Thanksgiving is fast approaching and choosing the correct wine can be daunting.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love serving Pinot Noir for parties and holidays. The low-acid, medium-bodied red blends with most meals and suits many people’s palates. Chardonnay, the ubiquitous white grape, is another crowd pleaser. These are two very safe options for a holiday table, but for this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to break from the expected norm and try a new style or two.
1. Viognier – This unique grape is well known in the DC metro area and is the official state grape of Virginia. Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible”, describes viognier as the most drippingly sensual white grape in the world and as chardonnay’s ravishing, exotic sister. Lush flavors of ripe peaches and honeysuckle are brightened by notes of fresh orange peel and a slight earthiness on the finish. Often described as “apricots and steel”, full-bodied and creamy, this wine is perfect for any special occasion.
Local: North Gate Vineyard $22*
Old World: Cave la Romaine $16**
2. Petit Manseng - Nestled in the base of the Pyrenees Mountains, this is one of France’s best-kept secrets. Often made into a late-harvest dessert wine, Virginia has come out with some amazing, dry variations. Medium bodied with notes of stonefruit and citrus that finishes with sweet spice. Often blended with Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc in France. Perfect with turkey and spiced cranberries.
Local: Pearmund Cellars $25
Local: Barrel Oak Winery $43
3. Rosé – Venturing away from White Zinfandel, rosés are growing in popularity. Dry versions are perfect for Thanksgiving. Light enough to not overpower white meat yet able to stand against dark meat, ham, or duck. Rosés can be made in several different methods. Virginia has started creating several beautiful rosés, often in the classic, dry French style.
Local: Boxwood Estate Rosé $17
Old World: Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc Notes Frivoles $14
4. Cabernet Franc – This Bordeaux grape is the father of Cabernet Sauvignon and grows very well in Virginia. Less intense than Cab Sauv, it has a unique bell-pepper flavor along with blackberries, raspberries, and currants. Spice notes of star anise and peppercorn. There are lower notes of wet stone, leather, and tobacco. This medium-bodied red is perfect for the lighter meats of Thanksgiving.
Local: Doukenie Winery $28
Old World: Domaine de Mairan $13
5. Sparkling – I love sparkling wines! Nothing ensures a feeling of celebration quite like the refreshing crispness of a great sparkling wine. I like to serve a glass of bubbly as people are mingling over appetizers or at the end of the meal as everyone is beginning to think about dessert.
Local: Stone Tower Winery Wild Boar Brut Cuvee $32
Old World: Champagne Bernard Mante Brut Rosé $42
Bonus – Beyond grapes - During a recent tasting, I was able to try Fabbioli Cellars pear wines. Based in Loudoun County, they offer dry and port-style, dessert wines made with Asian Pears. Both are amazing and worth sampling to see how different fruits can be made into wines while maintaining their individual characteristics.
Dry: Una Pera $18
Dessert: Aperitif Pear Wine $35
I hope you enjoy your holidays and try a new wine or two. Leave a comment to let me know how it goes. Happy Thanksgiving!
* All prices are subject to change based on individual wineries.
** Old World selections are from First Vine, a DC based wine importer and retailer