Toast Your Thanksgiving With a Rosé from Texas or a Vermont Red
This year will be my Zoom Thanksgiving, and maybe yours, too.
The idea of feasting virtually with family and friends—and the divisive election—makes me want to vote for community and unity on this all-American holiday when it comes to wine.
My solution? Embracing our country’s grand diversity by turning to bottles from across the country, made by winemakers who reflect the American dream.
All 50 states produce wine in some form or fashion—yes, even Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii—though California still accounts for over 80 percent of the nation’s bottles. No longer up and coming, Washington state has more than 1,000 wineries, and Oregon only slightly fewer. There are 470 in New York state alone.
You can find exciting reds, whites, and rosés from Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, and even chilly Vermont, where The Old Farmers Almanac predicts snow next week.
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Such is the universal appeal of joining the U.S. wine community that ambitious vintners are eagerly planting vineyards in places you’d think would be too cold, too hot, or too humid. One reason, of course, is that vineyard land is much less expensive in Idaho or North Carolina than in, say, Napa Valley.
The number of different grape varieties and wine styles continues to grow, too, as wineries in hot spots face climate change and others just want to experiment. Many new locations, like Minnesota, rely on newly developed hybrid grape varieties such as marquette or la crescent, both a huge success in Vermont. In the South, sweet grape muscadine (and the strangely named scuppernong) hold sway. Alaskan wineries ferment fruits like the salmonberry.
Many of those experiments don’t add up to recommendable drinking on Thanksgiving—at least not yet. But I’m open-minded about the future. After all, 54 years ago the enology department at the University of California at Davis told the late David Lett, founder of Oregon’s great Eyrie Vineyard, that it was too cold and wet to grow grapes there.
For now, consider the picks below. All fulfill my basic Thanksgiving wine requirement: They’re delicious, food-friendly bottles that can match the sweet, tart, and earthy tastes on the table.
To be versatile, the wines have to be fruity and flavorful, with not too much oak, tannin, or alcohol, and enough juicy acidity to cut through richness and perk up your taste buds. That means sparkling wines, bright whites, zingy rosés, light chill-able reds, and mellow darker reds that satisfy those who love their wines big and bold.
They’ll work whether you’re sticking to familiar traditional recipes or tackling wilder ones because your gathering, most likely this year, will be a couple of like-minded foodie friends instead of elderly relatives who think brining a turkey qualifies as avant-garde.
Here are 10 picks from 10 different states.
NV Gruet Brut Rosé
A French winemaker founded this winery in the 1980s, planting pinot noir and chardonnay and using the same traditional method as champagne. Widely available, the rosé version boasts berry-cherry aromas and simple vibrant fruity-tart flavors. $15
2018 Caduceus Cellars Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra Blanca
Grammy-winning rocker Maynard James Keenan, lead singer for the band Tool, makes this fresh, citrusy riesling-chardonnay blend in the Arizona desert. It proves not all celebrity wines are boring. $23
2019 Early Mountain Five Forks White
Mostly petit manseng and sauvignon blanc, this blend is both rich and refreshing, brimming with tropical fruit notes and perfect for turkey and creamy-textured dishes. $20
2018 Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Dry Riesling
This huge pioneering winery is known for affordable, reliable, and widely available vino. This crisp, tangy, mandarin orange scented Eroica riesling, a collaboration between a famed German winemaker and Ste. Michelle’s, is a testament to Old World-New World cooperation. $20
2019 Brennan Vineyards Dry Rosé ($22)
Yes, I love Texas tempranillo. But for Thanksgiving, I lean towards this crisp, food-friendly, easy-sipping rosé, an aromatic blend of mourvedre and muscat that comes from Comanche country. $22
2016 Lieu Dit Gamay ($30)
Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais, and this California version from Santa Barbara has the same purity of fruit, light body, savory berry notes and soft, silky texture. $30
2017 Left Foot Charley Blaufrankisch ($20)
I think of Michigan for great riesling, but they do light-bodied reds well, too. This one, from blaufrankisch grapes, is almost like a light syrah, with spicy, peppery notes along with bright black and red cherries. $20
2017 Bloomer Creek Cabernet Franc
This is like a Loire Valley red, dark fruited and lush but light and fresh on the palate, with juicy acidity, crunchy red fruit flavors and elegant floral aromas. Kim Engle and his artist wife Debra started growing grapes organically decades ago. $23
2016 DayWines Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir
You have to have pinot. Winemaker Brianne Day, one of the state’s hot names, makes her flagship pinot from grapes purchased from this biodynamic vineyard owned by Iranian Moe Momtazi, who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee seeking asylum. The plushy, ripe wine has deep fruit and spice. $25
2019 La Garagista Damejeanne
Deirdre Heekin has helped popularize the use of hybrid grapes and this graceful, savory, tart red made from marquette, a grape developed at the University of Minnesota, will surprise you. It’s soft and juicy as opposed to big and lush. $45
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