to–please dinner guests, reach for 2006 Evenstad Reserve ($51.99). Yeah, this is special occasion Pinot, but one that pose3ses the silky, earthy, luxurious notes that are paramount to this varietal.

Mountain View 2008 Caneros: Pinot Noir put this winery on the map and this bottling ($16.99) proves why. Bright ripe cherry is prominent in a wine that blends grapes from Sonoma and Napa county sides of the Caneros AVA. Imminently drinkable now, or lay down this bottle to improve over the next two to three years.

Saintsbury 2008 Garnet: This 25th anniversary bottling is definitely Burgundian in character, but stands a full head above the 2009 vintage. Faced with an uncertain market, the winemaker declassified a bunch of juice intended for the pricier Caneros label and created a vintage that is more fruit forward and much bolder than the typical Garnet release. Buy this 2008 bottling while you can – at $19.99 it drinks much more decadent than its price tag.

Freestone 2207 Pinot Noir: You’ll have to ask for this new–to–market juice; it’s a new project from the popular Joseph Phelps Vineyards folks. At around $33, this Sonoma Coast Pinot is beautifully spiced, with notes of cassis and sandalwood. Bing cherry comes calling, as does a smokey hint of tobacco. Of all the wines presented here, this one scores big points with me for beautifully silky mouthfeel.

Les Hexagonales 2008: Francophiles will rejoice with this Loire Valley wine ($13.99). Don’t count on an overly sexy Pinot, but one with plenty of character and dimension. The imprint of Loire Valley winemaker Jean–Francois Morieau is all over this easily accessible, entry level Pinot.

There are also plenty of bargain Pinots that are perfectly passable to celebrate your turkey day feast. Consider Chamarre, Mandolin or the recent release I told you about a couple of week ago, Cupcake.

I sourced these wines locally – from Ganem’s Package Shop, Whitemarsh Island Beverage and Habersham Beverage. Not every wine will be at each store, but this gives you starting places. Your favorite retailer can also order any of these wines.


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About The Author

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford grew up in rural Kentucky – then left home to pursue more than three decades as a photojournalist and newsman. A ground-breaking meal in New Orleans in 1979 set him on a path exploring food and wine. Six years ago he changed career paths – now spending his time writing about the people and places... more

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