The Best Wine For Thanksgiving: Pinot Noir

Wine Pairings

We help you pick wine to drink with the food you eat.


[Photograph: *clairity* on Flickr]

Pinot Noir is an excellent choice for Thanksgiving. Why? These wines are food-friendly, with soft tannins and a fresh burst of tart acidity that helps to cut through rich dishes. They have herbal notes that complement all the sage, thyme, and fennel in a Thanksgiving feast, and an earthiness that brings out the best in mushroom gravy, stuffing, and turkey itself. At its best, pinot is elegant, sultry and savory, with a pop of fresh tart berries and base notes that remind me of the wet forest floor.

Unfortunately, pinot is an expensive and notoriously tricky grape, so you're not going to find a ton of delicious bottles in the budget range. (Cheap pinot can be overly sweet, overly oaked, and totally disappointing.) But if you are looking for a special bottle to share at Thanksgiving, the following wines are great choices.

Affordable (But Still Good) Pinot

20101108burgundybottle.jpg Renowned winemaker Patricia Green was sitting in Lumpy's Tavern in Dundee, Oregon, when she noticed a sign on the jukebox that said, "Dollar Bills Only." Thus, her second label Pinot Noir was named. The Dollar Bills Only Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is an affordable bottle with real varietal character. It's bursting with tart red cherries and a hint of baked blueberries, with nice dried porcini, chocolate, and earth notes to balance. This easy-drinking wine is even better with food, adding a brightness to a plate of turkey and stuffing. (About $15, find this wine here and here.)

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Burgundy on a Budget

Prices for Burgundy can be through the roof, but we snagged a bottle of Joseph Roty Bourgone Grand Ordinaire (2000) for twenty bucks. It's a steal. 100% Pinot Noir with bright red fruit and hints of eucalyptus and mint, supported with leathery, mellow tannins, hints of sundried tomatoes, dust, and smokiness. (About $20, find this wine.)

Pinot Noir Stars

These bottles may be out of your everyday budget, but worth considering if you're attending Thanksgiving as a guest and want to bring along a truly special gift bottle.

Dutton Goldfield's Devils Gulch Pinot from a hillside ranch in Marin County is powerful for a pinot, with dense, chewy tannins and bright tart acidity. It's an intensely flavored and concentrated wine, with rich blackberry and pomegranate flavors. This spicy wine has notes of slate and black pepper, and it brings out the herbal character of Thanksgiving stuffing beautifully. This wine is a "wow." (About $58, find this wine here and here.)

For me, though, Pinot Noir is a taste of home, so I love to include an Oregon pinot in my Thanksgiving celebrations. There are many gorgeous options to consider: I'm loyal to the wines from Erath, Archery Summit, Panther Creek, and Shea Wine Cellars, among others, but Ken Wright has slightly wider distribution, and is a winemaker you should all know about. The Ken Wright Savoya Vineyard Pinot Noir (2008) is equal parts earth and fruit. It's a restrained, whispering wine, silky and sexy, with mushroomy notes that are perfect for pairing with stuffing and turkey. This wine is beautifully integrated, with cranberry-like tartness, hints of fennel and cloves, blackberries and smoke. This isn't a showy wine, but it's a beautiful one. ($44-54, find this wine.)

More Wine For Thanksgiving

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Serious Eats Guide to Affordable Wine for Thanksgiving
Editor's Picks: American Wines for Thanksgiving
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