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What To Drink Now: Thanksgiving Zin, Syrah, Grenache and More

By Hayley Hamilton Cogill |

Last week I gave some ideas for pairing the Thanksgiving meal with Pinot Noir, one of my favorite varieties to enjoy all the time, but particularly with this holiday meal.  It is not the only option though, as across the country families have their traditional favorites that pair just perfectly with turkey and side dishes they have been making for generations.  If you are still looking for that great bottle to open and to share, here are a few more suggestions beyond the much loved Pinot.  A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Syrah, Rhone wines and Rhone style blends are ideal with the Thanksgiving meal.  Whether from Southern France, California, Eastern Washington or West Texas the bold flavors layered with spice and fruit are sure to pair with everything from the sweet potatoes to brussel sprouts with bacon to classic cornbread and sausage dressing.

Chemin de Fer from Lasseter Family Winery blends 49% Grenache, 38% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre from their Sonoma Valley estate vineyards to mimic the Rhone wines they enjoyed traveling by train throughout France.  Filled with raspberry, cherry and spice with balance, structure and elegance. 

Novy Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah is always a favorite, filled with spicy, peppery flavors intertwined with smoky, meaty flavors, matching well with those that like a fried or smoked turkey for Thanksgiving.

Rosemount Estate Balmoral Syrah from 50-100 year old McLaren Vale vineyards in South Eastern Australia.  Known for making a large range of wines, this one ranks among their best, intentionally marketed as a Syrah instead of the well known Shiraz of Australia, meant to highlight the French influenced style of the wine and the quality of the grapes.  Aged 14 months in 76% new French and American oak the wine is filled with vanilla, spice and berry notes with just a touch of dark chocolate on the finish.

Duchman Family Winery GSM – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from the West Texas plains shows how when the right style of grapes are grown in Texas soils they can produce beautiful wine.  Like many of the wines Duchman makes, this food friendly blend is elegant, rich and robust, and well structured, filled with ripe red berry, white pepper and sweet spice.

Pepper and spice matched with big fruit forward flavors in a Zinfandel make this the go to wine for many on Thanksgiving.  Many, however, can be high in alcohol, making it the ideal nap wine when mixed with the L-tryptophan in turkey.

I do like the Zin from Amapola Creek, a completely organic, sustainably farmed vineyard and winery owned by famed winemaker Richard Arrowood, who has been making wine in Sonoma Valley for over 45 years.  This Zinfandel, made from vines averaging 115 years old, is soft and supple without being overly jammy or fruit forward.  Filled with a nice balance of blackberry, black cherry and pepper with light aromas of violets and wild flowers.

Frank Family Vineyards gets it right with pretty much everything they produce, from their steely, apple and pear filled Chardonnay to their rich Cabernet, even their traditional method bubbly is always delicious.  Their Zinfandel will not disappoint either, filled with ripe plum, raspberry and pepper flavors with just a touch of caramel, toasted cedar and leather to keep it interesting.

If a Bordeaux style wine is always on your table no matter what the occasion, consider one heavier on the Merlot than the Cab to pair better with the poultry, like of these blends.

Spring Valley Uriah from Walla Walla, WA blends 54% Merlot, with 35% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec for a refined yet complex, bold and hearty yet fresh and lively wine grown in the mineral rich soils of Washington State.  Strawberry, raspberry and cherry notes mingle with sweet spice, toasted cedar and black pepper, making this a great wine to pair with the Thanksgiving turkey and the holiday lamb roast.

Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Vineyard blend from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.  Predominantly Merlot (80%) with a touch of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Malbec giving this well balanced wine texture and depth.  Not as heavy as a predominantly Cab based blend, this one, filled with blackberry, plum and herbal notes like fresh thyme and sage, will enhance the meal without overpowering with good acidity and soft tannins, and sells at a great price retailing for about $22 a bottle.

Anthology from Conn Creek in Napa Valley is actually heavier on the Cab than the Merlot, but the flavor profile is surprisingly delicate for such a hearty blend, 66% Cabernet Sauvignon with 12% Malbec, 11% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  I would recommend decanting a few hours prior to enjoying, but the bold blend bursts with layers of fresh cherry pie, ripe strawberry, all spice and clove with a luscious, long, velvety finish.


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