The Case for Domestic Wines at Thanksgiving

By Robert Whitley

November 12, 2019 6 min read

The default recommendation of many experts for the perfect complement to the Thanksgiving feast is Beaujolais, a French wine. Yet there is a case to be made that serving domestic wines on this uniquely American holiday can be every bit as satisfying.

Not only that, it can be economical as well. For inspiration, I consulted my notes from the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. The wines are evaluated by prominent wine journalists from across the United States, and the results are typically consumer-friendly. I combed the awards looking for domestic wines that were awarded platinum or gold medals and have a suggested retail price tag of $25 or less.

There are a remarkable number of excellent options that would suit the demands of the Thanksgiving feast, with its array of sweet and savory flavors and aromas. Although making the cut was difficult, I finally settled upon 15 wines diverse enough to handle the job without busting the budget.

I am confident there is something here for every stage of the Thanksgiving meal.

These are the wines in alphabetical order:

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2018 Gewurztraminer, Mendocino County ($15): A gold medal winner at the Critics Challenge. Gewurztraminer is extremely versatile and can be served as an aperitif or with the main course.

Barboursville 2017 Vermentino Reserve, Virginia ($22.99): Scored a platinum award for this top-notch Virginia winery. Beautifully balanced and smooth, it makes an exceptional aperitif.

Benziger 2017 Chardonnay, Sonoma County ($16.99): Avoids the pitfall of oak and alcohol that can render chardonnay heavy and ponderous. This gold medal winner is a great match with turkey and has a great price.

Charles Smith 2016 The Velvet Devil Merlot, Washington ($12.99): Delivers exceptional quality at an exceptional price. This is a gold medal merlot from Washington that should surprise no one.

Eberle 2018 Muscat Canelli, Estate Vineyard, Paso Robles ($22): A medium-sweet dessert wine, a gold medal winner and a spectacular match with pumpkin pie!

J Vineyards California Cuvee Brut, California ($25): A new product from J, and it's off to a great start with a platinum award from the challenge. If you want to greet your guests with a glass of great bubbly at a great price, this is the ticket.

Jeff Runquist 2018 Viognier, River Junction ($23): Another platinum winner, and it's a beauty. It has the essence of sweetness without being sweet, making it an inviting companion at the Thanksgiving table.

Kenwood 2018 Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($22): Another versatile gold medal winner. It's great as an aperitif but also beautiful with the roasted bird.

Louis M. Martini 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County ($20): Smooth and supple, it has excellent depth for a cabernet at such a modest price. I don't usually recommend cabernet for Thanksgiving, but this gold medal winner is suave enough to rule the day.

Navarro 2017 Barbera, Mendocino ($25): A gold medal-winning red that will add a touch of spice to your feast. Navarro is so renowned for its stunning white wines that its exceptional reds are sometimes overlooked and underpriced.

Peju 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($25): This wine took a platinum award at the 2019 Critics Challenge, outperforming the winery's big, bold reds for a change. It's a beautiful expression of Napa Valley sauvignon and extremely versatile. Serve it as an aperitif or with the main event. You will love it either way.

Rodney Strong 2016 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25): Scored a platinum award from the challenge, and it's bound to dazzle. This is just another example of a Rodney Strong wine that overdelivers. Serve it up with the main event, and savor the great price.

Tangent 2017 Albarino, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley ($17): Earned gold from the challenge critics. It's safe to say Tangent helped popularize domestic albarino from California and that success has inspired many other vintners to plant this native Spanish grape variety. It is without a doubt one of my favorite aperitif whites.

Trefethen 2018 Dry Riesling, Estate Grown, Oak Knoll District ($25): Scored platinum at the Critics Challenge, surprising no one because it has long been one of the finest dry rieslings from California. This is a white that can do the heavy lifting of a red and should be served with the main course, though hardly anyone would complain if served as an aperitif.

Wagner Vineyards 2017 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes ($14.99): A gold medal-winning wine that demonstrates both the high quality and tremendous value of riesling from New York's Finger Lakes region.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Email Robert at [email protected]

Photo credit: Shirley810 at Pixabay

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