Top 5 Red Wine Recommendations for Thanksgiving 2013

At work last week, all the ice-breaking conversations before meetings revolved around Thanksgiving.  Who was traveling; who was hosting; the usual conversations that accompany the holiday season.  I’m not exactly sure how Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year, but it did, and questions about Thanksgiving plans drove home the fact that I’m completely unprepared.  Hubby and I only have to do an hour-or-so drive to my in-laws on Thanksgiving Day, so my lack of preparation isn’t too concerning for me…except for when it comes to the wine selection.  Not only have I started getting questions from friends and readers about wine recommendations, but I will need to bring a bottle or two to my in-laws.  In the past, that wouldn’t have been a big deal because I was the only wine drinker at the table, so I would just pick out a wine that I love.  This year, though, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law both started drinking wine, so there is the added (unintentional) pressure to bring something that everyone is going to think is fabulous.  For me, it will probably be a beautiful Pinot Noir or a big Zinfandel, but for them, I will need to bring a bright white.

With that in mind, today’s list will be my Top 5 Red recommendations, while tomorrow will be my Top 5 White & Rose recommendations.  (I didn’t post a Thanksgiving list last year, but here are my 2011 red wine and white wine recommendations)


2009 Lost Canyon Morelli Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir

2009 Lost Canyon Morelli Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir

The 2009 Lost Canyon Morelli Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir (wineryamazon) is slightly heavy for a Pinot Noir, but it has a beautiful complexity that will be delicious with well-seasoned turkey.  The wine has strawberries, rhubarb, and red licorice flavors mixed with hints of cedar, mushroom, earth, and allspice.  I gave this wine 4.5 corks and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $45.


2011 Alphabets Pinot Noir

2011 Alphabets Pinot Noir

The 2011 Alphabets Pinot Noir (winery) was actually my red wine choice for the post-Thanksgiving dinner Hubby and I did for ourselves last year.  The wine tasted of Bing cherries, cranberries, and red currants with hints of white pepper, smoke, and cinnamon mixed in.  It not only went well with the turkey, which was seasoned with white truffle oil and garlic, but stood up to the variety of side dishes that we had.  Honestly, I couldn’t get over how delicious the wine was and how well it went with our Thanksgiving feast.  I gave the wine 4.5 corks and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $21.


2010 Painted Wolf Pinotage

2010 Painted Wolf Pinotage

The 2010 Guillermo Painted Wolf (winery) is a delicious wine full of blueberries, cherries, tobacco, and the slightest hint of vanilla and Band-Aids.  It has a medium body and medium tannins, which will keep it from over-powering the Thanksgiving meal.  Plus, this wine will be great to transition away from the table and into an evening of schmoozing.  I gave this wine 4 corks and purchased it for $19. (I will have a full review posted later this week)


2008 Ottimino Rancho Bello Vineyard

2008 Ottimino Rancho Bello Vineyard

The 2008 Ottimino Rancho Bello Vineyard (winery) is a bigger wine that will give some depth to the Thanksgiving dinner.  The beautiful mixture of berry and cooking spice characteristics will bring out some of the deeper flavors while your eating, as well as transition nicely into a wine that you can drink on its own once the meal is over.  I gave the wine 4.5 corks and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $30.

Question of the Day:  Have you picked out your Thanksgiving wines yet? 

Work “World Tour of Wine” Tasting

For those of you who are Facebook fans, you already know that, at the end of May, I was working on a wine tasting for work.  After having put together a Spanish wine tasting for coworkers during our April slow period, one of my colleagues talked to The Big Boss about my wine experience and about our staff bonding event.  He was thrilled, and, as a wine lover himself, thought it would be fun to have a wine tasting for the staff in both of his DC offices.  The tasting was held the Tuesday before Memorial Day.

Half of the people attending the wine tasting were at my Spanish wine event, so I decided that instead of doing a second Spanish-focused tasting, this one would be a “World Tour of Wine.”  As the fun part of a tasting is being able ­to try new wines and broaden wine horizons, I wanted to focus on wines that moved away from the typical Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Chardonnays by presenting varietals that are easy to find in wine stores, but that many inexperienced wine drinkers might shy away from buying.  Additionally, since I was expecting 30+ people at the event, I wanted to make sure that I covered a range of wine styles.

