Nov. 16 2017 11:26 AM

Thanksgiving wines that are sure to impress


I don’t know what you’re eating on the fourth Thursday in November, but if I were a betting man, my odds are on turkey. Still, Thanksgiving is a very personal holiday, with families having their own customs and eating preferences that may dictate a sharp right turn away from the famous fowl.

For instance, I’d rather watch the “Scott’s Tots” episode of The Office than eat a half pound of turkey. But if you dig on those quirky animals, then who am I to say you’re wrong?

If your Thanksgiving meal is the hands of a turkey whisperer, go for the home run bottle of pinot noir. One of my favorites of the past year is the 2013 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault pinot noir. This is the luxury bottle of the group. Expect to pay about $70. And if you love elegant wines, it’s worth every penny.

This wine screams for cranberries and well-prepared turkey. There is a low weight to this wine; it’s completely effortless. And the fruit is tart, savory and complex. It’s in the running for wine of the year under $100.

I admit I’m a sucker for stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy — I’m a simple man with simple needs. When your plate is filled with nebulous starches and fats, the concept of uber-precious wine pairings is a complete waste of time. So, let’s nix that right now.

Feed the id. Ultimately, this is what Thanksgiving is anyway. You spend hours traveling on both sides of the day or weekend. You don’t want to think about much other than a life without stress. Someone puts a plate of food in front of you: Boom, you eat the food.

The same deal goes for wine. But typical Thanksgiving foods aren’t usually of the super-hearty variety. It’s more about generous portions than anything else.

Zinfandel is the way to go in this case.

What’s more American than a grape that made its name in California, that is originally from Croatia, but mistakenly once thought of as Italian?

There are also oceans of well-made zinfandel if you go into it expecting flavorful wine, but not necessarily top-echelon grace. For about $20, Valravn zinfandel is exactly what it should be: fruity, jammy, borderline-goopy with a spicy, peppery backbone.

Zinfandel got its start as a humble Croatian grape called tribidrag. It achieved notoriety for being a decent workhorse in the southern Italian region of Puglia, where it is known as primitivo.

Truth be told, this worldwide grape’s best successes are in the Golden State. Turley, Hartford Family, and Martinelli have put a California spotlight on this grape for a $40- 100 price tag. We’ve been lucky as consumers, though.

This zin from Valravn is consistently jammy, ripe and lacking in subtleties. But that’s OK, because you’re staring at a heaping mound of gravy fats. This is what you want. If you’re looking for a go-to Thanksgiving weekend wine, think zinfandel. All you want is gobs of fruit. This has it in spades.

What’s that? You hate red wine? OK. Chardonnay will be your spirit animal.

If you like white wine but hate chardonnay, you have not had access to the proper wines for you. Much of this is about oak usage.

If you like oaky, buttery flavors with just a hint of sugar, your grocery shelves have got everything you need. Rombauer, Kendall- Jackson, Sonoma-Cutrer, all make examples of this style of chardonnay. For an oak-driven chardonnay a touch dialed back, Acacia’s 2015 chardonnay from Carneros might be the one for you, at about $18. Its profile is moderately creamy, with flavors of lemon, red apple, and salted caramel.

For the Francophiles, there are not too many wines that go over the top on this kind of dinner. But wines from the Rhone valley in the south may fit the bill. Saint Cosme’s 2014 Cotes du Rhone is impressive. Most red wines from Cotes du Rhone are mostly grenache, with syrah playing second fiddle. Not so with this wine. This is all syrah, and it’s meaty, peppery notes are generous for the asking price of roughly $20. That sounds perfectly fine with me to drink during a heartbreaking Lions turkey day loss.

Justin King is a certified sommelier and owner of Bridge Street Social, a wine and cocktails-focused restaurant in DeWitt, and was named one of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Best New Sommeliers of 2017.