For Your Thanksgiving Table’s Pinot Noir, Look to the Pacific Northwest
The red and black fruit flavors and complex savory nuances of Oregon's finest export belong beside your plate.
Every year I get calls from friends asking me to suggest wines to pair with Thanksgiving. Many of my friends are serious food people, the type who spent their pandemic lockdown replicating recipes of famous chefs like Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud and Massimo Bottura. So, not just any old wine will do.
My Thanksgiving recommendation, nine times out of ten, is to splurge on a superb pinot noir, a classic pairing for the turkey feast. Pinot noir works well with birds of all kinds. Its red and black fruit flavors and complex savory nuances—earthy, mushroomy, sometimes herbal notes—complement the whole Thanksgiving plate. They’re a much better match for the cacophony of flavors than bold cabernet sauvignons, which can overwhelm fowl and vegetables. And pinot noir’s light body and juicy acidity cleans the palate between bites.
This year I’ll be steering friends to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the New World benchmark for pinot noir. Running from the Columbia River near Portland in the north to below Eugene in the south, it is the state’s largest AVA with almost 700 wine properties. The cool-climate region benefited from the Ice Age Missoula Floods, which geologists estimate brought 200 feet of ancient marine sediment to the valley. Mineral rich soils make for interesting wines. Peruse my picks below:
ROCO RMS Brut ($65)—An exceptional méthode Champenoise cuvée with elegant aromas of white rose, pear, nectarine and oyster shell brine.
Left Coast Cellars Blanc de Noir ($55)—A stunning sparkling made from 100-percent pinot noir with fragrances of orange blossom and kiwi, a biscuity richness and a vibrant finish.
Domaine Serene “Evenstad Reserve” Dundee Hills Brut M.V. 2 ($80)—A crisp méthode Champenoise with extensive lees aging showing expressive aromas of citrus, apple and brioche, and a sumptuous texture.
Brick House “Les Dijonnais” Pinot Noir ($54)—From a biodynamic vineyard planted with Dijon clones, “Dijonnais” displays rose petal and wildflower perfumes along with lovely raspberry and cherry flavors.
Raptor Ridge Tuscowallame Estate Whole Cluster Pinot Noir ($50)–A small-lot wine fragrant with violet, rose petal and plum. With some whole cluster in the blend, it takes on clove/allspice notes and shows tart acidity and soft tannins.
WillaKenzie Clarière Pinot Noir ($75)—From the coolest climate vineyard of the estate, “Clarière” possesses lilac aromas, black cherry and baking spice notes, and notable minerality.
King Estate Just Shy Pinot Noir ($68)—Hailing from a storied biodynamic vineyard “just shy” of 1,200 feet in altitude, this elegant pinot noir from clone 113 has perfumed aromatics and lower alcohol.
Gran Moraine Dropstone Pinot Noir ($80)—With pristine fruit aged with only a touch of new oak, “Dropstone” is energetic and crisp with dark plum, porcini mushroom and fennel notes.