Thanksgiving can weigh you down. The rich meal topped with heavy red wine can overwhelm. One answer: go for high-acid, lighter bodied reds like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, and pour white wine like Chenin Blanc and Riesling. But what about mixing it up a bit, and pouring something unexpected? Even the richest rosé will offer freshness and light to cut through the heavy meal.
"I love the idea of rosé for Thanksgiving," says Jessica Pinzon, sommelier at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc in Yountville, CA. "It is rich enough texturally to stand up to the turkey's dark meat and will cleanse the palate with bright acid, and can also pick up on more delicate flavors on the table, like the tart berry character of cranberry sauce."
But not just any rosé will do. Pinzon recommends seeking out aged rioja rosado like López de Heredia 2000 'Viña Tondonia', or Domaine Vacheron 2011 rosé from Sancerre. Since we wanted to focus on domestic wines this Thanksgiving, we sought out rosés from Oregon and California that were packed with fresh fruit flavors. We rejected those with over-obvious alcohol; the goal here is to improve the food, not get obliterated. Here are 5 we heartily recommend.
Thanksgiving is a meal that can handle a richer rosé, one that was aged on the spent yeast (lees) or spent a little time in barrel. Anglim 2011 Central Coast rosé is rich but still fruity and fresh, made with 60% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 13% Viognier. It tastes like a spiced raspberry smoothie, with a little clove and cinnamon. It's ideal with sage-spiced stuffing, mushrooms, and turkey—white or dark meat. It sells for $15.
The freshness of Tracey and Jared Brandt's 2011 Donkey and Goat Grenache Rosé makes it an easy favorite any time of year. Named after their daughter, Isabel's Cuvée smells just like ripe strawberries, and that berry flavor is too delicious to stop drinking. This wine, picked from 90+ year old Grenache Gris vines in the McDowell Valley vineyard in Mendocino, has a lovely creamy texture and fresh acidity (that doesn't veer into astringency, which happens all too often with rosé.) Behind the berries, it tastes of crisp Asian pear with a squeeze of lemon. This is a party-friendly wine that's ready for food. It sells for around $20.
Rosé should make you say, "yum!" and Sokol Blosser 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir does just that. This crisp, delicious wine is sunny, bright and fresh, as if it were made with mandarin oranges and tart red cherries and strawberries instead of organic Willamette Valley grapes. It sells for around $18.
Archery Summit's 2011 Vireton Rosé ($24) is a tangy, refreshing pinot noir rosé, full of delicate watermelon flavors. It's ready to be paired with a crab or shrimp salad starter, but it will also add lovely palate-cleansing tartness to the main course, just like a dash of cranberry sauce.
If you're a guest this Thanksgiving and want to arrive with a special bottle to share, consider a gift of rosy bubbly to start the meal. Argyle's 2009 Brut Rosé is a treat, rich and yeasty with loads of sweet strawberries, fresh tart apples, and a little vanilla. It's made with a mix of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. It's pricey at $50, but a gift like that might earn you an extra slice of pie.
All wines provided as samples for review consideration.