12 Reds for the Thanksgiving Table

Try these American Pinot Noirs for your holiday meal, plus a roast turkey recipe and tips on "wine-tuning" the bird
Nov 17, 2009

With Thanksgiving a little more than a week away, it's time to get the wine and food in order. We'll help you get started with our list of recommended reds, a roast turkey recipe and some tips for "wine-tuning" the bird in order to make a great match with your wine. Be sure to check back on Friday, Nov. 20 for recommended white wines, some side dishes and more tips on wine-tuning your recipes.

Thanksgiving dinner means a cacophony of sweet, herbal and savory flavors on the table with a roast turkey in the center, which calls for younger, fruit-forward wines with enough body to stand up to many if not all of your holiday favorites. This being an American holiday, we've provided a list of American Pinot Noirs that fit the bill; if you’ve got other reds in mind for Thanksgiving, follow the tips below to create harmony between bottle and plate.

Wines with spicy notes: Freshly ground spices (try cumin, coriander, mild curry powder or cayenne) rubbed onto the bird’s skin along with the oil will shine a spotlight on the wine's fruitier notes.

Wines with smoke, tobacco or leather notes: Substitute smoked salt for regular when seasoning the bird, or add a drop or two of liquid smoke to your gravy to build a bridge between the turkey and the wine. Some side dishes can also benefit from the addition of bacon, either cooked with the dish's ingredients (for example, with the onions and celery that form the base of the stuffing) or cooked and crumbled on top (mashed potatoes, candied yams, green beans).

Wines with strong tannins: When it comes to the turkey and the wine, aggressive tannins can be mellowed by a splash of cream in the gravy. Using a light hand with the salt will also keep the wine and meat in better harmony.

High-alcohol wines: Though excessive sweetness on the table can prove a tough match for wines, in this case, a savory-sweet addition to the turkey, such as caramelized onions or a drizzle of aceto balsamico will restore some balance.

Roast Turkey

• 12- to 14-pound fresh turkey
• 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
• 1 lemon, halved crosswise
• Salt and freshly ground white pepper
• 1 onion, quartered
• Handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, sage or marjoram)
• 4 tablespoons olive oil

1. The day before you want to serve the bird, pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Rub the bird all over with the cut side of the garlic, and then with the lemon halves, squeezing the juice all over. Liberally season the bird inside and out. Place the lemon and garlic halves, onion and herbs in the cavity of the bird. Don't pack too tightly; leave space for air to circulate. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Refrigerate overnight to allow the skin to dry.

2. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Rub the bird all over with the oil. Liberally season the bird with salt and pepper inside and out. Insert a metal skewer into each thigh; this will help conduct heat through the meat so that it cooks more quickly and evenly. Cook 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° F, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 160° F, about 2 hours. Remove from oven; let rest at least 20 minutes before carving. Serves 6 to 8.

RECOMMENDED PINOT NOIRS

PARAISO Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2007 Score: 92 | $25
Serves up a trim, flavorful band of ripe cherry, wild berry and strawberry jam that's elegantly styled and well-structured, finishing with a long, complex finish echoing anise and mineral. Drink now through 2014. 11,618 cases made. -J.L.

DAVIS BYNUM Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 Score: 90 | $35
Rich and full-bodied, with a pleasurable mix of black cherry, wild berry and mocha flavors that are intense, concentrated, focused and persistent, ending with a long, persistent finish. Drink now through 2015. 6,500 cases made. -J.L.

BERINGER Pinot Noir Napa Valley 2007 Score: 89 | $20
Floral, spicy, medium-bodied and delicate, with fragrant black cherry, herb, spice and blackberry fruit that gains depth and complexity. Young and tight. Drink now through 2012. 14,500 cases made. -J.L.

MACMURRAY RANCH Pinot Noir Central Coast 2007 Score: 89 | $20
Ripe, floral, perfumed aromas of black cherry and raspberry are pure and zesty. Full-bodied, balanced and delicate, showing just the right touch of acidity and tannins, with pleasant mineral and earth notes. Drink now through 2012. 95,000 cases made. -J.L.

WILD HORSE Pinot Noir Central Coast 2007 Score: 89 | $25
This is complex, displaying a mix of ripe cherry and raspberry flavors, with mineral and loamy earth notes that have a savory herb edge. Full-bodied, focused and long on the finish, with the right mix of acidity and tannins. Drink now through 2012. 76,000 cases made. -J.L.

KINGS RIDGE Pinot Noir Oregon 2007 Score: 88 | $17
Light and fragrant, with pretty rose petal overtones to the currant and berry fruit, finishing with delicate grip. Drink now through 2014. 13,500 cases made. -H.S.

ACACIA Pinot Noir California A 2007 Score: 87 | $17
Savory herb, smoke and dried currant and berry fruit is tight and firm. Ends with a long finish and a touch of mint. Drink now through 2012. 32,175 cases made. -J.L.

BOGLE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2006 Score: 87 | $13
Refreshingly pure and complex, with ripe, vivid wild berry, raspberry and blackberry fruit that's firm at points and supple at others. Full-bodied, with wonderful balance and harmony, ending with a dillish oak edge. Drink now. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 30,000 cases made. -J.L.

CONCANNON Pinot Noir Central Coast Limited Release 2007 Score: 87 | $15
Offers a medium-bodied range of cherry and berry fruit that's floral and spicy, ending with a clean finish. Drink now through 2011. 45,000 cases made. -J.L.

ESTANCIA Pinot Noir Monterey County Pinnacles Ranches 2007 Score: 87 | $15
Combines ripe, rich and fleshy Pinot Noir fruit with hints of wild berry, raspberry, fresh earth, sage and mineral. Medium-weight, ending with a long, complex finish. Drink now. 158,000 cases made. -J.L.

NEXT Pinot Noir Oregon 2007 Score: 87 | $20
Bright and lively, with crisp texture and fresh strawberry flavors, lingering gently. Drink now. 7,172 cases made. -H.S.

GREG NORMAN CALIFORNIA ESTATES Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 2007 Score: 87 | $15
Refreshingly complex, elegant and stylish, with a tasty mix of mineral, black cherry, wild berry and floral scents that are long and complex on the finish. Very impressive at this price. Drink now. 56,000 cases made. -J.L.

Cooking Pairings Holidays / Celebrations Thanksgiving Autumn Recipes

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