WineInk: Wines for giving thanks |

WineInk: Wines for giving thanks

May I Suggest...

Kelly J. Hayes
Thanksgiving dinner.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Of all the days in the year, perhaps none needs wine as much as Thanksgiving. First, there is the fact that giving thanks is a celebratory gesture, and wine pairs perfectly with celebration. Then, there is all that food on offer. The opportunities to pour great wines with the appetizers and the bird and the pies … there are just so many options. And, finally, on what other day do you dine with so many people?

Think about it. Everything about the Thanksgiving holiday is tailor-made for those who love wine. And food. And family. Put ‘em all together, add in a little football — all right, a lot of football — and you have the most wonderful day of the year. Thanksgiving Day lines up perfectly for wine lovers. The only question that remains is, “What should you pour?”

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Well, there are a few general recommendations — not rules, mind you, but suggestions — I offer each November as the holiday rolls around. You may have heard them before, but that does not make them any less valuable.

First, since it’s Thanksgiving, a time for celebration, I have always recommended that this is the day to pour the best wines you’ve got. That’s right, go to your cellar or wine rack or closet or countertop, assess your assets, and pull out a few of those bottles that you have been saving for “a special occasion.” The ones you simply wouldn’t think of opening on an average Thursday. Ah, but this Thursday is different.

Few occasions are more special than your Turkey Day dinner, people. If you have a great Burgundy that you bought when you were feeling flush, or a dust-covered bottle of Barolo that you keep because it was the wine that you poured at your wedding, or a bottle of vintage Champagne in your fridge waiting for a reason to uncork it, now is the time. My first recommendation for Thanksgiving is that it is the night when you should open the very best bottles you have. What else are you saving them for?

You don’t have to make a big thing of it. No need to try to explain to your nephew’s date’s sister that you have tucked this Châteauneuf-du-Pape away for the past decade, and you have long wondered what it would be like when you finally find just the right time to experience it. Just open it up, pour yourself a substantial glass, and appreciate the good fortune that has come your way on this day of thanks. And, share both the wine and the thanks with your guests.

My second suggestion is, since Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American invention, drink wines that come from the country that started it: America. Yes, I know, I just told you to open the best old world wines you have, but let me contradict myself, as I do every year around this time, and suggest we drink from our native land.

Thanksgiving is, after all, the most American of all holidays. It is an homage to that November day in 1621, 402 years ago, that the Wampanoag peoples of what would one day become Massachusetts sat down with the newly arrived Pilgrims and, as the story goes, feasted on turkeys and venison in a mutual celebration of gratitude. No doubt featured fermented fruit juices of some kind were poured to help the two parties come together.

Today, there are wines made in all 50 of these United States. Be they the wines of Colorado’s Grand Mesa, or from the Texas Hill Country, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the sandy soils of Long Island’s North Fork, or, yes, Napa and Sonoma, drink wines from the places you love. Buy American for the holiday.

I find it fun each year to pick a single place in America and drink wines exclusively from that region. For example, this Thanksgiving, I might focus on the bucolic Anderson Valley wine region that sits among the redwoods just south of the Mendocino Coast in Northern California. It is rustic and beautiful. I would love to one day have my Thanksgiving meal there.

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But, I can still celebrate with the wines of the Anderson at home. Obviously, I’ll start with a glass of bubbly from Roederer Estate, the California outpost of France’s esteemed family-owned Champagne producer. They make some of the finest sparkling wines in America under the  tutelage of winemaker Arnaud Weyrich. Next, I’ll open one of my favorite Chardonnays sourced from the epic Savoy Vineyard and bottled under the FEL label, a cousin to the Cliff Lede wines of Napa. After that, I’ll take the credit for a perfect pairing with my Thanksgiving turkey, a Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Oh, and for dessert, if you have never had a late harvest Gewürztraminer from the Navarro Vineyards, you’ll have a new appreciation for the sweet side of life. It may sound like a lot of work, but, if you want to do something a little different for your Thanksgiving repast, spending time to thematically or geographically select the wines you are going to pour can be a rewarding experience.

Which brings us to the next, and most important suggestion — be sure you get enough wine for all of your guests. The last thing you want to do is run out of juice before your crowd has finished giving thanks. If you do, they certainly won’t be thanking you. You might want to do a little pre-planning. Count the number of guests you are expecting, and plan for a healthy half-bottle per person. A dozen people coming … OK, break that rule. Be sure to get at least a case. After all, wine can flow pretty fast at a holiday celebration.

Regardless of what you pour, just remember you’re in Aspen for Thanksgiving. That in itself is reason for gratitude.


Goldeneye “Ten Degrees” Pinot Noir 2018

One of the wines on sale at the Carl’s Annual Wine Sale is the 2019 Golden Eye Pinot Noir on sale for $43.99 (if it hasn’t already sold out), which is a steal for this gem. The wine is sourced largely from fruit grown on the Anderson Valley estate of Duckhorn’s special pinot centric project. The tasting notes say it all. “Capturing the flavorful diversity of the Anderson Valley, this alluring Pinot Noir reveals aromas of fresh raspberry, black cherry, and rich blackberry pie, with hints of warm baking spices, pennyroyal, and sea spray salinity. On the palate, bright, balanced acidity and supple tannins frame juicy flavors of Bing cherry and bramble berries, with notes of leather and breakfast tea adding nuance to the long, lingering finish.”

I’ll be drinking an iteration of the same wine, the Ten Degrees (see photo) as I give thanks for my good fortune.

Goldeneye Ten Degrees Pinot Noir.
Carl’s 56th Annual Wine Sale

One of the great Aspen traditions has been the wine sale at Carl’s Wine Cellar inside Carl’s Pharmacy. This year, the 56th, they have rolled out specials ranging in price from $8.39 for a Bogle California Chardonnay, down from $14.45, to a Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame “Brut” Kusama Edition 2012 that has been discounted by $60 to a sweet $189.99. The sale features outstanding values ,and saving money is only half the fun — the other half is heading into Carl’s to suss out the deals. Take a look at the ads in the local papers, but, beware: The best bargains go fast.