Thanksgiving Wines, sans chardonnay and pinot noir

Kelly J. Hayes

Truth be told, my favorite thing about Thanksgiving is … pie.

There. I said it. In print. Sure, who doesn’t love drinking great wines opened for a special occasion? But give me a sliver of pumpkin and/or pecan pie, topped with a spoonful of hand-whipped cream, and I am a satisfied man. Especially if said pie is accompanied by a thimbleful of port.

That confessed, law dictates every American wine scribbler is legally obligated to pen a “Wines with Thanksgiving Dinner” column. Each November, this space adheres to the mandate and recommends assorted American pinot noirs and chardonnays for the holiday repast. Because Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday.

But this year, to shake it up a bit, I thought it would be fun to get takes from professionals who sell wine in the Roaring Fork Valley. I asked a few to suggest bottles that were something other than pinot noir or chardonnay and left the country of origin up to them.

It is only right to start with the wine shop inside Carl’s Pharmacy, which is marking the 54th year of its annual Thanksgiving wine sale with over 130 deeply discounted vintages. Think of how many wonderful Aspen Thanksgiving dinners, and opening days of ski seasons, have been celebrated with sale wines bought in Carl’s over that last half-century? Salud.

Maurice Eaton at Carl’s offered up a red wine on the sale list that is available through Thanksgiving, the Annick Bachelet Les Charmes Morgon 2018. “This Cru Beaujolais features ripe fruits with herbal undertones, a touch of white pepper and just a hint of gameyness.” Maurice advised. “Serve it slightly chilled to fully experience the complexity of the underappreciated, and undervalued, gamay grape.” On sale for $15.79.

Local Spirits’ Tom Ressel also went to France for his selection, a gem of a white wine made from sauvignon blanc and discounted for the holiday. “This organic, soft wine has ripe apple and citrus flavors,” he enthused about a Domaine Fouassier 2018 Sancerre. “A creamy, rich, mouth-feel contrasts well with the crisp finish!” It was $36.99. Now $29.99.

Not all great wines come from France. The Grog Shop’s Roger Carlsen proposed a tempranillo with a little more heft from a classic Spanish house, the Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserve. “Old world, earthy, savory, leather, with oaky flavors that complement roasted veggies and stuffing,” Roger counseled. “This wine’s medium body and softer tannins will pair well with the bird and also drinks well with ham. A little Jamón Ibérico for apps?” $24.99

Jason at …of Grape and Grain went whimsical, recommending a natural wine, the Martha Stouman, Post Flirtation Red Blend 2019. “It’s 50% carignan and 50% zin,” he said of the eclectic red wine that sells for $29. “It’s natural, bright and fresh!” Manna from heaven, or at least California.

Aspen is not the only mountain opening on Thanksgiving Day. So too is Snowmass, and you can serve your post-ski vino cravings well at Sundance Liquor and Gifts in the Snowmass Center. There, Andrew Wickes will suggest an Italian wine for the American holiday. “Slightly lighter than the well-known Barbera D’Alba offerings, the La Spinetta Ca’Di Pian Barbera D’Asti 2017 boasts an astonishing elegance with beautiful fruit and structure to boot,” Andrew explains. “This is a red wine that will have the entire dinner table asking for more. Guaranteed winner winner turkey dinner.” $29.95

Downvalley in El Jebel, the flavor of the day is Beaujolais: the wines made in the southern part of Burgundy not from pinot noir, but from the fruity, food friendly gamay grape. Both Chris Cook at Eljebeverage and Curtis Fiore of Four Dogs Wines and Spirits appreciate the wines of the region.

“The Jean-Marc Les Vignes De Lantignie Beaujolais Villages 2019 at $15.99 is medium to full-bodied, bright, smooth and easy drinking, with lively acids, velvety tannins and a long, mouthwatering finish,” Chris raved. “The best affordable Beaujolais I’ve tasted in a long time.”

Curtis went with a Beaujolais as well, this one from the Kermit Lynch Selections. “Gamay” is the dominant grape varietal in the Kermit Lynch DOMAINE DUPEUBLE Beaujolais 2019. The elegance, freshness and bright fruit of this beautiful wine will immediately blow you away. Drink before, during or after your meal. You will not be disappointed! $17.97

Interestingly, no one had mentioned bubbles. Until now. Gonzo Mirich at Jimbo’s initially suggested a riesling from Dr. Loosen in the Mosel region of Germany, a fine choice. But when I stopped in Jimbo’s last week, he pulled me aside and showed me a bottle I had never seen. “The Loosen is great,” he said. “But this Sparklet Effervescent Rosé NV made in Palisade, Colorado, by Sauvage Spectrum wines is delicious. Let’s go with that.” $18.55

The bottle of pink liquid under a crown cap, with stars embedded in the glass, was beautiful. But so was the sentiment suggested by Gonzo to shed some light on a locally produced wine. It just fit the spirit of the holiday.

Give thanks everyone. And enjoy the pie.

Aspen Times Weekly

WineInk: The 2023 vintage

“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.

See more