Finding a wine that goes with every course of the Thanksgiving dinner can be a bit dodgy because the meal is a hodgepodge of dishes with distinctive flavors.
Viognier, Cava, Pinot Noir and Cotes du Rhone have been my favorites in the past, but this year I’m trying a couple of very nice California blends with our meal, wines that don’t stray too far from my traditional standbys and that go very well with a variety of foods.
Of course, Thanksgiving hasn’t arrived, so I haven’t been able to sample the wines with the traditional turkey, squash and cranberry sauce. I’m not totally on solid ground. However, I have given them a pretty good run through before the big event, trying both with a wide assortment of foods ranging from spicy ground turkey loaf with sides of steamed broccoli and roasted beets with walnuts, to Moroccan beef stew and pulled pork with creamy blue cheese coleslaw.
Not only did the wines hold up, but they shined as excellent matches with all of the dishes, and their complex layers of flavors complemented the richness of the varied foods.
I wasn’t aware of Morgan Winery’s Cotes du Crow’s until a friend recently recommended it. And since I’m always eager to check out wine tips, it didn’t take me long to pull the cork on this one. My only regret is I didn’t find this well-crafted wine sooner.
Cotes du Crow’s is an unusual blend of grapes traditionally raised in France’s Rhone Valley. The California wine is a mix of 53 percent Grenache and 47 percent Syrah, both grown primarily in the sandy and loamy soils of the Arroyo Seco and San Lucas regions of Monterey County, according to winemaker Sam Smith’s tasting notes.
After fermenting in open stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, a process that gives it subtle spice and vanilla flavors but doesn’t overpower the character of the fruit. The result is a ruby red wine with aromas of coffee cake and soft flavors of pomegranate, black cherry and cranberry, Smith says.
The Morgan winery was started in 1982 by Dan Morgan Lee and his then-banker Donna George. After a few years of producing award-winning wines, they decided to get married and expand the business. Dan and Donna Lee still own and operate the winery, and they are now known for producing some of California’s many top quality wines.
Although the Cotes du Crow’s might be able to carry the Thanksgiving dinner solo, it’s always nice to have a fruity white wine to accompany such lighter courses as the turkey, vegetables, salad and dessert, and the dry, complex Pine Ridge 50-50 blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier is an excellent choice. In fact, the wine has so much flavor going on that it, too, could handle the meal by itself.
Gary Andrus founded Pine Ridge in 1978, growing Bordeaux grape varietals and making Bordeaux-style wines on a hilltop vineyard in the Stag’s Leap area of Napa County. After some early success, Andrus expanded the vineyard to nearly 200 acres. In 1991, the Crimson Wine Group, a publicly-traded company that invests in boutique vineyards producing high-quality wines, purchased Pine Ridge. The group operates the vineyards sustainably and has continued to garner top international ratings for its wines under the direction of Burlington, Vt., native Michael Beaulac, the general manager and winemaker.
The Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend is made from grapes grown in California regions outside of Napa and produced under Beaulac’s supervision.
I tried Pine Ridge a few years ago and found it to be on the sweet side and not entirely to my liking. I had it again recently, and fell for it immediately. It’s now one of my favorite wines. It will be on our Thanksgiving table along with the Morgan Cotes du Crow’s.
Both wines, which I think are best when served with food, are available on both sides of the Connecticut River. You may have to ask for the Morgan in New Hampshire, although the New Hampshire Liquor Store in Lebanon has it. Pine Ridge is easy to find. I found both of them at Norwich Wine and Spirits at $12.99 for the Cotes du Crow’s and $11.99 for Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and Viognier.
Both are excellent, well-made wines that are exceptional values for special holiday meals. Your guests will be impressed.
Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.