Ten American wines to try at your Thanksgiving feast
Thanksgiving is an ideal opportunity to explore America’s current wine landscape.
As a holiday centred around feasting and drinking, Thanksgiving is the ideal opportunity to explore America’s current wine landscape. Nearly every state produces wine, and along with well-known areas such as California and Washington State, places like Arizona and Idaho are developing dynamic wine scenes of their own. Here are some of the most interesting – and delicious – American wines to check out and pair with your own holiday dinner.
Bubbles are a workhorse during a big feast. From salty and fried dishes to hard-to-pair vegetables, sparkling wine is one of the most versatile for pairing. Vara Winery comes from Laurent Gruet, the creator of New Mexico’s sparkling wine house Gruet; for this new project, based in Albuquerque, NM, he sources fruit from California, Washington, New Mexico, and Spain.
As one of the Finger Lakes pioneering wineries, Hermann J. Wiemer has made many believe in the viticultural virtues of this upstate winemaking region, as well as the potential for Riesling. The HJW Vineyard is the site of the winery’s original Riesling vines, first planted in 1977. Focused and linear with bracing acidity, it’s understandable why others followed suit and made Riesling one of the Finger Lakes region’s signature grapes.
Ripe and robust Zinfandel often gets the spotlight when it comes to Thanksgiving wines, but the version from Forlorn Hope is a lighter-bodied, bright-fruited style. Grapes come from the Rorick Heritage Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills, a veritable playground of grape growing: about 42 varieties, 14 of which are test blocks, are cultivated as a way for Matthew Rorick to explore America’s pre-Prohibition winemaking history. Napa may be California’s most well-known wine region, but it makes up only four per cent of the state’s total production, meaning there’s much to discover from the Golden State.
The Willamette Valley is becoming the de facto place in the U.S. for Pinot Noir, and its terroir attracts winemakers from around the world. Nicolas Jay is a collaboration between Burgundy winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo of Domaine Méo-Camuzet and music executive Jay Boberg. With just a few vintages under their belts, they are taking their expertise and applying it to the Pacific Northwest. Silky and elegant with lovely aromas, this wine is a versatile red for the holiday table.
Arizona, with its desert-like climate and monsoon rains, may seem an unlikely place for a wine industry to develop, but it is proving to be a standout for winemaking. Chateau Tumbleweed, a joint project from two couples, sources grapes from throughout the state’s three AVAs (American Viticultural Area); this crisp and fresh Vermentino comes from the newly-anointed Verde Valley AVA, located two hours north of Scottsdale.
Washington is the second-largest wine-producing state and Cabernet takes top billing when it comes to acreage. Maggie Hedges, owner and winemaker of Domaine Magdelena, follows biodynamic farming principles in her Demeter-certified estate vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA. This is an elegant expression of Cabernet, with red fruits, hints of floral, and supple tannins.
Beef and potatoes are two of Idaho’s biggest agricultural sectors, but now there are wines to pair with them. The volcanic soils of Snake River Valley provide a hospitable home for a wide range of international varieties, and Tempranillo, in particular, thrives in the terroir. Tempranillo from Cinder, with red berry fruit and peppery flavors, plus fine-grained tannins, is one of the best examples you’ll find.
Drive just a couple of hours outside of the nation’s capital Washington D.C., and you’ll encounter Virginia’s wine country. There’s evidence of winemaking dating back to the 1600s by Europeans, but it’s only been in the past few decades that winemaking has really taken hold. Cabernet Franc could be considered the marquee red variety, and this wine from Early Mountain, with its silky texture and medium body, stands out.
As the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas, and when it comes to full-bodied wines, there are some delicious examples coming out of the fifth-largest wine-producing state. Ripe and savoury, this Mourvedre comes from the Texas High Plains AVA, home to many of the state’s vineyards. Fun fact: it was thanks to a Texan viticulturist in the late 1800s that a solution to phylloxera was found.
For something completely unexpected, try Bluet’s sparkling wine, made from Maine wild blueberries. Creator Michael Terrien is co-owner and winemaker at Obsidian Ridge in California and brings his winemaking skills to Maine’s indigenous wild blueberries. The wine is far from sweet; instead, ripe and tart blueberries meet savoury spices in this festive dry sparkling wine. Terrien is on a mission to protect this endangered fruit and is actively building an industry of blueberry winemakers in the state.
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