With all of that in mind, I decided to begin the tasting with a traditional French Champagne—Montaudon Extra-Dry (snooth).  The palate cleansing & revitalizing sparkler was followed by two white wines—a 2008 Paul D Grüner Veltliner (winery, snooth) from Austria and a 2009 Spy Valley (winery, snooth) from New Zealand.  Following the lighter white wines were a South African Pinotage—2008 Painted Wolf (winery, snooth)—and a California Zinfandel blend—2008 Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner” (winery, snooth).  The tasting finished with a Spanish Sherry—Nectar by González Byass (winery, snooth).

Everyone enjoyed the Champagne, which was no surprise to me or to them.  However, the other wine that received the most questions and the most refill requests was Orin Swift Cellers’ The Prisoner, followed closely by Paul D’s Grüner Veltliner.  The wine that received the most mixed reviews was González Byass’ Nectar, although everyone was happy to have tried it as almost everyone mentioned that it was not a wine they would have tasted on their own.

The Big Boss was very happy with event, particularly as he found a new wine that to enjoy.  My coworkers tasted some wines that they loved, as well as some wines that they didn’t like, but there was a lot of conversation about those wines, as the likes and dislikes varied greatly.  All in all, it seemed like everyone had a good time and that the tasting was a huge success.

***As a note, while the wines above are the ones I planned to offer and prepared tasting notes for, the wine store was actually sold out of the Spy Valley on the day of the tasting.  Therefore, I used a 2009 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth) as a fallback.  I will do a separate review for the Oyster Bay, but wanted to keep the Spy Valley as part of this tasting, as I thought it was a slightly better wine.

Winding Down With Wolf

The second day of vacation, Tuesday, was admittedly similar to the first. Hubby and I headed down to the beach early enough in the morning to get a good spot and stayed until dinnertime. The water was warm like a bath and calm like a lake, so there wasn’t much wave riding to be had, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. We spent most of the time rotating between swimming in the ocean and reading on the beach, although we also took a long walk along the beach, looking at ghost crabs and birds. In the late-afternoon, several pods of dolphins swam along the shoreline. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good photos of them, but everyone on the beach stopped to watch them swim by.

For dinner, we went to Aqua S. Neither Hubby nor I were particularly excited about our salads or our desserts, but both of us enjoyed our entrées. Hubby had the chef’s special, which was a nicely prepared Tilefish. I had shrimp and jumbo lump crab with fresh fettuccini, cured pancetta, and veggies in a lemon alfredo sauce. I paired my pasta with the 2006 Estancia Reserve Chardonnay (winery, snooth), which made for a nice, refreshing combination. The creaminess and lemon zestiness of the pasta enhanced the citrus and creamy notes of the wine. Overall, we enjoyed the restaurant.

After dinner, we went back to the house, and since I’d already had a white wine, I was looking for something a little different for the rest of the evening. As a friend mentioned that neglected South African wines, I brought one with us on vacation and this seemed like the perfect night to open it.

The 2007 Painted Wolf Pinotage (winery, snooth) is 90% Pinotage and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The wine was a deep ruby color. On the nose, there were strawberry, raspberry, and nutmeg aromas followed by a hint of Band-Aid and vanilla. In the mouth, there were strong smoke, cedar, nutmeg, ginger, rubber, and vanilla flavors. The red fruit flavors were very light and almost creamy. As the wine continued to breathe, it developed a complex, savoriness. However, later in the night, it started to take on a slightly candied taste. The Pinotage had medium-to-high tannins and high acidity, which balanced well with the wine’s medium body.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $15, this wine has surprising complexity. I’m not generally a fan of Pinotage, but some of the rubber characteristics that I tend to shy away from don’t overpower this one. In fact, those aspects blend well with the other aromas and flavors to create a beautiful wine. I enjoyed drinking the Pinotage by itself, particularly as I drank it while also enjoying the ocean and my book; however, if you’re looking to pair it with food, I would suggest pairing it with spicy meat like tacos or chili.

Overall: 4 Corks